The gift of family

Today’s post is by one of my students, Derek Chandler, who wrote this essay in response to the question, “What are three gifts you have received in 2013, and why are they significant to you?” I will really miss having Derek on campus!

familyThis year has been a very hard year to just be thankful for something. With my dad losing his job and selling our house, things have just became hard. He has been searching for a job for several months and with no luck; it’s just added stress. Without my family, I’m honestly not sure where I would be. Of course I’ve stayed positive and tried to not let this affect me. For the most part, it’s worked, thanks to God and my family. I don’t expect a pity party, or look for attention. It is a situation I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Like I said, it has been hard, but there is always something to be thankful for. First I would like to say I’m thankful for my mom. My mom is my go-to person or my rock. Whenever I was younger I remember her always tucking me in at night, making sure I got to sleep just fine. That is always memory I will hold onto and hopefully find a wife that would do the same for my kids one day. Whenever I had a bad day I could always go to my mom and talk to her. Talking to her was easy, and I could tell her anything, good or bad. She was always supportive of anything I did. She is very soft spoken with a very kind heart, always looking for good in people, even if they don’t deserve it. She wears her heart on her sleeve and does what she can for anyone in need. She is a blessing to me and my sister. Without her support and her kind words I would be lost in life with no direction. I am proud to call her my mom, and sometimes that term is loosely used, but without a doubt I have the best mom.

The second thing I am thankful for is my dad. Wow, without my dad I wouldn’t be as strong as I am today, that’s for sure. My mom is my rock, and my dad literally is a rock. He is a very sensitive guy, but won’t show just anyone. Of course that doesn’t seem very manly, but he is a tough guy. Along with my mom, my dad has taught me so much. I will never forget going canoeing with him and all the fun we had. Like my mom I could talk to my dad just as well. Of course he didn’t always tell me what I wanted to hear, but he was honest. He was straight to the point and didn’t sugar coat it. I’ve always respected him for that. I owe both my parents for pushing good moral values on me. That will get me farther in life than anything else I have learned throughout life. My dad has supported me for 19 years, my sister for 20 years, and my mom for 30. He has allowed for my mom to be a stay at home mom, because he doesn’t want her to have to work. He has taken on a huge responsibility, and losing his job has caused stress. He is a good man who wants the best for my family and me. I’m sure everyone feels like they have the best parents, but it’s not possible when I have them.

The third and final thing I am thankful for is my sister. With a five year difference in age, you can say we didn’t get along. That was when we were younger, and as time went on, we got pretty close. Since Dad lost his job, we had to sell the house. My parents packed up all our stuff, and family took them in so they could save money. My family live out of state, but me being in school meant I had to stay around for this semester. My sister and her fiancé without a blink said they would take me in until I finished school. Without my sister, I’m not sure how I would have finished school. This is such a blessing, and I couldn’t thank them enough for allowing me to move in. They have been supporting me since I don’t have a job. I have been trying to focus on school considering so much stress. I cannot repay them for the kindness I have been treated with.

Since my story didn’t start out so positive, it’s only best that it ends that way. The bottom line is that my family has supported me and helped me though this tough time. I am so thankful for them and the nice things they have done. I will be officially moving from Arkansas a few days before Christmas, and it will be hard, but this only marks a point of a fresh start.

Day 29: Dear Dawn

*I’m thankful for my college friend, Lorie Mink for sharing her letter to her friend, Dawn, on Day 29 of the Dear Gratitude project.*

Dear Dawn,
Dawn and me at Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut in 1987.

Dawn and me at Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut in 1987.

I remember the day we met like it was yesterday. It was June of 1980, and I was three months shy of turning 9. We just moved into the lower level of Mr. O’Brien’s house, and mom and dad were busy sorting the boxes and unpacking. Mom insisted I go outside for a bit as I was getting in her way. Since it was a new neighborhood, I was only allowed to go into the backyard, but it was beautiful there. Mr. O’Brien kept plots of a variety of flowers, some I’d never seen before, and I spent time wandering around them pretending I was a fairy tending to the latest crop of magical flowers.

I remember seeing you and your friend splashing around in the above ground pool in your backyard, but I pretended not to notice. Oh how envious I was of the two of you because you were both laughing and splashing and carrying on, and I was on my own. I never spoke to you or even looked over, except for a few glances out of the corner of my eye. Your aunt made the first move, coming over to the fence to say hi. I remember thinking she must be your grandma because of her white hair. She had a bright smile and was very friendly to me, and I shyly smiled back at her.

You and your friend finally acknowledged my presence then, hanging onto the side of the pool as you called out questions to me. I didn’t think you liked me as you dismissed me pretty quickly and went back to playing in the pool, though your friend remained to talk to me. It was several weeks before you said anything to me, and that was to tell me to stay away from your friend. She came over with her Barbies, and we played on my front porch while you watched from the window up above. It took her calling your name several times for you to come down. But you wouldn’t play with us, no matter what. It took your friend moving away for you to finally show interest in being my friend.

And what a friend you became.We were together so often back then; your grandma kept saying we must be stuck together with glue. You were my first sleepover friend, and I was yours. You finally played dolls with me, and I rode bikes with you, keeping a happy balance between the girly girl I was and the tom-boy you were. No matter who I hung out with or what I did, you were always with me and vice versa.

We forged a bond that would go on to last over 30 years, though we haven’t seen each other since 1987.Through phone calls, letters, and emails, we stayed in touch over the years, keeping our friendship strong the only way we could. We’ve been through it all together via phone and letters. I remember the day you called and told me your grandma passed away. She was the only mother you’d known, as your mom had passed away when you were only two weeks old. You were heartbroken, and I tried to find the right words to comfort you.You did the same for me when first my mom, then my dad passed away. Saying things I needed to hear and telling me how much you wished you could be with me. And it never failed that the days I seemed so down and defeated would be the days I would receive a letter or a card from you full of love and encouragement. How did you always know when I needed you most?

I can look back on a wonderful, fun-filled childhood thanks to you and your family, who always made me feel welcome, as if I belonged in your family. I only hope my family did the same for you. I pray every day that we will get to see each other again before we die. It’s the number one item on my bucket list. But even if we never set eyes on each other again, I know our friendship will last to the very end because of the powerful bond we created back in those early days when life still had that special glow and our biggest concerns were having enough money to get penny candy from the store or a ride to the local skating rink on Saturdays. I will always be grateful for the special friendship we created and managed to maintain for over 30 years and hope we have many more years of friendship to come.