Loving the family rebel

Do you ever feel like drowning or disowning your kids or grandkids?

Don’t do it. Drowning would land you in jail and disowning might separate you from much pleasure in the years to come. Believe me, when I speak of pleasure coming from offspring, I speak from experience. We raised four boys, now all doing well. Our youngest, Ken, will soon arrive for a visit from British Columbia. 

Ken, by his own admission, gave us a rough time as he grew up, as the following will illustrate. One day when we lived in South Africa, Ken saw a juicy pomegranate hanging from a branch just above the neighbour’s greenhouse. He climbed on the wall separating our properties and looked over the greenhouse roof where he saw panes of glass framed by metal strips. He stepped onto a strip and began picking his way slowly toward the middle and the pomegranate. When the fruit hung just above his head he stretched to full height, raised up on tip toes, and grabbed the pomegranate.

As his fingers closed on it, he lost his balance and landed one foot on the middle of a glass pane. Cracks exploded in all directions. Frightened that he might fall through, he ran for the edge, each step smashing a square of glass. He leaped from the roof and went into hiding. The neighbour never knew what happened, and Ken told us years later – after returning safely to Canada. 

Back in Canada, he gave us many bad moments, then dropped out of high school and joined the army. When he left the army, he learned to fly and returned to school to become an aircraft maintenance engineer.

He did well in his chosen field and developed his father’s sense of humour. One day while at the controls of a Cessna, with Anna and me in the back seat and closing in for a landing, he turned to face me. Seemingly oblivious of the runway rushing up toward us, he said, “Would you get that book out of the luggage area. I need it. It’s called Five Easy Steps in Landing an Airplane.”  

I eventually learned to trust him. A few years back Anna and I flew by Garuda airline across Java, Indonesia. As we travelled, I read an article that detailed the 40-year career of a recently-retired Garuda pilot. It described a competent man, one most of us would trust with our lives. I tucked the magazine into the seat pocket as the plane descended toward Jakarta, thankful I had chosen to fly Garuda. Then, to my surprise, we entered a thunderstorm.

The craft bucked and bumped; great flashes of lightning lit the sky over the left wing; my stomach planned rebellion and my bladder threatened embarrassment; I gripped the arm rests in real fear, and then blurted out the most amazing words: “I wish Ken were flying this thing!”

Wow – from troublesome, joking son to a competent professional whom I’d trust with my life. How our attitudes change toward our offspring as the years pass.

What mysterious force turns the table between children and parents as the years tick by? Is it because they grow and develop? Or could it be that we mature?

Maybe love simply blurs the past and emphasizes the present.


Ray Wiseman