I AM NOT A FAN OF GOODBYES

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For the past two or three days, I can’t seem to get the name Clarence Bunsen out of my head. I’ve never met Clarence. In reality, the Clarence that I’m remembering is probably a figure of the author’s imagination, but what was true for Clarence is likely true for me. I’m sure it is true for others as well. It has to do with the concept of life and how quickly it passes.

 

I mentioned to the Texas Baptist Children’s Home board yesterday that it seems like only day-before-yesterday that Charles Wright, Executive Director, provided me the opportunity to work at Texas Baptist Children’s Home.  Interestingly, my first visit to Texas Baptist Children’s Home was from the vantage point of a college student involved in a church sponsored weekend revival and youth retreat back in 1966.  I didn’t start working for the children’s home until 1989, but that earlier brief exposure twenty-three years prior was obviously enough to get me hooked. Who would have guessed?

 

The pastor of our church, Bro. Bob Rich – Belmont Baptist Church in Abilene, who orchestrated the TBCH weekend trip might have guessed.  He subsequently encouraged me to take a job as a live-in counselor at Abilene Boys Ranch on the extreme Southside of Abilene. That was during my second year of college.  He encouraged me to take the job because he had observed I was “good with kids”. Either that or he intuitively and perceptively knew I’d never make a preacher.  

 

“Live-in counselor” was a dressed up title for quasi-houseparent. I only worked in that role for a college semester, but I still have fond memories of some of those kids. A boy named Charles easily comes to mind.  He was an extremely gifted and talented ten-year-old.  He did a pencil sketch drawing of my face and I still have it ‘til this day. I’ve often wondered what became of him.

 

Yesterday, members of the Texas Baptist Children’s Home board were gracious in their appraisal of “my service”, but I’m simply not a fan of goodbyes.  Somehow it is all seems a little surreal and I find myself in the midst of conflicting thoughts as I prepare to exit stage right.  At some level it feels awkward and despite my excitement related to the next step or next page in my adventure, I find myself dragging my feet. It is really hard to bid farewell to the familiar and the comfortable.

 

A couple of the board member’s with whom I’ve shared more history with than the others were not present yesterday for what will be my last board meeting.  Thoughtfully, both previously reached out to me electronically to express their thoughts and well wishes. 

 

David, a man who is even older than me by probably a decade, is the board member I’ve known the longest.  His thoughtful message at the beginning of the month is one that I will treasure. The subject of his email was “Fizzlinfroaming”.

 

He wrote: Good and dear friend Don–

 I have attempted a number of times to respond to your retirement message and until now the only word that my mind generates is Fizzlingfroaming. It may not be a word, I don’t know . Perhaps it the result of more pain pills I take following back surgery number three or my mind ignoring an unpleasant task of acknowledging an unpleasant message. That’s it: Fizzlingfroaming – an act to avoid an unpleasant message; Mr. Webster would like that. 

I’m goin’ to miss you podnah-a lot–but know our paths will continue to cross helps and sharing your statement: ” It shouldn’t hurt to be a child” as I have for so many years, keeps your memory close.

Now — back to the Frzzlingfoaming pain pills”.

 

What a thoughtful and kind message!  I was greatly touched.  Getting back to Clarence, the name Clarence Bunsen keeps coming to my mind.  I don’t recall the episode. It could have been a Prairie Home Companion podcast or it may have been an illustration from one of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon books. It was a long time ago, but Keillor mentions Clarence Bunsen.  Clarence was approaching retirement.  He stands in front of his high school on a Saturday morning while no one else is around looking down on the community of Lake Wobegon.  He is lost with the thought: “Where did the time go?”

 

I get it! I really do! That’s one of the reason I started writing a daily blog. At least I’m writing some of it down lest I forget and life is totally lost in living. It all goes by so quickly.  One day you are a child at play and the next day you’re still a child at play, but the venue is from the vantage point of senior adulthood rather than your formative years. 

 

Seriously, does anyone really ever get old?  I know, you’re thinking: “Don, that’s a dumb question”. You’re right!  Of course they do. In fact, I’ve known some folks chronologically much younger than me that I suspect were old before they emerged through their thirties. I have the sense that they grew up old, but they are NOT in my peer group. Actually, “old and cranky” is a better description of my impression of them.  You know the type, don’t you? You too, try to avoid them.

 

At any rate, while Clarence Bunsen is reflecting back over his past, he hears some kids coming and he climbs up in a tree to avoid them.  As it turned out, one of the voices he recognizes is that of a nephew or great nephew.  I don’t remember which, like I said, I’ve only heard this story once and it was a long time ago.

 

What I do remember is Clarence’s decision to jump down out of the tree and surprise the youngsters because they don’t know he is there.  It was a great plan and they were surprised.  The downside, if you’ll pardon the pun, is that Clarence twisted his ankle from the jump and it now hurts to walk.  He summoned his nephew or great nephew to summon his aunt to come drive him home.

 

Long story short – “Life goes by quickly and sometimes the stupid things we decide to do lands us needing assistance”. Heaven forbid that I ever opt to jump out of a tree.

 

All My Best!

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Don

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