Friday, June 23, 2017

Memories of Daddy, part 5: To Hug or Not to Hug; Late-Night Talks; 'the Night of the Three Jasons'; and a Devoted Marriage
by Bill Jones
Trustee, T. B. Maston Foundation

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.

Read part 1: A Loving Mother and Daddy, and a Treasured Note

Read part 2: Daddy, Baseball, and Me

Read part 3: Hearing Daddy Preach and Goodnight, Johnny

Read part 4: OBU, My Faith Crisis, and a Loving Dad

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.

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