So let's back up for a moment. I remember an incident in the winter of 1962, I believe, so I would have been 11, where I decided I was too old to hug my Daddy anymore. So I started shaking hands with him instead of hugging him.
Once you start something like that, it's hard to stop it. The longer you go, the harder it becomes.
So back to the 1970s. Joanna and I married at University Baptist Church in Shawnee, across the street from the campus where we had met, dated, and gotten to know each other, in September 1976. Daddy performed the ceremony. Jerry Barnes, University's pastor at that time, who was the second greatest influence - behind only Daddy - in helping me find my way back to Christ, also stood on the chancel and read scripture during the wedding.
Almost 14 years after that 1962 incident, I was still in my no-hugging-Daddy phase. One of our wedding photos shows Daddy and me, before the wedding, shaking hands as if he's giving me some last-minute advice. Shaking hands. That's what we did.
Somewhere in the next year or two, I remember telling Joanna that it saddened me that Daddy and I didn't hug - but that we had shaken hands for so long, it was an almost impossible bridge to cross. She encouraged me, of course, to give it a try. But it still took awhile. It was somewhere along those late 1970s, as I recall, that I finally gave Daddy a hug. That's not an easy thing for men - at least in those days. I don't even recall his reaction at the time; I just know that eventually it became easier, and it meant a lot to be able to hug my Daddy. I have a feeling he felt the same.
It was also around that time, as Joanna and I settled into married life, hundreds of miles from my parents, that I began developing a greater appreciation for Daddy and wanting to cultivate a deeper relationship with him. So, over the next 30 years or so until he died, whenever we would be visiting them or they would be visiting us, I made it a point - at least once during the visit - to start a conversation with Daddy over some issue of theology, ethics, or even politics. We had great conversations, loved to hash these things out with each other. I learned so much from him. I'm not so great on the details - don't really recall a lot of detailed conversations, or the issues, etc, that we discussed - but I know that I learned a lot from him, and our relationship grew deeper through those conversations. They were usually late at night when we'd be watching TV together.
I do remember one question I asked him one time, however. I remember when I was growing up in Kansas City, that the Kansas City Baptist Association had an African-American minister on its staff, Charles Briscoe, who was the liaison between the KCBA and the National Baptist Convention. The Briscoes were guests for dinner in our home at least a couple of times that I remember. Growing up, I was always taught by my parents that racial prejudice was wrong, that segregation was wrong, and so forth.
During one of those many late-night discussions in the '70s, '80,s, & '90s, I asked Daddy, "Growing up in Texas when you did, being around the attitudes that were prevalent in those days, how did you come to the racial attitudes that you have?" His answer was very simple and to the point: "T. B. Maston!" I have a feeling there are a lot of Dr. Maston's students who would give the same answer to that question.
We never get too old, I guess, to be embarrassed by our parents. In 1981, Mountain Bell's Accounting Department promoted me to management as supervisor of the billing adjustments unit. The next time Mother and Daddy visited us in Denver, of course Daddy had to follow me to work, go in with me, and take pictures of me at my desk - as my ten employees looked on, amused I'm sure.
In 1987, Joanna's Mobil Oil office in downtown Denver was transferred to Dallas. At the same time, Mountain Bell - downsizing following its 1984 divestiture from AT&T - offered what was called the "Baby Boomer Buyout," in which they offered incentives (including a full year's salary) for managers about my age with about my experience to leave the payroll by April 1. Great timing! So that summer we picked up and moved - with Alison, 5-1/2, and Travis, 1-1/2 - to Plano, a suburb north of Dallas.
As much as we loved Denver and hated to leave it (30 years later, I'm still a Broncos fan), the Dallas area had one huge advantage - it had major league baseball! (The Colorado Rockies were not born for another 6 years.) So I soon became a Texas Rangers fan and began indoctrinating Travis in love of the National Pastime. Now we were in Texas, and Mother and Daddy were only 3-1/2 hours away, in Austin. So we inaugurated something we called "the night of the three Jasons."
Daddy was Atwood Jason Jones, Jr. So I was the third generation of Jones boys to have the middle name Jason. When Travis was born, we made him the fourth generation, giving him the middle name Jason in honor of his granddaddy.
