My favorite Promise Keepers picture was with my son in Las Vegas in 2003

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I'm going through old pictures from Yahoo's soon to be closed-down photo storage sight called Flickr and I ran across this gem from the 2003 Promise Keepers in Las Vegas.  Our son Justin was studying at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and needed a break, so he and I hopped a plane from our different locations and met in Las Vegas.

It was the ultimate guys' weekend where we spent our time hearing and talking about our relationship with God.  What a backdrop for a national men's Christian group.  After it was over we walked the strip, ate some food and talked about everything.  It was a God-given chance for a father and son to get to know each other on a more intimate basis.

We went together to 10 more PK rallies and grew that bond even tighter.  I thank God for that chance and that we were able to take advantage of it.

 


Founders Backwood Bastard from Grand Rapids should be the "state beer" of Michigan

Drinking Founders Backwoods Bastard with my son
Do you recognize the guy on the label of the beer my son and I are drinking?

 I first drank a glass of Founders Backwoods Bastard at Horrocks in Lansing.  My son and I had gone there as part of a tradition he and I started at Thanksgiving time when he and his family visited from out of state.  Since then I've gone there with my son-in-law several times.

Drinking Backward Bastard changed my beer tastes forever.  With it, I became familiar with barrel-aged beer where beer is left to meld with tastes of scotch and other tastes.

Fast Forwarding to this past weekend when I turned 72 and when my whole family came to celebrate our daughter and son-in-law, as part of a birthday gift, bought a four pack which is about the same cost as filling your gas tank on a SUV.

While sitting on our couch after a trip to the Jazz Festival in Downtown Detroit, we pulled out two bottles from my birthday gift.  It was a grand taste and a fitting way to start year number 73.

I'd recommend Backwoods Bastard to beer lovers.


How do you keep your wires connected with your 34-year-old married son, a father of two, who lives out of state?

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My son Justin Thorp and I started the tradition maybe five years ago.  We'd go out and have a craft beer together whether it was here in central Michigan or in St. Louis.  It turned into an occasion where we could sample some great beer and talk about our lives.  He's heavily invested into a really great job and into his family, especially his two kids.

Over the years, he has introduced me to some really beer and wine.  He understands the chemistry behind the making of both beverages and what gives them their distinctive tastes.  

In St. Louis, he's taken me several times to Urban Chestnut where I developed a taste for Schnickelfritz, one of my favorites.  Then he came back home to Michigan where we went to Horrocks Farm Market which has a vast selection of beer and wine.  I was introduced to Founders from Grand Rapids and its Backwoods series.

What do we talk about?  There's no set agenda.  There's how to get young kids to sleep through the night, dealing with the wonderful challenges of a job that you really like and everything in between.  

Last weekend, when he and his family came here, I had a chance to share about the challenges of having stressed vision caused by corneal swelling and about a cornea transplant that I had earlier this week.  I was going through in my mind the questions about what if it didn't work.

120 IPA

We also talked about where we got our strength.  Justin can articulate clearly his belief in Jesus Christ and what he means in his life.  

What did we order while at Horrocks?  He ordered a small glass of 120 Minute Dog Fish Head IPA for each of us as part of a flight.  

I walked away really impressed by the man my son has become.  He's a great husband, great dad and a great son.  I knew this, but a small glass of beer helped remind me in a very personal way.

Does this work for son-in-laws?  You bet.  My son-in-law Adam Jones is a high quality person who I am really proud of as the husband to my daughter and father to three of my grandkids.  For as long as they've been married, we explored our two worlds over coffee and over a glass of beer.

He's a pastor and a person who I'm really proud to have as part of our family.

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I agree with Zeek Braverman that family is everything

 

A picture of my family.
We started with the two of us in 1981. This is our family now at the end of 2017.

 In my head I'm hearing Matt Redmond sing about the "10,000 Reasons" to thank and praise God.  And when that one stops I'm hearing David Crowder sing his "I am" song about the one of who gave me my family.

Our house has been filled with family all week, first our son Justin, his wife Lauren and their two kids and then our daughter Krista and her husband Adam and their three kids.  Last night all them stayed at our condo.  It was bliss for this 71-year-old guy who was raised as an only child and who had absolutely no experience with siblings or small kids until my wife, Gladys got married.

