My father was an alcoholic and a horse gambler. And, while he was a natural athlete and coached little league with an unmatched passion, my father never made the time to teach me how to play baseball . . . or even have a father-son catch. Due to a lifetime of poor choices, Dad missed out on the bulk of my childhood. In the end, he lived a hard life, lost everything that was dear to his heart, and died alone in an abandoned warehouse.
Several weeks ago I was invited to share part of my story in a chapel setting at Focus on the Family. Each month our staff is encouraged by outstanding music and an inspiring guest speaker. From the inception of Focus, Dr. Dobson believed these regular gatherings were an important component of equipping the team as they strive to serve others with excellence and staying healthy spiritually. I invite you to eavesdrop on that message delivered September 7th (see audio player below).
On September 4 and 5, I had the opportunity to share a little bit of my childhood story on the Focus on the Family broadcast. In case you missed that program, my family life put the “D” in dysfunctional. Evidently, those broadcasts touched a nerve with listeners. I thought I’d give you a sample of just one of the many letters we’ve received echoing the invaluable role of mentors in the midst of a traumatic childhood.
Like many dads, I’m always on the lookout for fun, creative ways to bond with my kids something I rarely experienced with my own father. However, this particular “great idea” backfired big time.
I had just dropped off my wife Jean at the Denver airport and was returning home with the boys when a stroke of inspiration struck me like a freight train. Come to think of it, a southbound train adjacent to the interstate sparked the idea.
I’ve been known to do a few wild and crazy things in my lifetime. This summer was no exception. Eight middle-aged guys – including me – swapped our suits and ties for leather duds and boots and then hit the road on Harleys. No agenda, just three days of the open road rolling out in front of us.
We followed the Arkansas River up into the Colorado Rockies on a two lane stretch of asphalt that snaked its way through the mountainside.
While up in Silverthorne, Colorado this weekend, we visited a church. It was an outdoor church that meets in the park during the warm summer months. The boys struggled to sit and listen. At ages four and six, the allure of the park was too strong. I decided the best thing to do was to take them to the nearby lake and skip rocks.
Although I was a hundred yards away, I could still catch most of the sermon.
Over the weekend, I took the boys for a treat. They helped me in the yard and they were thirsty. We popped into a coffee place. The boys, ages six and four, love cold vanilla milk with whipped cream. As we’re getting out of the car, my oldest says, “My hand is stuck in my pocket!” I looked over, and sure enough he seemingly could not remove his hand from his pocket. I said, “Why can’t you pull your hand out?”
Still sitting in the van, he explained how he put some chocolate in his pocket a few days before.
It is after 11:00 PM and I am beat. I spent the entire Memorial Day weekend putting up one of those pre-fab two story club houses from Sam’s Club. Yes, I have gone insane! There must have been 5,000 pieces to this thing. Of course, the pre-drilled holes did not line up with the three other boards you must connect with one long hex bolt. If you can believe it, a friend of mine flew all the way from Nashville to hang out and give me a hand.
Tonight I arrived home at about 6:00 PM. My boys, Trent and Troy, ages 6 and 4, were ready for action. We started with a quick game of hide and seek and then outside for a jump on the trampoline. They love the trampoline. I remember one night arriving home from work and the boys were sitting quietly in the living room. Trent turned his head, and I saw the darkest bruise on his chin. “What happened?” He responded, “Mommy’s knee hit me in the chin.” I then saw Troy limping across the floor.
I’m in Washington DC tonight at a conference. It worked out for Jean and my two boys, Trent and Troy, to travel with me on this trip. Dr. Dobson said when I took the role as president of Focus on the Family, “Your number one priority is those boys. Don’t let Focus take too much of your time.” Great words of wisdom from America’s foremost authority on family.
Well, after a great speech by John Stossel, of ABC’s 20/20 program, I ducked out to give my boys a kiss good night before catching dessert with the group.