Roadtripping to Bountiful

Written November 2020.
I know everyone wants to talk about the gas, politics, etc. But I just don’t. I don’t have the energy for it.
There are, however, several conversations I have been wanting to have over the last few days, but they didn’t seem appropriate, or I didn’t want them to get lost in your feed, so I’ve delayed.
But, it’s my birthday today… and this is my verbal cake. So, y’all grab a fork!
This is more of a chapter than a post, you may want to save it or share it to come back to later. It’s a lot, I know. But, some people drink too much and take selfies of their cleavage on their birthdays. I just really like words. You’ll live.
Que Sera Sara…  (This is highbrow haha, I do spell.)
This week we drove Andy’s dad home to the trees and bayous of Turkey Creek, LA.
11 people, 3 cars, 12 hours and 683 miles… each way, in 3 days.
Because men who leave the land they love for their futures and family, deserve to be brought back home.
It was one month ago yesterday that Andy’s parents tested positive for Covid. One month. If you think fine to funeral in 22 days doesn’t change your perspective, let me assure you it does.
We are swimming in, drunk even, on perspective. And not necessarily the kind you want or solicit, but the kind that comes with tears… with grief… and weight. Get it? See what I did there? It’s a food metanarrative… that came with actual fat?? I die.  That’s funny. Less funny for me to point out, but I’m smart and giving you my A-Game and I want you to know it. jk
Anyway… I am so very grateful that our family was given this magically compressed window of time on the road to focus and process our new perspective, our new reality. Forced quiet, forced still in forced minutes, with high calorie intake in between.
We cried, laughed, tasted, traced and remembered our way back to PopPop’s home, the very dirt road and scraps of wood where his story began. My photo album may not look like much, but I hope you see in the smiles, in the tired faces and shared meals… this is what Step 1 looks like for the Johnsons. This is Day 1 of embracing the hard… of healing, even.
I’ll tell you how.
Here’s what we learned on our trip to bountiful:
1. Here’s something you must know… the first step of healing, doesn’t look healed… it looks like addressing the wounds. Seeing them rightly, assessing the damage, making a plan for care and pain management. Adjust your expectations, this step can be messy, painful and is never lovely. But, it’s necessary.
See rightly, feel deeply.
Open it all up to air and light. There is nothing weak about covering what should be covered, being tender to what requires special care. Our family’s recovery regimen required hot syrup. Some do not.
2. Tell your story. There will be a day when your kids need to know it by heart. Tell of your beginnings, of the hard middle, tell of the triumphs and loss… it’s ALL so very important. It’s good for you to articulate and feel known. It’s good for others to truly know you. Andy shared at his daddy’s funeral how this summer he was able to tell his dad OUT LOUD how proud he was of him. Andy was able to recognize and appreciate his dad’s sacrifices, initiative, work ethic and provision… because he knew his dad’s story. He had been to the places it began, knew the people it began with… the traditions, sounds, smells, stories and songs of his dad’s history. Those things will comfort on days and in ways nothing else will.
3. Take the trips. In the cars. Take a look around… the norms of our cultural are killing us and our kids. We are losing connection for the sake of convenience. They will survive legs touching, cramped drives to nowhere… just as you did. And IT’S GOOD FOR EVERYONE. We need to learn to not just exist with others, but to ENJOY each other’s company.
4. Lose the earbuds. Ask my children what single thing will make me lose my witness… kids with earbuds in at the table. At ANY table. Nope. Not having it. I would ban them from existence, but I’m not a total tyrant… and I do see their value. But, on trips… in the car, with the fam? Allow them in doses. The very best thing about being together is BEING TOGETHER, not being together in cones of silence. Also… see #5.
5. Treasure and make use of the time. Someday you would give anything for those hours and minutes back. Hours and minutes wasted, where nothing was said or learned. Hours and minutes that were mindless, rather than mindful. Y’all. I want every single minute of my kid’s attention in these short years at home. The hell with personal entertainment and space… we are having the talks; we are singing the songs!
They get their time to play or watch a few minutes of whatever. I get my time. I am the DJ, then they are the DJ. Berk always picks Lauren Daigle; Emerson always picks whatever gawdawful song played on a kazoo (it’s a thing) and we endure.
We have playlists we make them choose from, sometimes 80’s country and we talk about our childhood… they know Battle of New Orleans as all American children should and sometimes Berk plays Yellow Rose of Texas and gets the sweetest smile and says, “This is PaPa’s favorite…” and I can see the hug in her heart, all over her face.