I praise God for each and everyone of them.  As the patriarch of the clan, I've come to appreciate each of them as individuals and to see their enthusiasm for life and for each other.  During and after meals I enjoyed just sitting back and taking in the conversations and the hub bub with the kids.  I'm actually part of two families, my own and the family of God.

One of my favorite television shows was Parenthood where the main character Zeek Braverman would sit back during family get-togethers and say to one of his grandkids, "Family is everything."  I agree with Zeek. 


My father’s abandonment of me and my mom shaped every part of my life

 

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It was 42 years ago tomorrow that I walked up the steps to my father’s house in southern Florida, rang his doorbell and told him that I was his son.  It was the boldest thing I had ever done in my life.  

I had to summon courage that I never knew I had.  When he answered the door, it was the answer to a request I made to God ever since I was a little boy. I just wanted to meet my dad.  And there he was.

In the spring of 1948 in Bay City, Michigan, he got ready for work, said goodbye to my mom and me and supposedly left for his woodworking shop, except he never made it.

He vanished.  He left no messages.  He never called.  He never followed up in any way, shape or form.  My mom was left with a 18-month old toddler, me and no way to support either of us.  

I prayed the “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer every night as long as I can remember and I’d tack onto the end the request that God would “give me a message from my dad.”  

That prayer was answered when I was 29-years-old after I had graduated MSU as a newspaper reporter.  I stumbled into his location and to details about his new life and family.  The day after I found the information, I was on my way to Florida where he lived.

When I confronted him at his doorstep, he refused to talk.  He had completely disowned me.

This is just one piece of my journey that was started when my father disappeared.  His actions affected the whole trajectory of my life.  I became a protector of my mother who was my early savior and protector.  My career choice was affected by my desire to protect women and kids who are affected by wayward fathers.

I was left with a big chasm in my heart and in my personal identity.  I was left with personal uncertainty about my ability to have a loving relationship with a wife and my ability to love kids.

Yes, the scars have healed for the most part.  Looking ahead, I can see that I will take many of them to heaven.

Why share all this?  Although, I’ve not always seen it, I have always had hope.  I’ve had to kick over rocks and look behind trees to find it, it’s been there.

I have been married for 36 years to the same woman, a person who loves me unconditionally and has made doing life together a real joy.  And I have two adult kids who are married to wonderful spouses and who have given us five grandkids who add a new purpose to life.

There are lots of dads out there who have given up on their families and their kids.  They need to know their actions can take a heavy toll.

Can God use my story or parts of it to rethink what they’re doing?  

I hope so.  That’s my prayer.

If it can be used to provide hope, then I will feel encouraged that God can use my experience to help others.


Having a beer or two with my son at Urban Chestnut in St. Louis and talking about our lives

 

A selfie with my son.
Me and my son Justin at Urban Chestnut in St. Louis

 

 

We get bits and snatches of phone and FaceTime conversations to catch up with what's happening in our lives.  These visits are great and are usually punctuated by wonderful moments when grandkids pop in to say hello or show a toy.

However, I really look forward to the times when I can get together with my son Justin for a beer to talk about what's going on in our lives.  Last night, we did it at Urban Chestnut's Biergarten in St. Louis.  Over a generous glass of Schnickelfritz we caught up.  

We talked about our lives.  We threw in a little about politics.  Talked about family, including his sister-my daughter-and son-in-law who recently moved  to Dearborn to connect with and help those in the immigrant and refugee community there.  We talked about the future.  

It was good.  It was good beer and it was a good time of reconnection.

What about beer with my son-in-law?  Same thing.  These have been great times where we have gotten to know each other well and I left praising God for the great spouses He picked for my kids.


Should we try to understand deadbeat dads before we hammer them with jail and prison?

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Have you ever tried to understand why your father was a deadbeat dad?  Do you ask yourself why he kicked you and your mom to the side of the road where the vultures circle overhead?

I've looked for answer to my own situation all my life  and maybe I've found a glimmer of light.  For far too long, this question beset me with all kinds of personal doubt about myself.  Did it affect me?  I didn't want it to, but it did and it still affects me much like a scab or scar that just won't go away.

Yesterday, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote about dads who abandon their kids and about research that sheds light on why they do it.

