Substance, Not Stature
On November 18th, 2016, I’m 66 years old. It’s been almost 3 years since my wife died. Nellie, the professional counselor, talked many times about grieving being a two year process to the “new normal”. I’m a year past the new normal. So, who am I now?
I’m as alive as I’ve ever been. My soul, that lifeforce, tells me I’m 25 – not kidding. My body and the mirror dispute it. But, I know who I am quite clearly. I’m man of considerable substance and little stature. That’s stature as the world measures people.
Now, why would I write something so self-serving? Because my tale might encourage. Also, because it’s the me that’s been told since my 30’s that I wear my heart on my sleeve and that I’m ‘fey’ in the good Scottish connotation.
Most of who I am comes from relationships with others – starting with the one, only, true, living God. Some of what matters in me comes from persevering through challenges in life. Much of my substance comes from the failures which actually gave me my lack of a stature.
Life is about relationships. It begins with the “I AM – I” of God to man or woman. All other relationships are shaped by that presence or absence. On Nellie’s 50th birthday she told everyone I had taught her ‘unconditional love.’ I’d just passed on what the Lord gave me. My relationships evolved since I started daily Bible reading at age 32 and teaching Sunday School since age 42. I learned the two greatest commandments are LOVE God with all your heart, mind, strength, soul and LOVE others as you LOVE yourself. Love is the only verb. Love times three.
When I was 16 my Daddy had a massive heart attack. I pondered life and decided that I didn’t need a life philosophy – of what to live for, but a death philosophy – what is worth dying for. That gave me to hierarchy of duties which I followed since I went to West Point at age 17. One of my few regrets about being 66, is I’d like to fight in the U.S. Culture War and the World War against Islamists for another 30 or 40 years.
My challenges in life were a big deal to me, but hardly the stuff to win “Queen for a Day” on the old TV show. Enduring, persevering, and overcoming taught life lessons. But, delving into them is too much ‘me’ stuff. Personally, nothing in my life compares to losing my wife of 38 years. Nothing. The key truth to share is our Bowden-Maley Clan saying: “God is good all the time. No matter what. No matter what.”
As my kin know: “Never, never, never quit. Never.”
My failures taught me tons. I was fired and had my career crushed like a bug, passed over, lost my job when we lost the contract, had insult added to injury when I was let go because I made too much money – seriously, been on unemployment, had awful ‘Jerry Springer’ moments in family affairs, lost my only run for public office, and came in ‘second’ (you know that’s the first…) on key competitions, made choices that limited opportunities (woulda, coulda, shoulda), and, moreover, sinned by thought, word and deed. Consequently, I’m not on President-Elect Trump’s short list for anything. Yet, I learned from each failure more than any victory.
If I went insane and ran for office again, say dog catcher, I think I’d tout my failures as why folks should vote for me. Defeat, failure and humiliation teaches lessons success can’t instruct. Such disappointments can change how one sees, respects and serves others – for the better.
There’ve been wins. I like the wins. I’ve been embarrassed when people gave me such superlative comments that I could only wish were true. But, the truth is my wins don’t really matter. Nothing matters more than relationships – and doing my duties.
At age 66, I’m up for my duties and relationships as Papa, Daddy, kin, friend, colleague (co-conspirator), Sunday School teacher, neighbor and citizen – and old soldier. I’m up for hard work and a good fight, if it’s worth having.
Months after Nellie died, my political buddy, Danny Goad, told me in his unmistakable Appalachian accent about being a very young widower with small children. His Christian grandfather told him that as a parent feels their heart grow with each new child, his broken heart would love again. Granddaddy said, God doesn’t do addition, God multiplies the love in the human heart. I see that truth as I’m courting a lady in a relationship of surprising joy, peace, contentment and happiness.
Good substance and small stature is all right for 66.
Told on March 15, 1987, “You will read and write.” As of November 18, 2016, I “ain’t” dead yet.