There were seven of us Cross kids growing up in our Air Force family. We indeed were a force to be reckoned with, at home, at school, in church, or almost anywhere we settled in at one time, or even when we were running solo. We were known as Ray, Tim, Randy, Robin, Lisa, Julie and Amy. We were further split into two groups – the boys and the girls. For some biological reason, the three boys were born first, and then the four girls. I actually got confused when, in elementary school, one of my friends had an older sister. It made no sense. The boys were always older…
We lived for much of our lives in three bedrooms: Mom and Dad, and whatever dog we had at that time, then the three boys in triple-decker bunk beds, and the four girls, in a triple-decker and an extra bed. Later on, probably due to the threat of a nuclear conflict, the four girls split into two bedrooms – one, a makeshift area in the basement. I lived with my two brothers until my oldest brother Ray moved to college when I was a sophomore in high school, and then again, when my next oldest brother Tim went off to college in my senior year of high school. That actually was the first time I had a room to myself.
A couple of things about having two older brothers: we were each two years apart, and as the youngest brother, I had the enviable position of being both a middle child and a baby of the male side of the family. As such, my brothers carried a sacred promise to always make sure I was protected from the bullying that always existed when I was growing up – we all had bullies, and we had to somehow live strategically as to avoid confrontation with them. However, when those instances occurred, like after it snowed two inches in South Carolina, and we were just playing in the snow, but the bullies came to intimidate us, that Ray came flying out of the house, and threw what seemed to be a vengeful hand of God on them, smashing one of them face first into the snow until he promised to leave us alone.
The other thing about older brothers, is that, in the absence of external bullies, I was often the fresh meat for their own bullying enterprises. Now, of course, I was ALWAYS a sweet, gentle, unassuming younger brother, who never did anything to bug or bother my two older bros (please don’t do any investigations into that allegation – it will only end up in heartbreak). The one thing I indeed could do, when the younger-brother-irritation reached the breaking point, was run much faster than those other two. With the first snort of the older brother, I knew to run like Forest Gump, and not look back.
We had loads of fun as “the brothers,” and probably an equal amount of stress, as three males had to grow up in a probably 11x12 foot room, encircled by beds and dressers, so that our practical open space was more like 5x5 feet. I think that’s why Dad always wanted to live on a corner lot – at least, in most cases, we could find the space to spread out.
Like I said, in my middle teen years, the brothers started to move out. Ray married Pat and they lived in Illinois for a while, and Tim went to college, but then the family all moved to Texas, and Tim moved along with them, dropping out of school in hopes of being able to match up with his girlfriend who was going to school in Kansas.
I’ve mentioned before that when my family moved from North Dakota, I stayed to continue to go to college as the University in Grand Forks. When I came home that first Christmas, I realized I had no room that was mine. I had a cot set up in the enclosed porch, a space carved out of the piles of storage. It spoke clearly to me that I needed to make my own home, I guess, and since that time, I never lived for much of any length “at home.”
Cheri and I married in 1981, and we lived in the Dakotas, with the rest of my family all living at least below the Mason-Dixon line. I guess it seems odd now, but for the next number of years, I really had no connection with either Ray or Tim. I knew they were there, but we were all caught up in our own lives, all far away from each other.
Many things happened over that time. Dad died in 1993, far too young, and in his dying time, we were all back together, and some relationships were reopened. By that time, however, Ray took a different path to his life, which I won’t get into right now, but it created more stranger than brother relationships. Ray died suddenly in 2006, and with his death, it seems both Tim and realized that we were the last men of our generation at least – the last of “the brothers.” Our own relationship has grown far deeper than perhaps ever before, and we find ourselves connecting, with a phone call, or a text. During the five years of Mom’s hospice, and my visits down to Fort Worth, and then over the last nearly two years now of taking care of Mom’s house and her other affairs, it’s given the excuse of the two of us getting together, usually with the ceremonial staying at Tim’s house the night before I was to leave, filled with steaks and other goodies and lots of conversation with Tim’s kids. I’m Uncle Randy, and I enjoy the old patriarch role, even if it is second in line to the throne.
So, I tell you all of this because today is Tim’s birthday. He’s 66 years old, a year older than Dad was when he died, and the survivor of many different unusual and often difficult chapters in the story of his life. I’ve always asserted that my birthday on January 14 has been declared a national holiday, and I haven’t worked on that day since I turned 40. I texted Tim this morning to tell him that in honor of his own birthday, I would take today off as well (remember that I’m retired…). Tim responded that he took the whole week off! Of course, the fact it was the coldest and most major winter storm event on record in Texas didn’t hurt that. I mentioned that it must just be God giving the assist. Tim has a birthday, so the entire state of Texas shuts down for a week!
Yes, I have four sisters as well. “The girls” are also living out their own somewhat crazy chapters in their own lives, and there is an ebb and flow in our relationships. However, a sibling of my own gender – my “brother from the same mother!” – is a special bond. So today, I simply, intentionally and with love and respect, salute my older brother, and pray that he will live many more years, and enjoy them all.
Word for the day: saltus. Simply pronounced SAUL-tus. It’s a very simple word, straight from the Latin, meaning “leap, or jump.” “Saltus” means to jump to a conclusion, or cause a breach in continuity, as when you omit a necessary step when you are writing a logic proof. Instead of proving something, you don’t have to create a case for it – you can just say, “This is what I believe.” The Swedish theologian Soren Kierkegaard introduced the phrase, “saltus fidei,” which means “leap of faith.” He argued that because God is completely spiritual, and we are physical, that to trust or believe in God requires us to take the necessary “leap of faith,” basing our relationship on trust or faith, rather than having to have evidence. Nowadays, of course, we use “leap of faith” whenever we are called to do something risky.
Just as a cherry on top of this word sundae, “assault” comes from the same root, and means, “to leap upon.”
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.