Wanting to Live for My Children

by on November 14, 2019 · 9 comments

in From the Soul

By Ernie McCray

Life. Is there anything more precious? I think not.

But it can be crippling at times, for an extended period of time or, in moments, like the other day when I clicked on a picture of my kids, all of them.

My first impulse was to smile because they were smiling and looked lovely to me.

Then, suddenly, instead of making my face look like theirs, I was failing at holding back tears, shuddering, in that moment, as I realized I was looking at the images of four people when, for years, the answer to “How many kids do you have?” was “Six.”

And I wanted to scream to the universe: “Please let me die before you take another child from me.”

I mean:

How many tears can a man shed in a lifetime?
How many ways can a heart be broken before it collapses in pain?
How much crashing water from a busted dam can a heavily flooded soul take?
And to whoever says “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” I say “Give me a freakin’ break.”

But I remembered something Langston Hughes once wrote and calmed myself down:

“Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead.
Let life be like music.
And death a note unsaid.”

That made me feel grateful to be alive and to want to be alive for as long as I can survive what life brings.

I’m thankful for what time I’ve had with each of my children. They’ve been the apples of my eye in my journey through life.

Teresa, now my oldest, and I, go back sixty years, back to November 6, 1959,  when I was a basketball whiz in the first semester of my senior year at the U of A. An Arizona Wildcat.

And, oh, did that take some doing. When I wasn’t practicing with the team or playing in games both at home and away or dealing with pop quizzes and term papers and mid-semester and semester exams or trying to better the world through SFE (Students for Equality) or changing a diaper or warming a bottle – I was off somewhere sweeping and mopping or parking cars or working as a lifeguard at private parties or walking a skittish greyhound around a race track or being that student “who will help you move” or I was driving the family car for Ragsdale-Wells Mortuary…

I can remember being so tired that I would fall asleep turning the tv off late at night, leaning on it like a drunk at a bar, after studying and watching a little Steve Allen or Jack Paar when they were the hosts of the Tonight Show before Johnny Carson  became its longtime star. Then, I’d fall asleep taking off my clothes or untying my shoes or brushing my teeth.

The best sleep I got was in my classes but somehow I got a BS and a masters degree and moved my family to San Diego so I could teach, something I was born to do – while my marriage fell off a cliff and crashed beyond repair, gasping for air.

But the parenting part was a wonderful experience for me. I was but a child myself when I became a father, but I dove right in, going with my natural instincts as

reading a story or singing a little ditty to your baby seemed like something someone should do.

Zipping them along in a stroller like a race car driver seemed like fun, too. You could never go wrong with a little peekaboo. Or a trip to the park or the zoo.

Being a father was much to my liking and when our family broke up one of my life’s dreams seemed out of reach: raising children from the womb to when they go out in the world on their own.

Then years later a wonderful woman who would become my soulmate for 34 years came along and before long we were parents to twin girls, Tawny and Nyla, and we adopted a son, Carlos, and entered a world of soccer and softball and baseball games and track and swimming meets and piano and dance and band recitals and Good Citizen Assemblies – and we blinked and they had graduated from college and were gone.

Each living lives as decent people, good neighbors, people well worth knowing, now with families of their own.

Like their older sister. And that’s about all I’ve wanted for all my offspring all along.

Oh, I love the way sadness can be overcome, how the smile that I couldn’t display when I first looked at the picture of my children, is now all over my face, a smile of pride in what my children have become.

This picture now makes life “like music” to me and makes me feel that life is not only for the living, but worth living.

I’m going to run with that feeling for a while because who knows what life might bring.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

bobo November 14, 2019 at 12:22 pm

Thanks for sharing Ernie, what a beautiful composition. Having almost lost a child, I’m thankful every day that I can be with her and never take that for granted.

I didn’t know you played ball for the ‘Cats. Bear Down!


bobo November 14, 2019 at 12:24 pm

…but of course I knew you played ball there! A legend.


Ernie McCray November 14, 2019 at 3:32 pm

A legend in my own mind, at least (smile).


Linda Newsum November 14, 2019 at 8:01 pm

Any kid would be so lucky to have you as a father Ernie. You’ve got one of the biggest hearts there ever was and your children are wonderful people. Your grandkids are pretty darn cute too!
It’s hard to think about all the pain life can bring-all those long nights kept awake by sorrow or worry or disappointment-and then something simple and mundane like a kindness offered or a belly laugh or a hug or a deep conversation, a beautiful work of art or music, the sweet sent of a flower, the warmth of a sunny day, the twinkle of the stars, the crashing of waves, the shade of a tree, the love of a pet, the birth of new life…and it all seems worthwhile after all


Ernie McCray November 15, 2019 at 1:33 pm

Thanks, Linda, for the beautiful expressions…


Thomas Gayton November 20, 2019 at 4:17 pm

Your children are smiling because they were blessed by having you as their father. VIVA!


jeff light November 20, 2019 at 6:45 pm

Your work is so very special, Ernie. These columns are so profound. They all stay with me.
I hope you have been collecting them into a book.


Ernie McCray November 21, 2019 at 12:50 pm

Lately I’ve been doing just that.


wendyEllen Cochran December 7, 2019 at 7:15 am

Beautiful piece Ernie…I’ll be down in January…I am blessed to have been a part of your lives since the children were babies…good times…beautiful memories…Sending holiday blessings and good wishes…love to the fam!


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