If I understand the research and its conclusions, my dad may have been looking for what I already have.  He was born in rural New England to a poor family that seemed to have no glue to hold it together.  There weren't many examples for him of loving and viable marriage relationships.  He was dead in the water as far as relationships go even before he got started.  

He knew the sex and procreation part, but he knew nothing about relationships with the opposite sex and how to make them work.  

When things fell part with my mom and the other women he had kids with he left to never be found again, except I found him when I was in my late twenties.  He still didn't want me.  I took that pretty personally.

Why do I keep writing about this?  Not for sympathy.  I'm not looking for it.  I'm trying to dissect my feelings about someone  who has been a weight on me and my self-confidence for most of my memory.

Maybe my dad wasn't the asshole I thought he was, somebody who deserved to be thrown into a prison cell with somebody who could help even the score.

I'm trying to absorb this.  Maybe others who have similar experiences can take a piece of this to help them.  I'm trying to put my feelings in words.

If this is too serious or receptive, feel free to move on to other posts.  I will be writing more about this until I'm satisfied that I have an answer that I'm comfortable with and that's worth sharing.

 


Have you ever wondered why your dad abandoned you as a child?

Running in a road race.
Back in the 70's, I ran in a road race in Flint, Michigan. I never had anybody to show me how to do sports. Running didn't require a teacher.

When I was younger and before I was married and had children and grandchildren, Father's Day only made the feeling of being abandoned worse.  I grew up wondering why my dad left me on the figurative side of the road and never came back.  I grew up with a dual identity where one person was part of the accepted culture and the other part of me was haunted by the realization that my dad never considered me important enough to even call or write me.

That's why I was struck by the column by David Brooks of the New York Times where he reports on research delving into the question of why dads vanish from their roles as dad.  

This is timely and relevant on the eve of Father's Day and as dads struggle with their role as fathers.  Many will run and not turn back.

The research sheds light on the reasons men leave their kids to never come back.  I always wondered why my dad did it.  What was so terrible about me and my mom that he just vanished.  He did it when I was 18 months old.  I'm now almost 71.  

I'm going to read the research more deeply this coming week.  Right now, my daughter and her husband and their three kids are coming for the weekend.    My wife and I are busy getting ready.  

For the dad who's struggling and for the son who's feeling less of a person, this is an important discussion.  It's vital.


Happy Birthday from a proud father-in-law to his daughter-in-law

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I'm really proud of my daughter-in-law--Lauren Thorp--who celebrates her birthday today.  She might be a number of states away but we are thinking of her and thanking God that she's part of our family.  She loves God, our son and their two kids and constantly shows love for extended family members.

As a parent, my heart smiles when I watch my son's family develop and grow.  With Lauren, I've never seen Justin happier.  They really complement each other.  They share the same values.  They have many of the same interests.  She supports him and vice versa.  

They are entering new chapters of their lives as they further establish themselves.  They will face plenty of new issues.  But, I'm confident that they will do it with aplomb.

Happy Birthday Lauren.  Enjoy the day.  Gladys and I are really proud that you are part of the family.


Is this my dad--Claude H. Thorp--in the picture on the left taken in Minneapolis during the early 1950s

A picture of my dad-Claude H. Thorp--on the right.
Is the guy on the left, the same guy in the picture on the right?

 

With my iPad on my lap while sitting on the couch a couple of days ago, my reverie was broken my a text message from a woman in Minneapolis who had read posts on this blog about my search for my father--Claude H. Thorp.  She was looking for information about her grandfather who had the same name as my father.  She even had a picture of him taken in the early 1950s.  She was curious if this might be my dad.

Back in my 20s, I had tracked my dad to Minneapolis where he had a construction business.  However, when I checked he had retired and moved to Florida.  Through friends, I was able to get his address.  He had settled there with a new family, one he had without ever divorcing my mom.  In 1948, he vanished in thin air without leaving a note, without calling or any kind of contact.  

I did knock on his door down south.  He refused to talk to me and threatened to hurt me if I didn't leave.  

In the intervening years, I knew my father had remarried, at least once.  I knew that he was estranged from kids he had before he married my mom.  As I age, I've always felt this piece of me that had been missing.  It was an identity thing.