Sometimes we listen to Pat Green or Passion Band, and we talk about college (both the dumb and divine things we’ve done), sometimes Mellow Classics or Rock and we say nothing, but marvel at The Eagles or Jack White. They NEED to know your songs, friends. They will sing them when you’re gone. And, for those mere minutes they are reminded of good and sweet times… you had *on purpose* on the road.
We listen to comedians like Brian Regan and Nate Bargatze, irreverent and goosey is good for grief. Earl Pitts and Roy D Mercer are always hits in our families… at funerals.
Laugh when you should and especially, when you shouldn’t.
We listen to lots of podcasts. The kids love Ben Shapiro and Emerson nervously giggles when Ben gets mad and rants, because he’s not sure if it’s okay to find it funny. It’s funny, Son. Lunacy is worthy of mockery. In our regular rotation right now is an interview with Abigail Shrier on Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing our Daughters. I know, right? Laugh riot. I am that mom. We are that family. We are having that and every other talk. A running joke in the Johnson house is “Let’s talk about our feelings and our bodies…” Laugh. We do.
But then we really do talk about our feelings and our bodies. And, whatever else the season demands.
Talk, listen, chew and discuss. Sing some Willie, spit some seeds into a cup. Rinse and repeat.
Friend. You are the teacher of what is normal and sacred, valued and despised… to your family, in your home. A good 60% of those lessons are learned in your car. And, will not be learned with headphones on.
6. Eat everything on your plate. Sometimes trips require a Slim Jim and let’s keep rolling. Others require the whole menu and megillah. A lot of the places we stopped this trip, only Andy’s mom and dad had ever been to. We went to their favorite places.
At The Smokestack in Thurber, the waitress asked where Darrell was. Precious, precious woman– he is no longer with us, but he is absolutely HOME. Familiar faces seen on trips the two of them made, dozens of times over the years between kids and grandkids, for games and holidays. Make the trips. Drive the drives. You’ll never regret it.
We had the best burgers and steak fingers, BBQ so good you could cry. And we did. We hunted boudin in LA, found PopPop’s favorite coffee, and shrimp the size of your hand.
Y’all. This is the table the Lord has prepared for our family right now. The most loving feast He has chosen… of stuff we didn’t want or order. But HE is THE HOST. And because He is, we will eat everything on our plate.
Eat EVERYTHING on your plate.
We have told the kids several times, the same rules that apply for the meals Mimi and MawMaw make… apply to what our Father is serving in this season.
We appreciate the great care and effort.
We receive it ALL gladly.
We try EVERYTHING, offered us.
We chew and taste it all, we savor. Even our unfavorite flavors.
We consider. We inquire… “How and why was this made?”
We assume every meal prepared for us are extensions of love and good intentions.
And, we say “Thank you.”
Sincerely, thank you, Lord. It’s okay to cry at the table.
Y’all. We don’t have an appetite for this feast yet. It is not our favorite flavor. But we have ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY our Father is GOOD. He is good in His giving, good in His taking. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.
We are CHOOSING to drink it all in. Our bitter cups are empty. Our loving cups overflow. We are eating everything on our plates. The waffles and the weeping.
7. Roots are good. And roots are made by grown-ups. There is intentionality and sweat required for cultivating roots. It’s not your kid’s job, yet. It’s yours. You are not bound to their schedules, demands, or desires. They are children. And those are piss-poor excuses.
You determine what is good.
You demonstrate what is good.
You help them develop a taste for what is good.
Then, you delight in it together.
THIS is “adulting” (a term I loathe.)
THIS is roots. And roots are good.
Roots are strengthened in the stories of your family, the songs of your journeys, the favorite meals shared. I don’t know how often we will make it to the cemetery in the woods, but PopPop will be found and fondly remembered in every piping hot cup of coffee, in every highway lined with pine trees, in every good plate of BBQ chicken.
The trip was worth every minute of every mile, honoring an honorable man. One last drive, with him and for him. Nothing reflects our good man better.
Darrell lived sacrificially and selflessly for his family—so they could make it all the way to wherever the Lord called them to. He loved nothing more than having everyone together, in the yard, in the car, and at the table…laughing, talking and trying every good thing. And our best way to honor that… is to continue that. To do for our children, what was done for us by our parents—lead well and love well, in the home… all the way Home.
Make the trips. Plan them out. Make them a priority. Make it work. Fray the nerves and wear out the welcome. Pack it all in and hit the road. With enough hours, enough daylight… enough gospel music and grunge, enough eyerolls and belly laughs… you will get there. Tired and road weary. But, with the most lovely and enduring roots.
Roots that hold in wind, that stand in storms, and give shade for those around you.
Shalom Y’all.