Though Mother and Daddy had left Kansas City in 1974 to return "home" to Texas, Daddy had remained a Kansas City Royals fan, through and through. So after Joanna, the kids, and I moved to Plano, I began inviting Daddy up every year whenever the Rangers played the Royals; "the three Jasons" would go to see the Rangers and Royals play. It became a great tradition that lasted about 5 years, until Mother's health started going downhill in the fall of 1992, and they stopped traveling for the remaining years of her life.
My parents' devotion to each other was something to behold, and that devotion was never more evident than when Mother's health was declining. In late August 1992, Daddy went to California to spend a year teaching Christian ethics as an adjunct professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. I drove Daddy out there (he was just a few days short of 79, after all), then flew home. Mother was to fly out to join him a few weeks later. However, a bursitis attack prevented her from making the trip. Daddy would be coming home for Thanksgiving, and they would then fly back to California together. However, just before Thanksgiving, as Mother was recovering from her bursitis, she suffered a minor stroke. Daddy finished out the semester but asked to be relieved of his responsibility at Golden Gate for the spring so that he could be home with Mother.
A bacterial infection just before Christmas 1993 left Mother bedridden for the remaining 3+ years of her life. Daddy would not hear of letting Mother go to a facility of any kind; he knew that nobody could give her the loving, devoted care that he could. And he was right.
For the remainder of her life, he took care of her. Patsy and I arranged for one of us to be there at least every other weekend - and, eventually, every weekend. Our families sacrificed, lovingly encouraging us to go to give Mother and Daddy the encouragement they needed, and to give Daddy some help, some relief, make it possible for him to go to church Sunday morning, etc.
Both Patsy and I found this time to be very special, as we spent time with Mother and Daddy that we probably wouldn't have had otherwise. And I know it meant an awful lot to Mother and Daddy for us to do that. But it wasn't a hard decision for Patsy and me - our parents had given so very much to us, there was no way that we could ever repay them; just as they had given to us simply because they loved us so much, so, too, did we want to give to them simply because we loved them so much.
During those 3 years, I sometimes took my camcorder to Austin with me. Daddy and I would occasionally sit down in the living room with the camcorder running, and I interviewed him about family events and stories, his career, their marriage, etc. I have about 10 hours on video of these interviews with Daddy. Priceless!
As I said earlier, after Mother passed away, Daddy never got over it. They had loved each other so much, that he couldn't conceive of life without her. So he kept her pictures around him and talked about his memories of her - all good, of course. And we listened gladly, because we knew that talking about his beloved Vivian made him feel good - he was sad, but remembering her brought happy thoughts.
There are plenty of other memories, I'm sure, but these have been a few of the highlights. Though I miss them terribly, remembering Mother and Daddy brings me happy thoughts.
There was never any "put-on," as we used to say, about either Mother and Daddy. They were authentic, honest, faithful, loving, generous. Their faith in Christ was authentic and informed, and they passed that on to Patsy and me - and to others too many to count - through the way they lived, the way they loved, the way they treated people. We saw Jesus in them.
In September 1969, I entered Oklahoma Baptist University. Mother and Daddy drove me to Shawnee, helped me register, and moved me into Brotherhood Dorm. Then they said goodbye and left. It wasn't 10 minutes before Daddy was back in my room, telling me he had forgotten to leave me some spending money. I later learned that this was just an excuse - he just had to see me one more time, was already beginning to worry about me and miss me. (More tears!)
In November 1970, I lost my faith. I had professed Christ publicly at First Baptist Church, Richardson, Texas, in April 1961 and been baptized. In my teenage years at Bethany Baptist in KC, MO, my world had revolved around Youth Choir and the youth group there. I had even become somewhat of a leader, at one point being elected Youth Pastor during our annual Youth Week.
Somewhere around the age of 15 or 16, I became convicted that God was calling me to the music ministry; I went to OBU mainly because of the influence of our music minister - and my dear friend - Joe Dell Rust, who had graduated from OBU, which had a Fine Arts College, led by Dean Warren M. Angell, with a reputation to match or exceed that of at least any Baptist school. I entered OBU on a Church Music degree program.
But my "faith" was built on a house of cards; I had never really understood the nature of faith. To me it was more the acceptance of a set of facts; yes, there was personal commitment involved, too, but the question of faith vs. facts was my problem. On that day in my sophomore year at OBU, when a professor's statement caused me to realize that I couldn't prove any of the stuff I believed, the house of cards collapsed, and I walked out of that class no longer believing in God, much less Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
I had friends at OBU, preacher's kids like me, who went through a similar crisis; when they shared their newfound struggle, their fathers argued with them and yelled at them.
