Once upon a time there was a family of 8. James and Dorothy, and their babies, Robert (Bob), James Jr. (Jim), Edna, Betty, William (Bill), and Richard (Rick) Taylor. I have to be honest. I don’t know this story very well, but it’s nevertheless part of my story. My Dad is Rick. He’s the baby. He owns a big piece of my heart.
Grandiose doesn’t even begin to describe the size of the stories I heard about our family, growing up. I remember sitting in Jolon, CA, in a store called, Lake Storage, listening to my Nana (my aunt Edna) tell my sister, my cousin and I stories of our family’s dark, uncertain past. From running with Jesse James, to having to change our family’s last name to mask being involved with robbers and thieves, I’ve heard it all. According to my Nana, Taylor isn’t even my maiden name. No one knows for sure what our family name is, but apparently it’s not Taylor. (Oh, dear.)
If you’ve ever been to Jolon on a quiet, ordinary, summer day, you’d understand perfectly how the dry, dusty, hot air of a town, population 250, created the most perfect, stark backdrop for stories like these. My Nana was a great storyteller, and if she were here, she’d swear her stories were true. As a young child I believed her, although I still have no idea if there’s any truth in her stories, or rather, to what extent. I was, at the very least, fascinated. I’m sure they’re at least partially true, although I’d hate to think of myself as coming from a long line of criminals. Who knows? Those were desperate times. Great Depression times.
I also heard a story of a woman with 5 kids who was told by her doctor that if she were to have a 6th child it would kill her. If you’re tracking right along with me, you’ve figured out that I’m referring to my Grandma Dorothy, and her 6th baby, my Dad. She disregarded the advice of doctors and became pregnant one more time. I heard she loved her babies. I heard she was a good mother. I believe she was. Well, the story goes that my Grandma gave birth to my Dad, and then died 2 or 3 short years later. My Grandpa died 6 years after that. My Dad was 9 years old, and without his parents.
A year ago the most random thought occurred to me. I wondered if anyone ever told my Dad that it wasn’t his fault that his mother died. I wondered if he knew that his life was worthwhile, and moreover, divinely purposed and absolutely necessary. My mind swelled with questions. My heart raced with urgency. I’m pretty sure it was a God moment. I remember sitting on Noelle’s bedroom floor when I dialed the phone to call my Dad. What could I say? How do you even start a conversation like that? Well, when you’re me, you just kind of blurt it out. So, I did. I think I said something like, “Hey Dad! How are you?” (Quick pleasantries exchanged.) And then, “Dad, I’m not sure if you’ve ever felt like you were the reason your mom died, but I wanted to call to say that it’s not your fault. If it weren’t for you there wouldn’t be me. I’m so thankful for you.” I’m pretty sure we both cried, and I know he thanked me. My Dad is tough. He’s a crier sometimes, but still very strong. He’s not inclined to get too deeply emotional over things. I think it would wreck him if he did. That’s okay. I like him just the way he is. I pray his heart was healed a little that day. I pray he understood, if even just a little bit, how much he was loved, and how his mother considered her possible death no cost to bring him into this world. She understood the risk, knew the gamble, and played her cards anyway. She considered his life more valuable than her own. As a mother myself, I understand. I wish I could've known my Grandma Dorothy and Grandpa James, (or maybe it was Grandpa Jim). I know I would've loved them so much. I do love them so much. They gave me my family.
Okay, hang on. Time to shift gears. Ready? Deep breath.
There's a movie I’ve become slightly obsessed with. Obsessed is such a strong word. In love might be better. There's a movie I’ve fallen in love with. There. That’s better. It’s called, Dreamer. It’s a movie about a race horse, starring, Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning and Kris Kristofferson. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It’s about a dad who fights to keep what’s left of his horse farm. He’s a horse trainer, but he has no horses of his own, until the day he ends up with Sonador, (spanish for Dreamer). It’s a story of a father being changed by his daughter, and a daughter being molded by her father, and a horse who puts it all together. I know it sounds cheesy and chick-flicky, and well, maybe it is to some, but I find it incredibly meaningful. Without giving away too much of the plot I’ll say that there are constant struggles in the movie, but hope always surfaces to ultimately hush every obstacle the family faces. The impossible becomes possible. It’s a movie about real life stress, real life heartache, and how brokenness paves the way to victory and unshakable restoration. It’s about a little girl who sees through her dad’s tough exterior to see the real hero inside, in spite of his sometimes short temper and, at times, pessimistic point of view. She understands what this world has made him into, but she’s convinced that present circumstances will not define who her family is. She brings her dad hope, and her dad saves her heart. It’s a pushing and pulling movie - she pulls him up when he’s down, and he picks her up right when she’s on the verge of giving up. You can literally feel life being exchanged throughout the entire movie.
It reminds me of my Dad. It reminds me of a man who comes from a difficult past, but who, for the sake of his family, has not, and will not, give up. Deep down he knows he was created for a purpose. Deep down he knows that the dreams in his heart will come true.
If it weren’t for my Dad, this world would be missing 2 strong women and one heck of a young man. If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t be me. Julie wouldn’t be Julie, and Eric wouldn’t be Eric. I don’t know what my real maiden name is for sure, (I rather like the name Taylor though), or who my great-great-grandparents were, but I know where I come from. I come from unrelenting, stubborn love that has never failed me my entire life.
(Me and my sister, Julie.)
(That's Eric, in the middle, waving.)
My Dad and step-Mom aren’t big on owning movies, but I decided to send them (him) Dreamer for Father’s Day anyway. I can never fully express the gratitude I have in my heart for my Dad, (who he is, what he's done, what he means to me), or put into words the picture I have in my heart of a childhood brimming with love and security, never mind the hardships.
So, maybe in some small way, my Dad will see what I see when he watches the movie. Maybe he’ll see the way the daughter looks at her dad, and the way she believes in him more than he believes in himself, and maybe, just maybe he’ll think of me, my sister or brother, and the way we think the whole world of him. My Dad is a builder - a builder of buildings and a builder of people. He's done a great job. He's built many strong foundations. Mine is just one of them, and I'm so grateful.
At one point in the movie the little girl says to the horse, “Run hard tomorrow. Run hard for my Dad. He deserves a good run.” I concur. I want this life to run hard for my Dad. He deserves the very best. He’s the very best dad.
(I love you, Dad, with my whole heart. You are a picture of strength and perseverance, and the life lessons you've taught me, and the memories you've made with me, and for me, will never, ever leave me. Thank you! Happy Father's Day!)
PS: There’s a phrase throughout the movie that says, speaking of horses,
“You are a great champion. When you ran, the ground shook, the sky opened and mere mortals parted. Parted the way to victory, where you’ll meet me in the winner’s circle, where I’ll put a blanket of flowers on your back.”
It’s about horses, but don’t you think it could apply to us too? Like, maybe the Lord says something like this to us. Think about it. Horses or not, the ground does shake when we run. The sentiment is powerful, don't you think?