Archive for the 'Family' Category



A storm has passed

After battling multiple autoimmune diseases for the last four years, Justin McElhannon of Boerne, Texas, was laid to rest last month. He was thirty-two.

At his funeral, a childhood friend recalled the days they spent in lunch detention and in-school suspension. He remembered diving into rivers and stirring trouble as members of notorious Lampasas-area gangs (e.g., “The Buttkickers”).

An adult friend told of McElhannon’s love for trucks, guns and hunting. Other friends described his constant pursuit of adventure, his unbridled passion, his entrepreneurial spirit, his arch-competitiveness. One pallbearer summarized him this way, “He was a tornado.”

Storms are tenacious, real, authentic, intentional, focused – all words used to describe McElhannon at his funeral. Storms can bring wind and destruction. They also bring rain and life.

McElhannon was certainly a storm in the car business. The owners of Toyota of Boerne lured him from Houston in 2007. Co-workers called him relentless, either persuading buyers to pull the trigger on the floor or convincing them to add on extras in the finance office.

He frequently called colleagues to higher standards. It mattered little if you worked for him or if he worked for you. He would call you out.

In 2011, unexplained bouts of fatigue began to slow the storm. Then, swelling hands and hurting feet. Joint and muscle issues followed. Perplexed doctors across the country prescribed countless treatments, surgeries and therapies. Little seemed to work.

Unfit for slow days at home, McElhannon continued working both at the dealership and on his college degree, which he completed in 2012. He walked with a cane. Then, his hips gave way. Despite his growing incapacities, his good days and bad days, the storm rolled on.

Suffering has a way of clarifying. It clarifies both the character of the victim and the victim’s priorities. In McElhannon, suffering revealed a character infused with selfless love.

Foregoing his right to sympathy, McElhannon showered love and life on his sons and wife. It only takes a few readings of Misty McElhannon’s blog to know how he treated her and what she thought of him.

McElhannon’s young sons carry an innocent joy born of a passionately loving father, the kind of father who expresses love in heartfelt, heart-wrenching posthumous letters.

McElhannon’s friends tell of his unabashed expressions of brotherly love. He routinely told them he loved them, regardless of the squirming and mumbling he got in return. With his time near, his priorities came clear.

And then, McElhannon’s love for Jesus. In the footsteps of the first century Sons of Thunder, the storm followed Christ wholeheartedly to the end. He stood boldly for righteousness. He told the truth. Among the written words he left behind: “Love the Lord more than anything and everything will fall into place.”

Before what would be his final haircut, McElhannon spoke to the owner of the barber shop.

“I’ve entered the active dying stage,” he pronounced with a comfort level eerie to most listeners. It sounded a little like the Apostle Paul’s paradox, “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices…”

In this fallen world, we are all chronically ill. We are all dying. The question is what kind of dying are we doing?

McElhannon’s dying was just like his living: active. Like a great storm, he brought water to a dry and thirsty land.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info. Read more of his columns at www.kwt.info.

When Twins Came

It seems like yesterday that we welcomed a double dose of bundled joy into our home. A life-sized print of boy/girl infant twins – asleep, head-to-head, feathered angel wings on their backs – has hung in our hallway ever since. The years have flown like cherubs, but the memories remain.

When I told one gentleman back then that we were having twins, he asked if we had used fertility treatments. It was a reasonable question given the modern prevalence of multiple births. But it was unreasonable given that I had previously told him these twins had three older brothers!

On the day we found out we were having twins, I sensed the shock in my wife’s voice. She had gone to her OB appointment alone. It was, after all, our fourth pregnancy.

“Can you come home over lunch?” she asked on the drive back.

I figured she would tell me we were having son number four – that Daddy wouldn’t be getting his little girl. That was fine, of course, as long as mom and child were healthy.

At this point, she was only nine or ten weeks along, well before genders are generally recognized. But maybe something anatomically undeniable had appeared on the sonogram, I supposed.

When I walked into the house at lunch, all was quiet because all were in bed: our one-year-old, our three-year-old and my wife of eight years. She was not asleep, however. She was probably treasuring in her heart the pleasures of a lifetime with four sons.

As I approached the bedside, I gave her an understanding “I’m here for you / I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a girl” kiss and then picked up the sonogram strip off the floor.

As I ooohhed and aahhhed at the cloudy forms on the film strip, my wife slowly turned it right side up. At that point, the labels came clear. “Twin A” and “Twin B”. Like Abraham and Sarah, all I could do was laugh.

