Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
October 4, 2009
Remembering the two most exciting rides of a lifetime
first. We wanted so much to see her during her final days but another trip to
Al died a few years later. He was 80. Realizing he had terminal cancer, Al had called us a few months before his death. He was not cheerful but neither was he morbid. Though his tone was a bit melancholy his faith came through loud and clear. He assured us he would see us again on the other side.
Al was a
school superintendent in
Both of us had wonderful sons named Mark and both gave us fits during their teen years. Al shared with me that his son Mark had become quite belligerent. His behavior was plain rotten. But even worse he had begun to speak disrespectfully to his mother. That changed a few months ago, Al told me.
I was surprised by his explanation. This mild-mannered school man, whose patience had been tempered by years of teaching teenagers, said that one night Mark pushed him over the edge. Al said, “I walked into the room just in time to hear Mark speak in an ugly way to his mother. Without saying a word I walked over and cold-cocked him. Mark hit the floor, out like a light. When he woke up, he was as quiet as a mouse. Since that night his attitude has vastly improved.”
James Dobson does not include that procedure in his classic book of advice for fathers, Bringing Up Boys. But our sons were grown by the time his book was published. I will admit there were times when I was tempted to use Al’s cold-cock strategy but I never did. I guess I was afraid I might be the one who got cold-cocked.
I loved the
calm assurance that characterized Al’s approach to everything. He and Shirley
took us on the greatest family vacation we ever had. One summer we drove up to
the picturesque backwater area of northern
Al knew the place like the back of his hand. He worked there many summers as a guide for tourists. Lugging backpacks, camping supplies and canoes, we followed Al as he led our families on seven portages to a lovely secluded campsite.
We were alone. This beautiful world was ours to enjoy. There we camped for five days of fishing, relaxing, and sharing stories. We brought back some tall tales. My wife, whose fishing skills are zero, caught a huge Northern Pike, the biggest catch of the week. That day her fish must have weighed eight or ten pounds. Since then its weight has almost doubled whenever the story is retold.
Al’s love of the backwoods led him
When Al insisted that I come up and
preach for a few days, I could not resist. I caught a plane and made my way to
The uncertainty of the message was
unlike anything I had ever heard in
I could feel the plane descending but instead of touching down, the plane suddenly began climbing as the pilot gunned the engines. Then the pilot said, “Folks, visibility was too poor for a landing so we are going to circle the field awhile and hope for an opening.” After a spell he spoke again, “Hold on folks; we are going to try again.” Once again he aborted the landing and continued circling.
Each time he tried to land the pilot used the word “try.” I am enough of a realist to understand that failure is possible when one attempts to do something. Was I nervous and afraid? Oh yes, you bet I was. As the pilot descended into the snow for his third attempt to land, I was praying, “Lord, you made a way through the wilderness for Moses, so please make a way through this snow for Walter!”
He did and I had a marvelous time
I miss Al and Shirley. In quiet moments, when nostalgia grips me, I remember special times with them, especially the two most exciting rides of my life. + + +