Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

June 14, 2009


Sharing memories may inspire us to share our hearts


          As we grow older our memories become more important. When we were young we were usually bored by the stories old people told about “the good old days.” Playing games with others our own age was much more appealing. So we cavalierly ignored information we would later wish we had.

          When my parents were in their early nineties it dawned on me how much knowledge would be lost forever when they died. This awareness caused my siblings and me to pound Mom and Dad with questions only they could answer – about their childhood and how things used to be. We wish now we had written down more of their answers.

          In these days I remember very little about my dad’s life as a child. I never met his parents; they were both dead when I was born. Though I have seen pictures of dad’s mother and father, I have no image of either one in my mind. I do not recall my dad ever speaking affectionately about either of his parents. How I wish I had picked his brain about them before his death.

          This past week my wife and I spent several hours with our oldest son, Matt, and his wife, Tammy. We talked about his work as a pastor and marveled at both his passion for ministry and his compassion for people. One night he drove back home, a hundred miles, to pray with a family whose son was injured in an accident.

That he was able to sleep only a few hours that night did not concern him. He had to “be there” for that young man.

          Tuesday night we were Matt’s guests for dinner at a nice restaurant – to celebrate our 57th anniversary. The food was good but the conversation was even better. We listened with joy as he talked about his work as a pastor. We rejoiced to realize that, seven years out of seminary, he has the right focus. He is intent on doing well the work of ministry where he is, not daydreaming about moving to a “bigger, better” church somewhere. We know in our hearts that God will honor that.

          That night we also shared memories and laughed about them. Matt was amazed to learn that I had spent two years at Auburn University in ROTC. Though he had been in the Navy for ten years, he had no idea that I had learned as an 18-year-old how to disassemble and assemble an M1 rifle. At age 51 he is becoming aware that there is a lot in the minds and memories of his parents that he has yet to learn.

Matt is now a HOG – he owns a Harley.  When he rides his Harley he is in HOG heaven. Even though we are nervous about his riding a motorcycle, he assures us that he observes all the safety rules. He says, “You don’t ever get sleepy driving a Harley; if you do, you’re dead.”

          He delights in reminding me of my first ride on the Honda he purchased as a teen-ager. The first day he brought it home, he offered to let me drive it. I got on it, gunned it around the yard and landed in the shrubbery. I had to admit I had no idea how to stop it; with my hand on the throttle I kept looking for the brakes. Any interest I might have had in riding a motorcycle ended that day.

          As we continued our dinner conversation I felt an urge to do something I had thought of doing dozens of times but had not done. I told Matt how proud I am of the man he has become. My pride, I told him, is not so much in his having become a minister as it is in his having become a man of honor, a man of integrity who is spending his life caring about other people.

I had not expected the tears that welled up in my eyes. I was so blinded by them that I could not see if there were any tears in his eyes. Whether his eyes were moist or not is not important. What matters is that this was a golden moment for me, and one unlike any I ever shared with my own father. Dad never spoke the words, “I am proud of you, son,” though I knew in my heart that he was. I do wish he had said so.

To me it is important to express feelings in words. It is not enough to hope that by intuition and hunches people will figure out how we feel in our hearts. Words can make a powerful difference. At my age I am still trying to learn how to use them wisely – either spoken or in print. Sharing memories seems to inspire us to express the deeper feelings of the soul with one another. + + +