The heart-stopping moment had happened for her a few hours earlier. “Whoa!” The sonogram nurse exclaimed as she abruptly paused her examination. “There’s two in there!”

We should have at least thought it a possibility. My wife’s maternal grandmother has twin sisters. An early sonogram of our first son showed a dissolving sac where a twin had been. “Disappearing Twin Syndrome” we were told.

But after three conventional single male births (did I just call births “conventional”?), we had tunnel vision. That is, until twins thrust double vision upon us. Two cribs, two car seats, two high chairs. Mom feeds of A; Dad’s got B. Dad diapers A; Mom wipes B.

Our six-year-old showed maturity beyond his years when he heard the news. “Oh, man. That’s going to be a lot of work.” His three-year-old brother exhibited youthful vigor: “Let’s have six kids!”

A few months later, we were spring cleaning and preparing for the two arrivals. While boxing used books to take to a reseller, I came across a hard-back that had barely been cracked. The title? “Taking Control of Your Fertility.”

“Oh. There it is,” I thought at the time. Now I think, “How boring!”

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

To the mountains and back

I love to ski. I love to ski so much I’ll ride twelve hours in a packed 7-passenger SUV. I’ll ride those twelve hours in that packed SUV even if one of those six other passengers is sick. I’ll take my chances. I love to ski.

It takes this kind of perseverance to get two adults and five kids – all under twelve, one under the weather – to northern New Mexico, a place not easily accessible from here – or anywhere.

Route options: (1) Drive west then north and see cartoon aliens in Roswell, NM; or (2) Cut the corner and smell Lubbock. I couldn’t decide so we did both, one going, one coming. It really broke up the monotony.

Eating on the road is about as appetizing as eating off the road. Cheeseburgers, chicken fingers, cheeseburgers. I never complained on a fast food chain’s web site until Dairy Queen, Ozona, TX. I’ve seen cleaner port-a-johns. My wife used the experience to teach our kids the importance of marketplace competition.

Sleeping on the road isn’t exactly a dream. Thank you, oil & gas industry, for the thrill of paying $275 for a room at a Fairfield Inn.

With just a single room for seven humans, we needed our four-year-old son to share a bed with his older brother. He vehemently refused, because his brother was wearing “panties” (a.k.a. briefs) instead of pajama pants.

Around midnight I needed to retrieve a pillow from the car. A rough-looking roughneck startled me as I entered the elevator. I’m not sure what was on his mind, but it wasn’t pillows.

That wasn’t the only scary moment. I mistakenly trusted a Google Map for my route to Red River. The faulty map included a pass up County Road 18 through nearly-deserted Mora, NM. I felt like a character in a horror movie.

As dusk approached, freezing air fell. A thin layer of snow covered the ground next to mountain stream where I stopped to let the boys relieve themselves. In midstream, a 1980s Chevy pickup drove past. About thirty seconds later it returned.

“These two guys are up to no good,” I sensed.

“Hey, buddy, you got five dollars for gas?” one asked.

I needed to parse my answer. A “yes” would open up my wallet to perhaps further thievery; a “no” would be a clear lie from a Texas vehicle full of kids and gear. Murderers don’t like liars, I reminded myself.

“I buy all my gas with a debit card.”

The two locals seemed slightly confused but relatively content with my answer. Strangely, they drove off in a different direction than they were heading before. The snow angels surrounding our vehicle must have told them to go that way.

The way home through the Texas Panhandle was no less eventful. After winding down the mountain, a four-year-old threw up on his eleven-year-old brother.

Seven people endured another night in a room built for four.

When we drove past a cattle feed yard, an eight-year-old asked his siblings, “Who peed in their pants?” This is the same kid who saw me in my skiing underlayer and asked, “Skinny jeans?”

We loved our three days on the slopes, but we’ll probably remember our four days on the road!

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

Kids say the darndest things in 2014

A great joy of fatherhood is hearing firsthand how little people process the world. As we close out the year, here are the funniest, cleverest, most innocent and telling things my kids have said in 2014.

We have five children but only one daughter. She’s four. Tucking her in one night, I asked what she was going to dream about: “Maybe just you.” I kissed her goodnight and immediately pre-ordered a 2026 BMW convertible.

Once, when she was anxious to leave for a party, she bargained, “If you get dressed fast, I’ll give you some gum and a new phone.” She already knows technology unlocks my heart.

