Saturday, February 6, 2010


  • to carry off
  • to go off with

I’ve started a journal for each of my children during this emotionally chaotic time to remind them that their labels don’t define or limit them, that I love them no matter what, and that I’m committed to working with them to “unwrap the gifts” they have to offer God and the world. It’s not so formal. I just hope to jot down the good things that happen, the evidence of their unique beauty despite whatever lenses others choose to view them through. I wrote this entry to Gavin this afternoon and thought I should share it. I haven’t read it to him yet—I will when the time is right. But I shared it with Dan and he affirmed my decision to post it. So here you go.

Pa died in January of 2007, when you were only five years old, so you may not always remember him very clearly. He was Grammie’s dad and he lived with her for the last few years of his life. Because of that, he got to see you a lot, especially when Grammie watched you every Thursday evening while I worked late, and all summer of 2006 when Grammie and Grandpa watched you and Eiledon every day.

Pa absolutely adored you. He loved to watch the way you crawled around on your hands and knees pushing your cars and trains and other toys on the carpet. He often said how much you reminded him of himself. He said when he was a boy, he always wore out the knees of his pants and the fronts of his shoes by crawling around and playing.

Pa was a very smart man—an engineer. He loved to see how things work and made a career out of working with electrical gadgets and machines. He could fix anything. He loved to watch the way you were so curious about everything, the way you held things and examined them and wanted to know how they worked and took things apart. He recognized himself in his great-grandson and it made him proud.

He told me a story that I will always treasure about a German word: “Verschleppen.” Pa grew up in Missouri, in a village where everyone had come from Germany and still spoke German. His parents were dairy farmers, which meant they had lots of cows that they would milk, and big machines that would store and separate the milk and make cream or butter or other things made from milk.

Pa remembers one day when he was probably about six or seven years old. He was looking at one of the big machines and he was curious about how it worked. He took a piece off the machine and examined it, and then wandered off with it. It wasn’t long before he got distracted and interested in other things and set the piece down and forgot all about it.

A short time later, his dad came out to use the machine and it wouldn’t work. He noticed the missing piece and had a good idea who had taken it. “Hilmer!” he called and Pa came running. “Where is the missing piece of this machine?” he asked in German. Pa replied: “Verschleppen,” which means “I went off with it.” Eventually, Pa assured me, the piece was found and the machine was able to work. But watching you play at Grammie’s house always reminded him of “Verschleppen.”

Not long ago, at Gramma-gramma and Grampa-grampa’s farm, you saw a big metal tub of water that was set out for the farm cats. At the bottom of the tub was a plastic ring with a long cord that was plugged in to the wellhouse. You realized that the ring was keeping the water from freezing and you were very curious about what would happen if you took it out. How long would the water take to freeze in the late November weather? You set the ring in the grass and then forgot all about it. That was Wednesday evening. On Friday, you went out to find the tub completely frozen over and you had fun chipping away at the ice.

Unfortunately, Grampa-grampa was having electrical problems in his workshop and finally traced them to the plastic heating coil you had set in the grass. The coil had melted its plastic coating and burned slowly into the ground by the tub. He and Gramma-gramma got very upset because they were afraid the well house might have caught fire. You were very upset because you were embarrassed by your mistake—you hadn’t meant to do anything wrong. You were just curious. You didn’t realize what would happen if you put the coil in the grass.

This might be a bad memory for you—certainly everyone seemed scared and upset and angry. But when I stopped to think about what had happened, I suddenly remembered: “Verschleppen.” It all made perfect sense! You were just like your great-grandfather! And what a cool guy he was! You can be proud to be like him. I will always see “Verschleppen” as Pa’s legacy to you.

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