Check the man in the picture on the left.  And then look at the photo on the right which is a picture of my dad during the time he was married to my mom.  Are they the same guys?  Any opinions?  I've tried facial recognition through Google's photo program and got nothing.

 

 


Don Stypula of Grand Rapids writes about the difference that an involved dad made in his life

 

Don Stypula
Don Stypula

 I enjoy hearing stories about people when they pull back the layers of their lives.  I learn from other people, especially hearing them talk about the pivotal people in their lives, circumstances that shaped them and the happenings that shaped them as the person who they are today.

Most recent person to share about their life is an old friend of more than forty years, Don Stypula of Grand Rapids.  I first met him when he was a reporter for Lansing radio station WITL.  I was the pressroom manager at the State Capitol.  Our friendship grew over the years as we worked and socialized together.  I was at his wedding.  Our wives had kids around the same time.  We maintained the relationship during several job changes for each of us.

But somehow I missed his telling about the role that his dad played in his life.  He changed that this morning by publishing a blogpost about his late dad and the key role that he played in the formation of who he is today.

It's a strong testimony to the role that fathers play in the lives of their kids.  In Don's case, his dad provided the cookie cutter for the man he is today.

During a time when fathers are not regarded as having much value beyond the biological contributions they made and when Dr. Phil concentrates on the role of moms and ignores dads, Don clearly shows how dads can be a world-changer for their kids.  This is worth a read.


Fathers-in-law need to say "Happy Father's Day" to their sons-in-law

My son-in-law Adam Jones
My son-in-law Adam Jones poses for a picture with a new friend he met in Vienna, Austria

A relationship between a father-in-law and son-in-law has a very special dynamic that needs to be learned, especially if he married the daughter that made you walk on clouds from the time that she drew her first breath outside the womb through an archive that is crammed full of cherished memories.  That father-in-law/son-in-law relationship can be very delicate and needs to be handled with care, but, also, with utmost honesty and patience along with redemption.

This Father's Day I have to send special greetings to my son-in-law Adam Jones.  He and my daughter Krista have three wonderful kids.  The depth of this guy's character has been shown to me through so many ways, especially through the way he relates to and loves his kids.  

My memory bank is filled with pictures and videos of him showing love to his kids.  He's a hands-on dad who has changed his share of diapers, played lots of Candyland and provided loving guidance when needed.

He and I have drank gallons of coffee together and sampled more than a few beers working to get to know each other.  I am proud of him and I'm proud to call him my son-in-law and my friend.  

This morning he and his family are visiting his family in North Carolina.  I hope he can fully enjoy this visit with his dad Dennis who has built a legacy that keeps on growing.

 


Without the guy on the right, I would have never been a father

 

My mom and dad's wedding picture
This is a picture of my mom and dad on their wedding day in 1945 

I've smiled a lot lately as I walk around our house.  It's the pictures of our kids and our grandkids that does it.  The only room in our house without their pictures is the bathroom.

They all make me smile and they heat up my heart to the point of having a big glow.  I love being a father.  There's never been anything better than this parenthood journey I've taken with my wife Gladys almost 35 years ago.  My daughter and my son have added a layer of love to my life that I had never experienced until we had them.  And that keeps on growing with a son-in-law and daughter-in-law and five grandchildren.

As the hands of our clock move into Father's Day tomorrow, I started thinking about my own father.  I was walking through the hallway of our upstairs and spotted the above picture.  It's of my mom and dad on their wedding day.  I only knew my mom.  She raised me and she loved me unconditionally.  My feelings towards my dad are complicated and have been shaped by his actions when I was a toddler.  I never really felt kindly towards him.

Then going by their picture this morning, the realization hit me.  Without him, I wouldn't have my great, one-of-a-kind wife, my kids, their spouses and my three grandsons and two granddaughters.  I would not exist.  I'm glad that I do.  

Perhaps, I need to say Happy Father's Day to him and to say thank-you.  I'm happy and I hope he had a chance to experience to same happiness of a wife, children and family.  


These baseball cards bring back a flood of memories of collecting with my son

 

Making sure my son gets our baseball cards.
My son Justin and I went to countless baseball card shows. It's time to make sure he gets them.

