My youngest sister once gave my father a book entitled “Dad’s Memory Book.” Each page give a prompt. Beth hoped that my father would complete the book, as she wrote, “for your grandchildren.”
Pop completed two months, and at some point in March quit writing. We all regret that he did, because there is so much family history and information that he could have provided. My sisters and I did not know our father well in many ways; this book could have helped.
My father, V. Richard Carter, would have been 84 years old today.
Amongst his belongings that I brought home last year was his graduate school commencement announcement. He completed a degree at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
He was 26 years old when he finished seminary, soon to turn 27. My mother was 23, soon to turn 24. And I was ten months old.
Think of it — married less than two years, finishing seminary, with a new-born son, faithing that a church placement would be there for them. And it was, in Coushatta, Louisiana, a town of 3,000 souls near Shreveport.
I spent a few hours at Mizzou this weekend. State solo/ensemble festival is held in various buildings on the campus.
And I visited my great-nephew and niece. My sister Karen had driven in for the day, and we chatted about gardening while enjoying the sight and sound of a baby boy who represents the next generation.
And I found myself thinking about my father.
Pop used to tell me stories about time spent in this Union building at Mizzou. He and Mom met at the Baptist Student Union just a few blocks away from Memorial Union.
When I was a child, my parents had tickets to home football games at Mizzou. They’d bundle us kids up and leave us with Aunt Esther and Uncle John (I saw them more than my grandparents, thus cementing that life-long bond between me and Aunt Esther). In 1969, we were driving in from Hannibal. In 1971, from Lee’s Summit.
I realize now, of course, that those season tickets to football games represented my parents’ wish to stay in touch with their college friends. If I remember correctly, that would likely be Bob & Shirley, Bill and Ruth Ann.
At some point, the connection to Mizzou faded in its intensity. Family, career, location — all have a way of altering the DNA of our inner lives.
For years now, whenever I am at Mizzou for an event, I have this sense that this is the place that allowed me to be. I would not be here were it not for the Baptist Student Union, and Calvary Baptist Church, and the University of Missouri where my parents ended up at the same time, in the same room.
And as much as I bleed crimson and blue and fly my Jayhawk flag proudly, I’m grateful for Mizzou.
I was also thinking yesterday about shadows and memories.
Any drive around Columbia, Missouri is filled with them. I spent summer weeks with Aunt Esther in the tidy little house on Clinton. I went to West Boulevard Elementary School for one year. The first house my parents ever owned was on Clayton Street in Columbia. My youngest sister was born there.
But I also found myself thinking about my father’s last days sixteen months ago, about his decision to cease treatment for leukemia . . . his concern for his wife and my sisters and the effect of this decision on them . . . his stubborn refusal to let go in his last minutes of speech and lucid thought as he said “I’m not ready.” . . . his lack of tying-up-loose-ends preparation for the end . . . his incredible loyalty to my step-mother who had saved him over and over in those years after my own mother died, and who he was now saving from her own increasing frailty.
There’s no moral here. No great revelation. Just shadows of thoughts. And perhaps some self-awareness too. We shall see.