Because That's What Family Does

Bill and Phyllis This weekend our family and friends will gather together to celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary.

They both grew up in the same tiny farming community in one of the most rural parts of Tennessee. The entire county didn’t even have a stoplight.

Most of the town voted for Eisenhower.

In last year’s election.

When I was two years old, they moved to the nearby small town of Cookeville where I grew up and now live.

When I graduated college, I left here and moved to Nashville. I married a city girl and promised her I would never, ever, move her back to Cookeville.

Six years later I moved us back to Cookeville where we have lived ever since.

My mom was a teacher and my dad was a high school basketball coach. In the summer months he worked odd jobs and summer camps for extra income. My mother would go back to graduate school in the middle of her career earning her PhD and becoming a college professor. My dad coached over 1,000 high school basketball games in his career, becoming simply, ”Coach” to legions of young men.

My mother was my kindergarten teacher and my dad was one of my high school teachers and coaches. I guess you could say they were the bookends of my educational years.

Somehow they managed to raise a daughter who earned a Master's at Vanderbilt and became a nurse practitioner, directing the health services department of a local university. Their oldest son went into the business world after graduating college with honors and then became a special needs pastor. They had to make huge sacrifices to make that happen.

Because that’s what family does.

They always worked, they always provided, and they were always extremely active, engaged and involved in our lives. When my elderly grandmothers were ill in the years preceding their deaths, I watch my mom and dad care for them tirelessly, and sacrifice for them.

Because that's what family does.

When I lay in a coma suspended between life and death four years ago, and then spent 4 months as an invalid, they never left my side. They laid down their own lives and needs to nurture my health back and take care of my family.

Because that’s what family does.

When they became grandparents of a child with autism and cerebral palsy, they didn’t treat him or love him any less or any differently than the other grandchildren.

Because that’s what family does.

The values I have today, the principles by which I live my life, the faith that sustains and equips me, and the work ethic that drives me—all were instilled by my parents.

Because that’s what family does.

Oh we are quirky all right.

Downright weird sometimes.

We have our odd traditions, our odd behaviors, and our odd personalities in some ways.

But we’re a family. And family overlooks all of that and accepts each other simply because we are family.

Because that’s what family does.

I know some people have had a very different family life than I did, and they still hurt. My soul hurts for them. And I know others who simply have turned their backs on their family and want to pretend they are someone else from somewhere else. That I don’t get.

Our family may not always agree on things. We don’t talk a lot about politics because I’m the only one who is right usually. (Ha!) We may not understand the choices some of us make at times, or how we live our lives. But we roll with them.

Because that’s what family does.

We will go to war for each other. We will stand back-to-back and we will never turn our backs from each other.

Because that’s what family does.

When I started my own career and path in life, I would cringe when someone would say, “aren’t you Bill and Phyllis’s boy?” Because I wanted to be known in my own identity.

Now I am proud to say, “yes I am.”

And Saturday we will gather together to celebrate 50 years of family. We will laugh, tell stories, shed a tear or two, and realize something very special and God-ordained has happened.

A moment God wrote down in his own book before either of them was ever born.

So Happy Anniversary mom and dad!

Well done. You took a vow, and you meant it.

Thanks for showing us how to do it.

Because that’s what family does.