 

As part of downsizing to a smaller house,  my wife and I have been going to almost 35 years of accumulation of stuff gathered while the kids were still living at home.  Both of our kids are grown adults and have kids of their own.  Some things in their rooms can go to Goodwill, some can be thrown away, while some needs to be passed on to them.

What about old baseball cards collected with my son starting while he was still in early grade school?  It started with buying a pack here and there at the neighborhood convenience store and grew to pretty regular attendance at baseball card shows.  They were fun to collect and it was something that we enjoyed doing together.

Now it's time to move them down the family line.  Justin has a two-year-old son who has already shown a fondness for wearing baseball caps.  I can see a little baseball mitt in his future and I can see Justin using baseball stats to help him get into numbers.

The cards carry some nostalgia and that's not bad.  It can be good.  It's part of our past that's worth remembering.


Our past week here in mid-Michigan in pictures

My summary of this past week would be dominated by the weather where normally we would be using the grill, giving the lawn a first cut and giving our car a good cleaning.  Instead, we have been flopping between snow, rain and some occasional sunshine.  These photos are from my phone and record some of the highlights.  

Most important was from the sermon at church last night where we heard Pastor Jeff Manion of Ada Bible Church  talk about "The Land Between." It was a reprise of a sermon we heard him deliver a few years ago.  We found it valuable then and more as we get older.  It's about the times when we find ourselves in unwanted transition of life.  Those might be related to health, family, jobs, marriage and any other situation we did not want or ask for.

 

 

What about those life changes that turn life upside down?
What does God's Word say about transitions that we're forced to make.

 

 

 

 

Books from Ding Dong School.
How many of you older baby-boomers remember the old television show "Ding Dong School?" I found these on our bookshelves this week.

 

 

Okay, older baby-boomers, do you remember Miss Francis and Ding Dong School?  This past week I was going through one of our book shelves and found these two books that were mine when I was really young.  My mom would read this to me.  Miss Francis was a precursor to Sesame Street.  It was on in the fifties.  

 

 

Special orange muffins.
These were made from a recipe that my mom used when I was a very young child.

 

My wife was sorting through an immense collection of recipes that she's used during the past almost 35 years.  This one for orange muffins was from my early boyhood days.  My mom made them on very special occasions, like maybe once a year.  They contained orange juice from freshly squeezed oranges, shaved orange peels and lots of sugar.  Gladys made them this past week. My memory machine was in full gear.

 

 

Milestone for our Honda Civic.
We turned over 100,000 miles this past week on our seven-year-old Honda Civic.

 

Our seven-year-old Honda Civic turned over 100,000 miles a few days ago.  The car has been relatively trouble free with our regular maintenance.  We have shaved down our fleet of cars to one.  Before the kids made us empty-nesters, we had four.  The Civic is great for visiting our kids and grandkids who live in different states.

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We do our taco salads healthy style here at our house.  Nutrition is something we try to watch, especially as I move into my 70th birthday.  Most of our meals our consumed on our couch with a fold down middle section that we use for a table.  Most lunches are eaten in front of Everybody Loves Raymond.  


What about 20 weeks of paid parental leave for both moms and dads?

Twenty weeks of paid parental leave.
What about 20-weeks of paid parental leave?

It would be easy to slide right on by this story about how Twitter will be providing employees, both moms and dads, with 20 weeks of paid parental leave.  One could just smile and say that it's just one of those trendy tech companies.

But, then you look at the statistic about the effects of generous leave benefits on kids, moms and families.

Business Insider reports in a story:

Research out of Israel shows the more leave men take to care for children when they're young, the more the fathers undergo changes in the brain that make them better suited to parenting. And a study by two Columbia University Social Work professors found that fathers who take two or more weeks off after their child is born are more involved in their child's care nine months later. 

And with the more leave dads take, the more income a mom makes.  

Any talk about this issue and this benefit with more traditional businesses and corporations?


Our St. Patrick's Day has never been the same since March 17, 1982 when our daughter was born

My wife, my daughter and my son.
The little beauty on the right is our daughter Krista who was born on St. Patrick's Day in 1982. The baby being held by my wife is our son Justin.  Check the baby below, our daughter when she was three months old.

Dear Krista,

It's 8:48 am and mom and I have been talking about your birth 34 years ago today.  And we've also gone through a checklist of memories since that day.  One of my favorites from that era was from the period right after your brother was born.  Mom would be feeding Justin and I would put you to bed.  