Her twin brother could pick out the phone. Though only four, he is the technologist among us. One day he rounded the corner with my smartphone and announced in a sassy tone: “I know your password. You better change it.”

While I was waiting for a fax, my kids became fully native to the digital landscape. To them, analog is analogous to Stone Age.

When my six year old came to my office one morning, he asked if he could call his mom. “Yes,” I said, “but you’ll need to dial nine first.” He stared at me blankly. After repeating myself three times, he finally asked, “You mean ‘push’ it?”

On spring break, we took the family to a camp in the woods. As we settled into our cabin, my eight year old tried unsuccessfully to check sports scores on my phone. He asked, “Why don’t they have Internet? I mean, they have lights.”

On a hike that week, one of the four year olds asked, “Can butterflies kill us? What about ladybugs?”

In a houseful of mostly boys, sports are a hot topic. I asked the eight year old why you get two points for a basketball shot: “Because the ball goes through the rim and the net.”

While waiting for me to throw him a pop fly, the six year old declared, “Here comes the last out of the World Serious.” Another day he handed me three tennis balls. “Will you jiggle these?”

Vocabulary is a crap shoot. In the summer we try not to forget our sunscream. Sometimes we watch movies on Nexflips. If you want to know the price of something at the store, just scan the zebra name tag.

The little girl loves music. She often asks her twin brother, “How ‘bout you dance and I sing?” Lyrics aren’t yet her forte. “How much is that doggie in the rainbow?” “From the mountains to the cherries, to the oceans white with foam…”

We try to teach them what really matters. It doesn’t always click. The six year old’s translation of Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean back on your own understanding.”

Before dinner one night, I asked for someone to complete this sentence: “The family that prays together….” Expecting “stays together,” all I got was “eats together.” Heathens.

After I told the little girl we always need to be ready for Jesus’ return, she asked, “Will he want to see our rooms?”

Shortly after Halloween she asked me, “What do you want to be for Thanksgiving?”

A pilgrim, dear. A pilgrim, wandering through the wild wilderness called parenthood.

Kevin Thompson is a columnist for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

This is Boerne…you never know

A sad but undeterred mother stood on the driveway of her adult daughter’s burned down home. As she picked up some pieces and contemplated the road ahead, she surmised, “This is Boerne. You never know what might happen.”

She wasn’t talking about the tragedy that happened last week at 123 Becker Street on the north end of town. She was talking about the recovery.

By the time I showed up with shovel and wheelbarrow to help with the clean up, Boerne ISD bond contractor Bartlett-Cocke already volunteered to demolish and haul off the totaled structure. An architect donated his services to draw new plans. Several homebuilders expressed a desire to help.

The displaced family of six relocated temporarily to one of the last available 3-bedroom apartments in Boerne. The fire department donated a couple of beds. A thrift store donated a sofa. A random stranger gave a check for $500. A neighbor brought over a dozen eggs. All in less than a week. Yes, this is Boerne.

It is a unique sensation to live in a place so generous. Some people are generous because they can be. Others are generous because they choose to be. Either way, Boerne has a heritage of generosity.

I once heard a civic leader count more than fifty active non-profit capital campaigns in Kendall County. That’s not normal. That’s Boerne.

The persevering mother is confident in her daughter’s ability to fight back.

“We’ll be okay. We come from a very tough family. My mother lived to be 95 years old and only needed one medication.”

Judging by the matriarch’s perspective, I suspect the family will fight back.

“We’re really just thankful everyone made it out alive. The fire department expected casualties when they arrived. They did a very good job. The fire didn’t touch the houses on either side.”

A correlation exists among gratefulness and toughness and longevity.

A correlation also exists between generosity and desirability. Throughout our nation’s history, immigrants have come in droves in part because of the generosity within our DNA.

The same could be said about Boerne. People want to move here in part because our citizens are willing to give their time and wealth to make this a great place to live.

One truth about life is that the tables are always turning. Prosperity one day can turn – on a dime – into disaster the next. You never know when it will be your turn to need. That’s as good a reason as any to give.

If you would like to contribute to the family of 123 Becker, go to http://www.gofundme.com/h8qls4. So far, 83 people have given a total of $10,525. The donation site has been shared 277 times on social media. This is Boerne.

Disasters often strike at the worst possible times, such as two weeks before Thanksgiving. But bad timing can bring people together in good ways. What better time to express gratitude for the gifts we’ve received than to pay them forward to those who need?

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. Follow him at www.kwt.info. Email him at kevin@kwt.info.


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