Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Going to the Ranch

This weekend we had to take a trip out of town, a trip which took us to the town and county where at my maternal family has a roughly 500 acre ranch on a significant Texas river. The significant part denotes something to those from Texas: it is an actual flowing river that can actually be (and is) dammed along its route. Suffice it to say this makes going "to the ranch" quite enjoyable for the family. Some might call it a farm -- it had been both. We can hike, hunt, fish in the river, shoot, and generally get away from things.

It would be helpful for you as a new (first time) reader, if you are so, to read my "Good Friday" post now, then come back. In that post I discuss my estranged father, and the relational dynamic and its history.

Read it yet? Suffice it to say, my father is a stranger whom I know, but for whom there is a profound sense of respectful alterity. Maybe that's one decently  detached, descriptive, clinical way to put it. Another way is to say my estranged father is a stranger whom I know, and I can not fathom his experience. A stranger whom I know, and who has less than a month now to live. My estranged father is dying.

This post is not about that at all, but what this post is about can not really be understood, I don't feel, without knowing that contextualizing fact that my estranged father is dying, and I was going to visit him. That whole sub-narrative is relevant for the emotional subtext of my actions: it is this sub-narrative's relevancy in itself, because of the narrative concurrence with the story I am telling here,  which brings my story's point home a little bit more. Kinda like the unknown detail which characters never know, and which the audience only finds out in the epilogue, except in this case the epilogue for me came first (but not as prologue).

I took my family out to the ranch, with the intent of their having a day. It was my goal, before I would do anything else, to see to it that they were well established and "set up" at the ranch. Given it is an old ranch house with quite a number of peculiarities only I after a 40 year lifetime of visiting could account for, it was really important I get them settled. Important to me, necessary for them.

Despite all else I had in store for me personally that day, seeing to it that I provided quality family time (dog included) -- and in the process of which that I established my family in the house, as part of the rare treat of being at the ranch we were getting -- was most important. It was the one thing I was doing, in a sense, and everything else (with my estranged father) was tangential to that family (sub)narrative. Nuanced differently, the narrative of my family is the one narrative I am not only telling here, but the only one I am concerned with, and establishing them in the particular chosen experience of a day at ranch was my father-heart above all else (even above my own personal issues). That it was being done despite my personal issues underscores that heart I am trying to say.

"Anywhoo", as the modern-day bard sings, we got to the ranch, I unloaded the car, readied the house and rooms they would use, until I was satisfied they need only entertain themselves, and left for my personal errand. I made a point to return from said errand with enough daylight to ensure we would get to set Mom up for shooting practice, and set the kids up for river activities.

Now, being at the ranch is a rare occurrence for us, and if left to my druthers there were quite a number of things I would have wiled away my time doing, had I been alone. What was important to me to do, however, was that I engage the children in what was fun for them. Again, I aim with my words to underscore the importance of the time together, as oriented around what the family needed.

So we, the kids and I while Mom shot, set off "frogging" -- frog catching. Simply, it was just being with my kids, being present, in what the family was needing (in terms of family time). When Mom was done shooting she came by, and I did my level best to set up the fishing poles having forgotten the bait. My daughter, I think, would have preferred only to fish, but eventually she too participated in the frogging. It was simple, precious time, and it is what the family needed.

In a profound way this strikes me as the very father-heart of God for us, this heart to establish His children, His family, His people in bonding time together, over and around those simple activities which (in themselves) have the significance of being something all the members easily enjoy together. The emphasis of God's father-heart being the orienting the goal of bonding family time around what is important or necessary for the family.



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