When I told my dad what had happened (and it took a year or so before I got up the courage to tell my parents), he told me he understood; he shared that he had gone through something similar when he was young, and that he understood that this was something I would need to work out on my own, but that he would be there whenever I needed, to talk with, to respond to any questions I might have.
I don't recall any specific discussions with him beyond that, but I do know that I consider Daddy the greatest influence in helping me find my way back to Christ.
Of course, having lost my faith, I had to get out of the Church Music program, so I switched to a Music Education degree. No, I really didn't want to teach all that much, but I didn't have any passion, any great love, outside of music. So I completed the Music Education degree and was then pretty lost, still struggling and searching for truth on which to stake my life, and also struggling to figure out what to do with my life.
One thing I tried was Law School; I scored in the 96th percentile of the Law School Admission Test and was admitted to the University of Oklahoma Law School, which I entered in August 1975. I spent three semesters there before withdrawing after recognizing that I simply wasn't cut out to be a lawyer.
It was during my time in Law School, however, that Daddy and other members of his Home Mission Board Interfaith Witness Department came to speak to the Baptist Student Union at OU. I went to hear them - the only times I ever darkened the doors of the BSU at OU. One evening before one of the sessions, Daddy and I went to dinner together, and I shared with him that, after over 5 years of searching and struggling, I found myself able to once again accept that the Bible is true, that God is real, and that Jesus is God's son. Well, at least I was able to accept it intellectually, although a real faith commitment, a real personal commitment of love and trust would take longer. But now I understood what faith was about. I was trying to build my house on a foundation of faith this time, not a house of cards.
I would never have gotten to that point without the patience and understanding that Daddy showed me from the beginning.
Daddy was often away from our church on Sunday, "supplying" in another pulpit. I occasionally went with him, especially when I was very young and we were in Dallas. My cousin, Devin Dodson, also went with us sometimes. Devin loved hearing Daddy preach. We usually sat on the front pew. My only specific memory of one of Daddy's sermons is one he preached on Jesus' teaching that He is the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep, and the sheep know His voice and follow Him.
I also often went with Daddy when he spoke to church groups about witnessing to their Jewish friends. Much of this involved educating Baptists on the Jewish people, their faith and culture, and knocking down any stereotypes about them. I guess I was a weird kid, but I loved going with Daddy when he did this and listening to him speak. Sometimes, if he was using slides to illustrate his presentation, I would work the slide projector for him.
Daddy once gave me a project to catalogue his books. There were, of course, no word processors back in that day, no electronic databases, etc. I used the Remington typewriter - which he gave me, by the way, at my request, several years before he died - that was on his desk in his study. I typed the information - title, author, copyright date, publisher, etc. - on index cards. Then I placed a little piece of paper sticking out at the top of the book, to indicate that the book had been catalogued.
That experience came in handy 15 or 20 years later, when my own library grew into the several hundreds (over 1,000 today) and required cataloguing. (Of course, today, that catalogue resides in an Excel file.)
One special memory of my growing-up years that I must insert here - whenever it wasn't a school night, such as summer, etc., I stayed up and watched Johnny Carson's Tonight Show with Daddy. I would usually be sitting on the couch or in a chair, but Daddy's favorite place to watch Johnny was the living room floor, where he usually drifted off to sleep about halfway through. I can't begin to count the number of times Johnny went off at midnight, and I got up & walked over, jostled Daddy, and said, "Daddy, Johnny's over. Time to go to bed." Little things like that are special memories.
Just a week after we moved from Dallas to Kansas City, Missouri, in 1962, Daddy took me to my first major league baseball game, the Kansas City A's hosting the New York Yankees of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Bobby Richardson, Tony Kubek, et al., with Whitey Ford on the mound that day. That was the day I fell in love with baseball, its personalities, its ever-growing statistics, and especially its history. Growing up in KC, I spent many days and/or nights with Daddy at old Kansas City Municipal Stadium (which was, sadly, demolished following the 1972 season). We loved talking sports - especially the A's and their opponents, and the Chiefs, who came to KC in 1963.
