Once I was young. With hair. And a 70’s mustache.
Once I had two small children. Who could sit in my lap. Without hurting me.
Yes, I use this picture each year on this day. Build a bridge and get over it.
It was Monday. John Hinckley, Jr. shot James Brady (Press Secretary) in the head while attempting to assassinate President Reagan.
The Police “Ghost in the Machine” and John Lennon’s “Double Fantasy” were chart toppers. Music has always been a gauge for my telling of time.
I didn’t much care about the swirling events of the time though. I was worried about Rhonda and our yet to be born daughter. Fretful aptly describes my mood that day.
I was 24. About to become a father of two. Married to the girl of my dreams for almost 4 years. Father to a little boy who had arrived during August of record breaking high temperatures a year earlier. And now Rhonda was about to deliver our second child, a daughter.
In the span of 4 years I had gone from being a college student at LSU, living at home – to being married, moving into LSU married housing across from Tiger Stadium – to buying our first home – to moving to Ardmore, Oklahoma where a failed record store would be eclipsed by the arrival of Ryan – to now being in Edmond, Oklahoma working long hours as I chased business success while learning to be a father.
The Grateful Dead were already singing about a long strange trip, but our trip had been a short, brief and strange journey.
For the first time in my life I was at a congregation that felt like home. Edwin Morris was a mentor. Lonnie Ayers a close friend. Work was engaging. The pace was hectic. The struggles were often tense. And soon our lives would forever be altered. Again.
And she arrived.
We named her Renae Marie Cantrell.
The middle name was of particular importance to me. Marie Menasco – everybody called her “Re” – was my maternal grandmother. I was compelled to give this little girl – my daughter – some semblance of a woman who had meant so much to me. But this isn’t about Re, it’s about the daughter who bears her name – even if it is a middle name that nobody uses. It’s still partly who she is. And I rather think Re would be proud of the woman she’s become. I am.
Cindy Menasco Smith is my aunt, married to Jimmie Smith. They had boys. Cousins to my children. Chad, Kip and Cullen.
Lexie Cantrell Barefoot is my sister, married to Allen Barefoot. They had boys. Cousins to my children. Alex and Phillip. Phillip was named Phillip Justin, and for a long time we called him P.J. until he rebuffed that name. I still rather like it.
Rhonda Childers Cantrell is my wife. Yes, she was foolish enough to marry me. We had a son, Ryan Dale Cantrell.
The family was over-run with boys. Until November 30, 1981. When everything changed.
Some daughters become a princess. Not Renae.
Some daughters are full of frou-frou. Not Renae.
I wrote about her before she became Mrs. Cale McAlister. I won’t drone on here, much.
She’s currently in some of the most difficult years of life. Being a young mom. Being a young wife. Trying to raise two small children, Max and Jake. Matters were made somewhat worse when an 18-wheeler ran her car into a concrete retaining wall on Highway 183/Airport Freeway some years ago, injuring her back (likely forever). Managing a household is tough enough when you’re feeling fine, but now the added burden of managing the pain became a daily part of her life.
She’s not unlike the rest of us. We’ve all got our burdens, challenges and tough times. Some of us have more than others at any given time, but over time life has a way of making sure we each get our fair share. I’m hoping Renae is front loading her’s.
Even this week she’s likely going to have to schedule having her gall bladder removed. When it rains, it pours.
But she’s resilient. She had to be. She was the one girl among a pack of boys. Life put her in this circumstance. For a reason.
Because she could handle it.
She will handle it.
It won’t always be handled quietly – I’m not sure where she got that 😉
But it will be handled. She’s handled bigger challenges, endured greater ridicule, weathered unfair criticism and been through things common to us all. She’s handled things herself. That’s her nature. It’s in her DNA. She gets it from me and her mother.
Today marks an historic event in my home – our home. It’s not so momentous for others. But this is her site and I have admin privileges here so I can write what I want. And now I have.
Happy Birthday, Renae!
Endure. Overcome. Be thankful. Be strong. Be happy.
I love you,