Thursday, June 11, 2009

Going To the City I Love

Joplin, Missouri. As I write this first entry of the month of June, I am in Joplin, Missouri, on my way to my beloved city of Dallas, Texas, where I will see people whom I love. It's the first time I've been back to The Great State of Texas since Terry and I quit teaming in April.

I will only have two days, but those will be hours I will cherish when I'm back in the truck on the road in my journey of solitude.

An unexpected but treasured part of this weekend will be that I will get to see my Daddy, who is working in Dallas next week, and will arrive on Sunday night.

And, even before this time off the road begins, I am already looking forward with anticipation my time off in July in Georgia with my family, whom I haven't seen since the end of February. That will also be the time my Mama comes out on the road with me for about 10 days right after that. I am looking forward to that as well.

Digging up my own history. I have said many times in this blog over the past two years that I have regularly kept a journal of some kind since 1976, when I was 11 years old. For the most part, except for looking up something in particular as a reference, I have not read those old journals since they were written.

After my recent reunion with the children and grandchildren of my heart in Dallas, I was curious to remember the history of my ties to them – how it began when I first met them in 1985, and how it grew and continued over the next few years as our lives became intertwined in ways I never could have imagined.

Reading those old entries from over 20 years ago brought back in vivid detail parts of my own life, and my life with these people (and others), that were shadowy images at best, and forgotten in the mists of passing time at worst.

In addition to rehearsing the story of my connections with those to whom I have been reunited recently, there is the history of other connections which helped chart the course of my life then, and to the present. In those pages are my friends from those days – Billy, Greg, and the beginning of my friendship with Terry. Others who were there have disappeared from the pages of my life and I wonder where they are and how they are – who they are after two decades have spanned.

Billy, my first friend in Dallas, and the one with whom my connection has been most persistent over these long years, and whom it was my joy to be able to visit in April, was a light in a dark place for me so many times during those years when I was so young. We used to have lunch once a week in those days, and there was a time when my kids were in a dangerous situation (indeed, more than once), and when my care for them was almost overwhelming to me as a young man in ministry. When my eyes failed and my faith flagged for want of hope, Billy always encouraged me and strengthened me as he listened to me, counseled me, and prayed with me. And, in the remembering, I am encouraged even now. There is no better man in this world than my friend Billy D. Thanks, Billy. Your friendship continues to bless me even as I write these words.

There is Greg also from those pages I have dusted off to read with joy. We went to school together, studying theology and the other things that were necessary to prepare us to do what we felt we were called – destined – to do. Most of all, we worked together, first in ministry together and then afterwards at a juvenile detention facility. He lives in those pages, and ever has in my memory and heart, as one of the best friends I've ever had. I do not think I wrote an entry in those days in Dallas in which he was absent – in matters great and small, Greg was there when many people would not have been. In the time I'm currently reading of – toward the end of 1987 – Greg and his wife Donna opened their home to me (even though they had two kids and very hectic lives) and I lived with them for a time. Such friends as they were to me are a rare gift, to be remembered with joy.

Reading so much of Greg and Donna, whom I hadn't seen or spoken to in many years, prompted me to try to contact them – and it worked. We caught up with each other and it was pure manna for me to renew (to whatever extent) those ties with people who meant – and mean – the world to me.

In uncovering these artifacts of time past from my own history, it has been interesting to discover that in the process of reading mere words I wrote so long ago, I am coming to know the person I was and the person I have become a little more clearly. As I gaze through the prism of the past 20 years of experience, I find myself reinterpreting and reintegrating into my present those events, memories, struggles, and successes hidden in those pages.

And I grow, learn, laugh, and am somehow more whole than I was before.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Blood Meridian. No Country For Old Men. All The Pretty Horses. The Orchard Keeper. I have Terry to thank for introducing me to the incredibly beautiful and haunting writing of Cormac McCarthy (which he did with Blood Meridian ). Reading his rhythmic prose is more like reading poetry, evoking images and emotions like almost no one else I've ever read.

His writing is brutal in its beauty, and his stories are perhaps not for the faint of heart or for those who like clearly laid distinctions of black and white dimensions. If you saw the excellent movie, No Country For Old Men , you have an idea what I'm talking about.

That said, I have just finished listening to The Road , for which McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, and I would say that it is one of the most profoundly moving and abjectly frightening books I have read (or listened to in this case) in a very long time. It is a parable of apocalypse, loss, and survival. What do you have when there is nothing left? Who are you when who you were is taken away in violent upheaval and loss?

Like Annie Proulx, Cormac McCarthy is worth reading simply for his use of language. He is a craftsman with no peer for economy and imagery of words.

I recommend The Road with pleasure. Fasten your seatbelt – but do take the trip.

Until next time . . . keep the wheels rollin' . . . making choices and taking responsibility . . .


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