On Father's Day 1963, Mother and I visited Daddy at Fort Leavenworth, where he was doing his annual two weeks of active duty in the Army Reserves. He was serving as the chaplain in the disciplinary barracks there. We went to the PX (Post Exchange) to buy Daddy a Father's Day gift, and bought him a transistor radio; unknown to me, he and Mother had worked it out where Mother & I would buy him a transistor radio, and they would buy me one. Matching GE transistor radios, except his cover case was black, and mine was cream-colored. I still have mine today. One of my favorite gifts of all time! I can't begin to count the number of batteries I wore out by going to sleep with that radio under my pillow, as I listened to one of those late games on the West Coast.
When I discovered I could pull in the St. Louis Cardinals' games on that radio - and the Cardinals won 19 of 20 in late 1963 to almost (but not quite) overtake the Dodgers for the National League pennant - I became a Cardinals fan. Still an A's fan, but they were pitiful, so the Cards became my first loyalty.
In time, each of us had his favorite player. In June 1964, the Cardinals traded for a speedster named Lou Brock from the Cubs and turned him loose on the bases. Within a week, I picked him as my favorite player (today he's in the Hall of Fame). Just a few weeks later, the A's called up a shortstop from the minor leagues, named Dagoberto Campaneris, nicknamed "Campy." On my transistor radio, I listened to Campy hit a home run on the first pitch he was thrown in the major leagues and add a second one later in the game. But power wasn't Campy's forte; as with Lou, Campy's calling card was speed. It wasn't long before Campy was Daddy's favorite ballplayer.
So through the years, as our two favorite players annually led their respective leagues in stolen bases, Daddy and I would say things like "Did you see what 'my guy' did today?" or "How did 'your guy' do today?" It was a fun rivalry, comparing Lou and Campy. (Sorry, Daddy, my guy's in the Hall of Fame, yours isn't!)
For a few years in the mid-1960s, the Kansas City Baptist Association - where Daddy worked - had its offices in the Berkshire Towers, an old hotel that had been converted to space for offices and apartments. Several of the Kansas City A's lived there. One Saturday morning, after arriving home from an out-of-town commitment, Daddy went to the office to check his mail and took me with him. As we were getting out of the car, we saw Campy Campaneris drive into the parking lot. So Daddy and I went over as he was getting out of his car, and Daddy introduced me to Campy. We chit-chatted with him (Campy didn't know much English, so this was interesting), mainly about his having been out of the lineup the night before with a stomach problem. Anyway, pretty exciting to meet one of the A's in person, away from the field.
All of the Chinese students from Hong Kong and other points east were, of course, staying on campus during Spring Break, so I decided I would stay, too, to spend time with Joanna. Then came the break-up. So I got a flight home to Kansas City. Mother picked me up at the airport.
On the way home, Mother remarked that she was sorry that things didn't work out for Joanna and me. In my most smart-alecky tone, I replied, "Really? I figured you'd be happy, since Joanna isn't a Christian." My dear sweet Mother (and this always brings tears to my eyes) said, "Honey, I just want you to be happy." I don't think I've ever felt so small in my life. She had a grace and a love that I still can't comprehend, to which I can only wistfully aspire.
I should add that, when Mother and Daddy met Joanna the following year, they immediately fell in love with her. Mother wasn't just a wonderful mother; she was a doting and loving mother-in-law as well. It was the love my parents showed to her that was instrumental in Joanna's decision, a few years later, to give her life to Christ.
This morning, my sister Patsy texted me, "They were good parents, and they were well-suited for each other, weren't they?" Yes, 59 years of marriage, and Daddy always felt that was way too little. He never got over losing Mother, and they're together in eternity now, as we shall be with them one day.
One of my favorite possessions is a note Daddy wrote to me - on behalf of both of them - at Christmas 1960, when I was 9. When I opened the box that supposedly contained my Christmas present, all I found inside was a smaller box; and when I opened that one, I found another box, even smaller. I had to open several boxes until I finally found the present - my first wristwatch. Attached to it was a note, which I keep on my desk today, almost 60 years later: "Merry Christmas and lots of love. You had to remove several wrappings to get to this gift, but you see, life is like that. You often have to work long and hard to reach the best things in life. Your mother and daddy want you to keep on searching until you reach God's purpose for your life. You will find it in the center of God's will."(Uh-oh, more tears!)
What a great lesson to learn - it's taken years of experience for me to learn the truth and value of that lesson.