As I drove Cheri over to work this morning, we saw it, hanging in the western sky, before the sun rose. It’s called the Wolf Moon, and it is the first full moon of 2021. By meteorological standards, it won’t be a full moon until 1:16pm this afternoon, which is going to be pretty hard to see. Before dawn on this cold January morning, however, it shines bright as can be. I can still see it from my office window, between the branches of our big maple tree. The Wolf Moon was named because whether practically or imagined, you can almost hear the wolves howling at the moon as it brightens up the otherwise dark fields and woods. Of course, Cheri looks at the full moon, and just remarks, “Great – there’ll be a ton of crazies in the clinic today.” We get the word, “lunatic” from luna, the moon, as people controlled by the forces of the lunar pull go quite bonkers when it’s a full moon. It appears that is also the very day they decide to go see Cheri.
When I see a full moon, I often am reminded of Dad. Actually, today is the celebration of his birthday – he would have been 93 today, had he not died at the age of 65. One of the things Dad taught us, however, was to always make sure to keep our eyes open, and observe the world around us. He never said so, but it seemed he believed you could learn more from looking around than from having someone just tell you about what might be.
That’s actually kind of funny, given the fact that you were never able to ask Dad a “quick” question. At age 8, running to Dad for a fast answer to a simple question always – always – ended up with him starting with “Well, that’s a good question…” and so would begin the world-class, Olympic level patriarchal lecture series. It did no good to urge him to move to the simple ending of any explanation. He would say, “If you’ll just cool your jets, I’ll explain it to you…” or worse, “Do you want me to explain this, or not?” There were actually times when, in my mind, when I realized I was being sucked into the more-information-than-I-want vortex, that I would answer, “No – I was mistaken in asking you for a quick answer…”
It’s not that Dad was an extrovert. Actually, he was quite the introvert, and could go hours and hours not saying anything. He like to mow the lawn, in part, I think, because with the noise of the mower, he didn’t have to have a conversation, except with himself. He could be seen, mowing and talking, probably to figure something out that was under his skin. Oh, the other thing he did – was sweat. Good grief. The man, in the middle of a North Dakota Winter, could be doing some kind of physical activity, and you could see sweat pouring down his face. He kept a handkerchief, not for blowing his nose, but for wiping his brow. When “we” would get ready to go on a camping trip as a family, Dad would lay what must have been a 200 pound heavy tarp on top of the car rack, and then pack the sleeping bags, clothing, and anything else soft that was needed, and then fold the edges of the tarp over everything, and then begin the work of tying it all down with a rope. We – the boys – were always given the privilege of helping in this task, as hundreds of feet of rope, it seemed, would get tied down on one end, and then thrown across the roof to us, to be looped under the rack, and pulled as tight as possible, and then thrown back over the roof, and on and on it went. Every few minutes or so, we would have to stop, while Dad wiped his brow, and offered a few of his choicest descriptive words (that he alone was allowed to utter). Then the process continued, making sure that absolutely no single edge of the tarp was left untethered. The other thing Dad would never accept was anything flapping as you drove down the highway. If he saw it on another car flapping away, he would manage to offer them a suggestion from inside our car, like “Why bother?” or “Learn how to secure your load, Idiot!”
I mentioned lawn mowing before. That reminds me of Dad’s – shall we say “penchant” for acquiring equipment either before anyone else ever had it, or what would be on the very fringe of “normal” stuff. For instance, when you think of what a typical lawnmower looks like, it was really something I hadn’t seen until I was a youth. The lawnmower Dad used for years was one he bought from Sears (of course). It was a self-propelled, power reel mower, with a grass catcher behind. It was also white, which made it even more unusual, set apart from the green or red mowers you might see. It also had a crank start ignition. After putting the gas in the mower, stopping to wipe his sweat, he would then crank a short handle by the engine, like he was winding up fishing line on a reel. Fully cranked up, he would then stand up, hit the button on the handle, and what usually happened was it went something like “blaaappp.” He would then bend down and repeat the process, perhaps 10-12 times, increasing the variety and volume of the words he would use to describe the thing that Sears made, all the while clenching his pipe in his teeth like Santa Clause gone manic.
Finally, when the real possibility of seeing the mower launched into the middle of street loomed, it would start, and off Dad would go with whirling reel blades swathing the quarter inch tall blades of grass. Ah, memories.
When my generation gets together, we eventually take time to laugh at Dad’s foibles, which were plenty, but we also make sure to pay homage to what he did that was so right. He was a teacher to us, showing us how to make a fire, how to tie knots, how to process and think out a problem. He showed us the joy of watching old western movies, or other comedies, saying things like “Lord love a duck!” all the while devouring a bowl of ice cream after supper. The Atari 2600 game console came out right around 1977. Dad bought one for us for Christmas. It cost about $200 then, which would be closer to $900 today. So we could have fun playing an amazing toy.
He loved Mom. It’s interesting that when we were little, he would often call her by the nickname, “Kid.” “Kid – can you bring me… (whatever it was)” However, when he came back from 13 months in Vietnam and Thailand, leaving Mom to care for seven children alone, I noticed that his nickname for her changed. She was called “Lady” until he died.
I could share hundreds of more stories, as you probably can about your parents, like climbing the trail up a mountain in the Cumberland Gap, and then having drenching rains, and sliding down on the mud and over the tree roots all the way back to camp, or changing a flat tire on a busy highway with all of us and our dachshund standing on the side of the road. Of when we were all in Hawaii, and going to the beach, one or two of us would race ahead, and that meant someone else would ask Dad, “Will you tell them a thing or two for running ahead?” To which Dad would yell out, “A thing or two for running ahead!” Or even the time when we were all in the kitchen, Dad walked through carrying a box. Mom asked, “What are you doing?” His answer: “Walking through the kitchen with a box in my hands…”
Dad died too soon, it seems, but that’s really not something for us to control. His father finished 8th grade. Dad was the first in his entire family to graduate from college. He retired a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force and the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross. It’s up to us, in this generation, to share his story, and to help his descendants know what kind of man he was, and who he wanted us to be.
Intentional living is not always perfect – actually, it never is, because we who attempt that way of life still have a long ways to grow. Still, to live intending to be someone of honor, and honesty and thoughtfulness is an important work for any human. That was Dad. Roger William Cross.
Word for the Day: kalopsia. Pronounced kuh-LOPE-see-uh. With that strong of a “k,” we can guess it comes from the Greek words, kalos, meaning “beautiful, or lovely” and opsis, from where we get “optical” – it means “view.” Therefore, kalopsia is a beautiful view, but a bit more… When we hear the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” often it means, “I don’t see what you see…” The word specifically means seeing something or someone as more beautiful than they are. It’s a delusion of sorts -- at least it’s named a delusion by others. However, When what we see, we believe to be beautiful, then does it really matter what others think?
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.