Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

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Blended Family

I hail from a blended family. My mom and dad divorced after World War II, when I was a pup. Mom remarried first, to Norman Whitton, and from that union produced a child, my half sister, Norma Jo W. Hooten, a very recent homeowner on the Golden Eagle Golf Course.

My dad married Rosena Ritger Wyman (who was a wonderful stepmom to me). Rosena had a daughter by her first husband. So, I have a stepsister, Carole deBardelaben, of Cary, N.C., as well.

Our family is much like many others: wrought with tears of sadness and joy; rich with memories of those loved and lost.

Family has taken on new proportions for me since Hazel Ione Shelton asked me to marry her in 1999.

Right off the bat, the chap who married us, the late Reverend Mr. H. Craig Smith, of Morattico Baptist Church, was not only my younger brother in the ministry, he was adopted by our family whilst we were seminarians in the 1970s. My first two kiddos think him their older brother. I, in turn married Craig to wife Janet. Together they have three children, which by the way, expands our tribe universally.

Hazel and I each brought our two kids into the family with the ever expanding down-line offspring. The base grew. Four children, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren were added into our cadre, looming ever onward.

In due course daughter, Jennifer acquired two precious stepdaughters, Megan and Shelby. Megan lives in urban Irvington, where she and George wrestle with two daughters and a son. Shelby found a guy named David, in east Tennessee. They’ve had two daughters.

After a detour or two, Jenny put herself through college and nursing school. For seasons early, she was employed at Rappahannock General Hospital. Later, she enrolled in a nurse practitioner curriculum in Alabama. Now our gal is a professional psychiatric nurse (nice fit for my daughter).

Son Lee was licensed to ministry at Irvington. That lad stood boldly in Irvington Baptist Church, where his mom Linda’s casket once lay, to sing at our wedding, whilst Rev. Smith tied the knot. To God be the Glory.

Lee and wife, Kim (of west Tennessee), have a daughter Laura and a son Shane. Laura is a nurse in Kilmarnock and a mother of a four-year-old farm boy. She married Andrew Wilkins, the son of the former Northumberland County sheriff. Her brother, Shane, is both a college chap and a golf course employee.

Daughter Mary Ellen and hubby, Ronnie, of Knoxville, were raised by three kiddos, Alicia, Isaiah, and Noah. Ah justice, God remembered! Their youngest son is currently on active duty with the Army.

Son Rob Pittman was a cadet at Fork Union Military Academy when his mom and I married. Along the path, he acquired a Virginia bride, Sarah Beth Cothran, who actually grew up in the same Alta Vista Baptist Church where Karen Holt Burke was raised. Our Pittmans have two lads, seventh grader (new teen) Porter; and rambunctious eight-year-old Nolan. As a golf pro married to a banker, they flourish. Their new Weems home was a hundred-plus years old when they moved in.

All along life’s path, God has blended others into the clan. Church kids, neighbors, troubled youths, all, where born in our hearts. Each has a niche and either will or already has enlarged the tent.

I have this future vision of either Hazel or I—or both—falling from our wheelchair at Walmart, clutching a Christmas list, trying to find the right present for whomsoever is left upon the list.

It all brings to mind a song, a poem of old. Read along, I hope you will find it amusing.

“Many, many years ago when I was 23, I got married to a widow who was pretty as could be. This widow had a grown-up daughter who had hair of red. My father fell in love with her, and soon the two were wed.

“This made my dad my son-in-law and changed my very life.

“My daughter was my mother, for she was my father’s wife.

“To complicate the matters worse, although it brought me joy, I soon became the father of a bouncing baby boy. My little baby then became a brother-in-law to dad. And so, became my uncle, though it made me very sad. For if he was my uncle, then that also made him brother to the widow’s grown-up daughter who, of course, was my stepmother.

“Father’s wife then had a son, who kept them on the run. And he became my grandson, for he was my daughter’s son.

“My wife is now my mother’s mother and it makes me blue. Because, although she is my wife, she’s my grandma too. If my wife is my grandmother, then I am her grandchild. And every time I think of it, it simply drives me wild. For now, I have become the strangest case you ever saw. As the husband of my grandmother, I am my own grandpa.”—Author Unknown

The Bible has been such a blessing to me, especially as it taught me about being adopted into the family of God: Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5 and Ephesians 1:5.

Many of my relationships, beyond bloodline, have come to me as I was invited into the families of others. Aunts and uncles became parents, along with grandparents, as well. Many a neighbor’s fence was the path to yet other circles of love.

Let’s scoot over: make room in our families for those God wants to birth in our hearts.