9-year-old Didds is a G.I. Joe fanatic. He’s got no idea of the cost of bread, milk, or gasoline but what he does know is that at Fedco (think Target with a membership card) G.I. Joe action figures cost $2.87. Those who say money can’t buy you happiness have never seen his collection. Enter Tomax and Xamot. These were a pair of bad guy twins that were sold in a two-pack. Their clothes were opposite each other (otherwise they’d just be duplicate action figures), and they even came with a dual zip line and matching guns. Deciding that he had to have them, Didds came up with a plan. Light on both creativity and subtlety, he ran up to Ma Didds, and blurted, “can you buy me these for my birthday” (he figured the relatively low-cost of the gift and the birthday request would make Ma buy the twins on the spot). Instead, Ma Didds said, I love you every day, not just on your birthday and I never want you to think your value to me is limited to that one day of the year.” Assuming that the question separating him and what he coveted was the mere technicality, he smiled and asked, “well can I have them today?” Without missing a beat, Ma Didds replied, “no,” an emotional sucker-punch if ever there was one. Bruised but not broken, Didds knew what he had to do –find Grandma Didds. Shopping several isles over Didds found his grandmother, steadied himself and approached. After requisite greetings and small talk he drew a breath, held it, then pitched his request just as he’d practiced in his mind. Her reply, “you didn’t do nothing to deserve a birthday; you need to be buying me and ya mama gifts on your birthday, we’re the reasons you’re here.” That day, Didds went home empty-handed and feeling like his birthday had little if any value.
Lesson Learned: Celebrate others on your birthday, love year round.
July 17, 1997
Today Didds turned 21. He’s wrapping up a trip to visit Grandma Didds in his family’s hometown of Bristow, Oklahoma and is in the car on the way to the airport in Tulsa, nearly 40 miles away. Before getting on the turnpike, Grandma Didds pulls into the parking lot of a bank and pulls up to the drive-up teller (Grandma Didds never trusted atms with her money). The Teller, recognizing her customer warmly greeted Grandma Didds and her grandson, then asked how she could be of service. Just as nonchalant as if they were at a fast food joint, Grandma Didds turned to Didds and asked, “how much do you want?” While his mind raced (Is this a trick? Is it a test? I’m gonna be rich! How much does she have? If I ask for a thousand am I being greedy? What if I ask for too much/little? ) his mouth gaped. Then, it came to him, the perfect answer -“whatever you think is appropriate.” The next few seconds lasted an eternity. The air in the car was hot and still, the teller smiled patiently as Grandma Didds considered the statement. The next thing he heard was Grandma Didds thanking the teller “anyway” while she put her car in drive. The ride to the airport was long and the pair sat in silence. Before he got out of the car at his gate, Didds’ Grandma stopped him. When he turned to face her, he was met with the words, “if you can’t ask for what you want in this world, you don’t deserve it.”
The lesson here is obvious.
July 17, 2009
At age 33, while in his mother’s guest room (after leaving for college, Didds was informed and constantly reminded that he no longer had a room) laying on the bed that his grandmother died in, it came to him. He considered, and reconsidered it, then went to Ma Didds’ room to inform her of his epiphany – if he were not in a serious relationship by the time he turned 35, he was going to adopt. Didds was ready to be a father. A whirlwind 12 months later Didds celebrated his 34th birthday with a girlfriend who was 2 months pregnant and by his 35th birthday, he was a father of a 5 month old.
Lesson learned: Do not put anything into the universe that you do not expected to be tested on.
July 17, 2012
In retrospect it’s no real wonder why birthdays are not big deals for me. Not because I wasn’t made to feel special, I was. In fact, my mother grandmother and family went out of their way of making me feel special year round. As I consider those things that are most important to me today, I’m combining the lessons of my mother and grandmother as I proffer these three gifts.
- To myself, I give the gift of time. In the past two years I’ve learned more about my most precious commodity. Having a daughter, even if it’s only 3-4 days a week is an awesome undertaking. Much time is spent either with her or preparing to be with her. While every day is rewarding, sometimes there just don’t seem to be enough hours. No matter how busy I get, I will carve out time for myself. Be it, cooking for the week, working out, or taking pictures of a tree, I need to be able to do those things that feed my soul. Not to be selfish, but to be my best self.
- To Baby Didds, I give the gift of context. As you continue to learn and grow in this world you will see many men. Some will hurt you, others will seek to do right by you, most will fall short. I want you to have a clear example of who and what a man is. I won’t be perfect, I won’t always win, but I will not look for shortcuts or place loved ones in harm’s way. Above all, I will never shy away from being held accountable for my actions.
- To the universe, I will be love. Not in love or in search of love. I will be a living breathing manifestation of love. While it will be no small undertaking, I’ll let you in on a secret, I have a cheat-sheet:
1 Corinthians 13
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I have never liked this passage. I remember hearing it read at my own wedding, thinking that while most of it was harmless and some probably a good idea, keeping record of wrongs is a must. I was convinced that it was the only way to ensure that people would not get away with wronging me again. So, I kept my mental records. They grew, and as they did they morphed. What started as memories of former wrongs against me became burdens that I not only began to carry, but that affected the way I dealt with others. It’s far past time that I let those burdens go.
If I can do these three things, no matter what life throws my way, God willing I’ll have many happy (birth)days ahead.