Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by John Howard Farmer

Visit the Irvington Baptist Church website

We have to trust God to adjust our dreams

Our son, now dad of two, was once an annual jock, just name a sport. We were physically whipped, when his teams finished their competition emotionally drained. If I wasn’t sore enough from my own straining and stretching, I was black and blue from mom attacks.

Son Rob is the scrappiest lad I’ve known. He blew a knee at wrestling camp (US Naval Academy) during his high school days. The following fall he took out the other knee at a soccer game (Fork Union against Hargrave). Trainers, rescue personnel and a school nurse eventually popped the kneecap back in place. I phoned his mom to share the news, then hurried off behind the ambulance to University Hospital, Charlottesville. A good once over, a few pictures later, prescription in hand, we were launched from the ER, destined back to school.

With a prescription and it being late at night, we had to search out a pharmacy still open (near a restaurant of course). Leaving the script at the counter we popped in to a Boston Market to talk about a surgical evaluation looming at Richmond in a few days. Our blessing was tense. He held my hand especially tight, me his.

Lads do know how to enjoy life. All trips mature with a food stop. Usually that means a rest stop as well. Have you ever noticed how they delight in sharing all their bathroom accomplishments with you (at the table)? It’s a boy thing, right? Chewing, snorting, peeing, “dumping,” and spitting seem almost as competitive as formal athletic opportunities. I mean goals are goals—scores are scores.

I deposited our treasure in the clinic. On-duty cadets would get him to barracks. I was released homeward. I still had to face the mom who had entrusted her jewel to me. I had let her down. If I had been a better parent maybe he wouldn’t have gotten hurt. Safe in the dark, all alone, I was left to cry in silence. Nobody would know what a wimp I was when our little boy soldier was injured. Nobody.

Rob’s Christmas vacation was spent recovering from the operation. Limping about did capture the attention of a few young lasses however. Not all was lost, mind you.

Mid-day on a Friday we hustled off to Woodberry Forest to a wrestling match. Rob was lathered. He won a match, lost another. Big backslapping and hugs resulted. Threats flew at an ever-encroaching next team. Eventually our team and those wonderful coaches boarded the buses. Detour time: the chaps bundled off to their favorite eating establishment (none other than McDonald’s in every city). Hazel and I and a host of other obsessing parents tabled by, waited, watched and received the entertainment that two busloads of popping hormones can deliver. Gosh, did we ever have that much energy?

Tummies full, fast falling asleep, the guys were back on Highway 15. We followed dutifully along then veered west toward the promise of an adult table in Charlottesville. By cell phone we were able to inform those too busy to attend the competition. They really ought to get their priories in tow.

Soccer, ball and wrestling parents of seniors all share a common plight. Our lads are college shopping. Folks ask, “Where does your son want to go to college?” They ask, “What will he major in?” After we mumble ideals, majors and philosophies of education we all fall down before the truth…which school has the best teams? Where can you run, scratch, spit and yell the most? How likely is an athletic scholarship? It would be a put-down to just get one for academic accomplishment.

Overnighting in Appomattox (long a bad place for Southern boys) we made our way to gym. Just ahead of us sat the carriages that brought our treasures to the mats. Back slapping, crotch scratching, sidewalk spitting and ripening spandex brought us to our senses. Soon we were ensconced in the gym. As usual I found a bird’s eye branch. Old fat men need a leaning post. Bleachers do get hard.

Our lad scored a pin. He strutted. Mom and I crowed from the bleachers down. Match after match, rest breaks and food passed the day.

Soon it was time for our match two. In the second period Rob’s opponent landed upon him and rolled away leaving him directly in front of me on my perch and mom, at ringside with camera at the ready. My blood curdled. Rob was clawing at his knee brace. Coaches and nurses hit the mat. Cries of “get ice” rang out. Off to the side, his kneecap said it all. An official grabbed a phone and called for the rescue squad.

I sat frozen at the top of the stairs. As usual in times of stress I threw a major A-fib. I leaned back onto the wall and coached my pump back into rhythm. Unable to control my emotions, I cried. I saw a dream die. We heal from most of life’s lessons: Deaths, fires, divorces and the like. But, I knew in my heart of hearts Rob’s dream of a collegiate athletic team had bit the dust. I also knew that it would be all right. At each succeeding turn in the road God would close windows and open doors. Our son was suffering another step from innocence to adulthood. I would not be able to be there for him in all the other disappointments to reign.

Recovering somewhat, I committed Rob and the accident to God in prayer. The arriving rescue personnel would be the best, the ER folks top drawer, because I had prayed it so. All we had left to do was get in line behind the ambulance and dash off to Lynchburg General. I knew the drill.

I hurt so badly for our son. How could I let him know what I know about life? That’s the rub for parents isn’t it? We just have to trust God to take them from our arms into his. He will.