But before I turned out the lights in your room, you would ask me every night to talk about the day you were born and I would tell you.  The more we talked about that day, the closer I got to appreciating life and what it means.  That process started the day when mom went for one of her first pregnancy checkups and I heard your heartbeat.  I know that my eyes lit up big time from the realization that there was a life in there.

Then you were born.  During labor I saw a side of mom that I had never seen before.  After being in the hospital for about twelve hours, I saw the top of your head.  They rushed mom to the delivery room and told her that if she had one big push, you'd be here.  She grabbed onto the handlebars of the cart and gave it everything she had.

Dr. Rajan then smiled and said we have a daughter.  He sat you on mom's belly and then cut your umbilical cord.  And you really wailed with  your lower lip curled down.

Those were your first moment in this world.  Keep in mind that I was an only child and held a baby maybe one time before.  I pushed your bassinet down to the nursery after mom nursed you.  It was a proud moment in my life, comparable to the time when I walked you down the aisle.

That was the start of an adventure where there are still chapters to be written.  You are a wonderful mom, a loving wife and great daughter.  

As you get closer to delivering "Al", I want you to know that you have been a world-changer in our family.  You and your brother Justin are gifts from God who knew exactly which kids we needed.

We are proud to call you our daughter.

Love,

DAD

 


Drinking Founders Backwoods Bastard for the second year in a row with my son

 

Backwoods Bastard beer from Founders.
Drinking this Backwoods Bastard with my son was special

When was the last time that you had a really good beer with your son?  My son Justin and I on the day after Thanksgiving this year went to Horrock's Farm Market on Lansing's westside where they have a bar with a huge selection of craft beers.  For the second year in a row, we had a glass of Founders Backwoods Bastard, probably the best beer I've ever drank.

It would be easy to believe that they serve this beer in heaven.  It has that special kind of taste that you just want to sip and has an alcohol content that's over 11 percent.  

I really enjoy these times with him where we have an enthusiasm and openness of conversation that goes back a long ways.  Back when he was in grade school and on the weekends when we would grocery shop, we would preface the outing by drinking a cappuccino.  It became a ritual where the conversation was open and wide-ranging, but usually settled around tech and politics.

We still drink coffee together, but now we've added craft beer.  Justin has a son and I bet there will be a coffee shop in the St. Louis area where you will see the two of them talking and enjoying each other.  And when they get to having a beer together, I'd recommend Schnickelfrtiz from Urban Chestnut.  I've had a few of those too.

And when the time comes bring your son-in-law.  We've done that also.

 

My son Justin Thorp.
My son Justin has broadened my appreciation of beer tastes.

  

The beer bar at Horrocks has an eclectic selection of beer.
This is the bar at Horrocks Farm Market where we got the Backwoods Bastard.

 

 


Norma at the Lake Lansing Road Meijers fed my son a lot of food twenty years ago

 

Meet Norma.
I couldn't believe that Norma was still greeting people at the Meijers on Lake Lansing Road in East Lansing.

 

Since we moved to a different part of town more than 15 years ago, we shop at a different Meijers here in the Lansing-area.  Going to this grocery store which sells everything has become a ritual in our family.

Twenty years ago my son Justin and I did the grocery shopping there.  It became a ritual for the two of us after complaining to my wife that she forgot to buy certain items.  When she offered to let us do it, we jumped at the chance.  It became a father-son bonding experience that made an impression on both of us.

One of the persons we got to know every Saturday was Norma, a sample person who offered free tastes of all kinds of food.  She loved his enthusiasm for trying most everything that was offered and occasionally would give him a double portion.  She always took time to talk to us.  We almost always bought whatever she was selling.  

Over the years, she became a door greeter.  We don't get to that Meijers often, but when we do and when we see her, we smile.  She adds greatly to our Meijers experience.  She's aware of everything in the stores, loves people and makes grocery shopping way more personalized.

It was great to see her yesterday.  I'm still smiling inside.  She brings back great memories from these Saturday excursions with my son where we both grew together and as individuals.  

I hope the people at corporate headquarters read this.  Norma is special.  She is an example of how to treat customers who come into the store.