by Rev. John Howard Farmer
High in the Clouds
On a May day decades ago, I found myself squinting through a driving snowstorm. I reached Interstate 64, tardy for my flight time in Richmond. It was a parking lot, a full plethora of cars and trucks sliding here and there. I did the only honorable thing. I went east on 64 to Lightfoot. Then I jogged over to old US 60 and pressed the pedal, (clock-driven) toward Richmond’s Byrd Field.
Barely in the terminal, I stood to read that my flight to Atlanta had been cancelled. Not to be outdone, I nudged my way through the hoard of angry flyers. They must have been ever so important, so busy. Me, I was on my way to meet Noah Zachery Donaldson. He was the newest grandchild (2/28/99). Lovely, beautiful, intelligent, strong, etc., are just a few descriptive words one might apply to master Noah. Well, he is mine.
I began this story up in the clouds. Let’s get back up there, shall we? When I finally got airborne and the captain announced our departure, I settled back in the cabin to ponder just how momentous these days are for me. In particular, I was challenged to inventory how many children God has given me to love. Most of them are teenagers, or older. They’ll always be children to me, even as they are now presenting grandkids (friends and family).
I thought how proud I am of my birth children and how I love the partners they have chosen. Sadly, I remember that some first choices did not always work out and some for whom I have great appreciation have passed from my circle of influence. That hurts. Ah, love torn away never heals. It was easy to balance my feelings so high in the air, so far above this earth from which I have drawn such love and nourishment.
Large in my heart was a cadet marching around, dashing in and out of classes at Fork Union Military Academy, Fluvanna. Given my flight pattern of Richmond-Cincinnati, I even imagined I might be flying directly overhead. Somehow it warmed me.
Well, flight transferred again and before I realized it I was on Nashville, Tenn, soil, bouncing toward a rental car. A quick rest stop and I was on my way west and that new grandson.
God had also given me a family of four to whom I am paternalistically responsible. They couldn’t be more loved if they had been my birth-children. Between counting new toes and patting the kids I would get to have a boys night-out with the Dodd clan. Feet on the ground and cars rushing by, I felt so loved as to be still up in the clouds. It was grand visit, not even marred by the difficulty of coming and going in bad weather and having to be routed north into enemy territory, just to mature the journey.
Returning home Thursday, I did a quick catch-up of things Irvington. My journey wasn’t over. I had another trip planned. It was a trip holy. It was time to motor to Fork Union Military Academy. There was a young cadet, who boarded there, for whom I had had a 10-year love affair. He is such a special guy that I may just be marrying his mom to get my hands on him. In all my ministry, there has not been any other child who has brought such joy into this pastor’s heart. My kids already knew this. Wow, he made us proud! The lad was on dean’s list for four years and was Band Company commander, to name just a few accomplishments. He was a far better student than I, during my time at FUMA in the 1950s!
We checked out and headed for the closest McDonald’s—mind you he was a 15-year-old with a bottomless stomach. He needed food. As Rob drew his chair to the table, he instinctively placed his hand palm-up on the table. He doesn’t mind praying for food. He knew that he’s not going to eat with me unless we did. He knows I was going to hold hands. In that restaurant, populated by half the home-traveling cadet corps, it was our natural thing to do. Man, was I back up in the clouds.
That following Sunday I was on my way to church, to baptize that cadet. His mom had invited the world and secured food sufficient for the event, the day. I was joined by faculty from FUMA to participate in the worship experience. This preacher was flying low. I’d hoped not to embarrass him (us) by hugging or kissing him in public.
The two lads, now from Weems, of that former cadet, their Grandma and I are off this week on a jaunt to the Blue Ridge mountains.
My heart is still up in the clouds 19 years later. Thanks be to God.