Anna is the youngest daughter of my very dear friends Bill and Brenda. For the past four years she has been studying and conducting research in Psychology. At her college in Arkansas, she is many miles away from her parents’ home in northwestern Oregon. Last Saturday, I took advantage of the opportunity to visit Anna when she presented a paper at a conference in Wichita.
Being as how Wichita is only a couple hundred miles away from Wathena, I was able to get there in time to sit in on her presentation. With her long brown hair pulled back behind her head, wearing jacket and blouse, skirt and heels, she looked very much the young professional. Her poise, confidence, clear calm voice and smooth delivery rather sealed the deal; she is very much the young professional.
After her session, I took her out for lunch at one of my favorite joints in the Old Town section of Wichita, conveniently located within a few minutes of the conference center. As we ate and visited, shared anecdotes and antidotes, philosophies and whimsies, I could not help but see both of her parents in her. There were unmistakable traits of both Bill and Brenda in her expressions, eloquence and mannerisms. But there was also the unmistakable truth that Anna was far more than the sum of contributed parts; she is very clearly her own person.
It would be embarrassing for all parties concerned for me to describe the absolute delight that I found in this getting to know Anna. Some of that stemmed from my love for Bill and Brenda and the aching that still haunts me in missing them, even though it’s now been twenty-seven years since we all left central Ohio. Some of it, too, comes from the soothing of an old regret.
Before Anna was even born, I had sworn to myself that I was going to be a good uncle to the children of these fine friends. That was my solemn yet cheerful intent. But then the fires and storms in my own life derailed a number of my good intentions and I fell quite short. I did manage to send them an illustrated version of Uncle Reemus stories when the oldest, Jake, was just a little kid. It turned out that I was just as lousy an uncle for Bill and Brenda’s kids as I was for those of my own siblings.
But in visiting with Anna, in being able to talk with her and discover the nuances of the wonderful, complicated young woman that she is, I found something of redemption. As a parent, I know that the love that we show to the children of people that we love is also love shown to them. Any kindness, any consideration, any devotion–all that is expressed to the child is expressed to the parent as well.
And in that realization, we gain a bit of understanding of why it is that our heavenly Father is so delighted when we truly invest ourselves in learning and loving the Son that he sent to us