I played golf for the University of St. Thomas where my coach was an older gentleman who had served in World War II. I was shocked when one day he told us he was not only non-Catholic but instead was an Atheist. This was especially surprising since I was attending a Catholic university where I was required to take 36 hours of theology and philosophy. In my naivety I figured everyone there was Catholic. While he did not talk about the details of his experience in the war he informed me and some of my team mates that he had served in the army in Europe and saw things that scarred him for life. He came to believe that if there was a god that he would never allow such death, destruction, and misery to take place.
I remember that conversation well and have thought about it often over the past 40 years. It is a very good question; how or why does God allow such misery to take place; why are some people happy and successful and others forced to live a life full of tragedy? How do events, good and bad, affect your future and the path that you choose?
What is fate? A definition I found online reads “the development of events beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power.”
I have come to believe that God does have a grand plan and that he does know exactly the future for all the world and mankind. I believe that God does not exist in time or space as we know it. While I feel that God loves us he puts more value on our spiritual lives than our short existence on this flawed and sin filled planet. Good things happen here. Bad things happen here. Death happens here. All are inevitable.
This post, however, was not supposed to be all doom and gloom. It was simply to share that events that happen, while seemingly random, are more connected than you know with each event writing not just your story but all of mankind.
I think of my own life and the relationship and marriage with my wife of the past 30 years. The sequence of events that led to us meeting each other are complicated with the odds of that union occurring seemingly a miracle. Or was it? Perhaps the odds were 100%.
My wife grew up on a farm in rural Iowa in the heart of the “Corn Belt” of the United States. She lived a stable and predictable life until her mother died of cancer when she was 11 years old. This tragedy opened a new chapter in her life and forged her in a way that would not have occurred had that not happened.
While I had loving parents and a happy upbringing to call it “stable” would not be an accurate description. I was born near Dallas, TX and then moved 14 times before I was 12 years old. My Dad was a restless soul who could not seem to find happiness. Many times he quit jobs, sometimes was fired, or sometimes had misfortune that seemed to set him back. I remember living in Arkansas with my grandparents when I was 8 years old and starting the 4th grade. After a couple months I was told we were moving to Miami, FL as Dad had taken a job with a newly formed company. We then loaded up a U-Haul truck and drove to Florida.
Strangely, I can clearly remember the morning we took off. The big truck had a manual shifter on the floor and made a lot of noise as it rambled down the highway. The truck had no A/C so we had the windows down as we left. It was early in the morning and still dark as we headed down some rural road making our way east. It seemed we drove for hours until we saw a major highway or civilization.
We arrived in Miami where I quickly assimilated into school and made a few new friends. I can remember playing football and seeing “soccer” for the first time. I remember going to the beach and fishing in the canal behind our apartment. I had moved from the country to the big city and a culture I had never experienced before. But, as usual, that did not last long as the company my Dad went to work for filed bankruptcy after four months which forced my father out of work. Apparently the company stiffed my father on his last few pay checks leaving us completely penny less. We did not have enough money to rent a large truck so we ended up leaving quite a few belongings, including my bicycle, in Florida where it was likely given or thrown away.
We moved back to Arkansas to my grandparents house where I went back into the same school and classroom I had left back in the fall. I can only imagine the faces of some of those kids when I showed back up four months later in the same school room. But as usual I made the best of it and soon was playing baseball on a city league team. My coach worked for the city and would pick me up in a garbage truck each afternoon as he made his way back from the city dump (yes, this really happened). But even after such a tumultuous year I can say I very much enjoyed my short time in Arkansas.
We stayed there for about a year before me moved once again to another state.
And that is the way it was until I moved back to Texas when I was 12 years old. I rarely stayed anywhere for a year until I was uprooted. But don’t get me wrong as I wasn’t unhappy and seemed to make the best of an unusual upbringing.
Meanwhile, about a thousand miles away a young girl was grieving over the loss of her mother. A mother who was beautiful, strong, and had made an indelible impression on her only daughter. To compound her grief her father quickly married another woman who was the polar opposite of her mother. A woman who was mean, bitter, and always favored her children over my wife and siblings. It reminds me of the beginning of the Cinderella story. After her father’s new marriage the next five years for my wife were very difficult and I know she at times fought depression. Finally when she graduated high school she left the house and headed off to Luther College never to return, at least permanently, to her hometown.
I did pretty much the same thing after high school and headed off to college as well. Both my wife and I became very self-sufficient after we left our homes and did not have to ask our parents for much after we embarked onto our journeys into adult hood. I continued to have a great relationship with my parents throughout those early years but as things worked out I landed a good job after college which provided well for me and allowed me to never look back. While our upbringings were wildly different, in some ways they were the same after we left our parents and forged our own lives.
So how did it work out? How did these two kids end up coming together? Fate, and even more unusual events…. But…. This story is getting long and will need to be a two-parter.
More to follow.