Monday, December 15, 2014

Dear old dad


 As I sit here for the first time alone and having the chance to reflect on your recent passing. I can’t help but have tears stream down my cheeks. Although I realize that the last thing would ever want is to have us cry over you being gone, I cannot stop. I take comfort in the fact that although you wouldn’t want me to cry, I had the opportunity to see you cry a few times in my life. It showed me that even the toughest of the tough sometimes had to show their emotions. Another lesson I’m glad I learned from you.

 We had our ups and downs over the years. There is no denying that. Lots of times I didn’t understand you and you didn’t understand me. We were different and you recognized that. I remember when I was 13 or 14 and you were teaching (trying) to change the oils in your car you reached a realization and too me, “son, maybe you better go to college. I don’t think you’ll be able to eat if you try to work with your hands for a living”. Maybe a harsh comment to some, but a loving reality to me. I wasn’t like you, Treffie or Grandpa. I couldn’t fix anything. You could fix anything and if you didn’t know how something worked you had the curiosity to take it apart and learn it, understand it, and be ready to fix it. If it didn’t work, I had the curiosity to wonder which of you three I should call to fix it. And I did. And you fixed it It turned out that didn’t matter if it was a mechanical problem or a personal problem. You wanted to fix it. That’s what you did. That’s how you showed love.

You would often say that the most important thing to you was giving Treffie and I a life that was better than the one that you had growing up and then you went to work and provided that for us. While we didn’t have everything, we had enough. More than you would have. Even without a high school degree you finished your GED and lived the American Dream. You pulled yourself up, made a family, and owned a house. And you showed me that love was waking up every day, going to work, putting your best effort in while at work and taking care of your family. My wife says that it isn’t always the most romantic way to show love. I understand it. But that was the way I always knew you loved me.

 You taught Treffie and I to be our own men. Not to run with the tide but to go against it. Develop our own beliefs and opinions and never waiver from what we believe is right. You wanted us to stand up for the weak and be friend to the less fortunate. And so we both went off on our own in the world. I believe we have taken that with us. If the mark of a successful parent is having kids that think for themselves even when those opinions aren’t popular, then you and mom met the goal. It's a lesson that Andrea and I are trying every day to share with Matthew. I'm prayerful that the next generation of Cole men will get it and hopefully do better than me as well.

 As I sit here with pad and pen (screen and keyboard) I can’t help but be thankful for the every day lessons that were taught just by being you. Rough, tough, hard nosed, stubborn yet loving described you. I would say you passed many of those characteristics down to me for better or for worse I own them. And dad although we weren’t always clicking on the same page and didn’t always understand each other I always knew when the chips were down I could come back home and you would help regardless of where we were at in our relationship. I’m thankful because i know some people don’t have that.

 I’m glad you were able to go out on your terms at home and not having people fuss over you as you were transitioning from this world. Although the last thing you would want is a tribute I’m happy to let my life be a tribute to you and mom. I know that what you really wanted was to leave this world in the dark, quietly and on your terms. 

And as a man who did what he said, that’s exactly what you did.

 I love you, pops.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Iowa Values

The other day I saw a post on a wall from someone back home asking what Iowa values are. She further expressed that it appeared that if she didn't vote a certain way then she must not have those values.

I think it's a fair statement/question although it's a sad message on just how divided we are today as a country. I'm not going to try to define iowa values for everyone, but I will share what it means to me. 

Iowa values mean being kind. Iowa values mean being nice. Iowa values mean helping others when they need it. 

That's all. It's really simple to me. It's three of the things Andrea and I struggle with in our daily lives of raising an 8 year old. I want him to have the best of Iowa. And since we chose to raise him away from Iowa we are doing all we can to make sure he is those things plus the best of everything else. If he reaches those, I'll be satisfied. 

But the negative part of the conversation is harder for me to swallow. Quite predictably her post turned political and not a positive political dialog but one "my belief is better than your belief". 

It was at that point I started feeling bad for Matthew. I was faced with the reality that no matter what we tried every two to four years he will be exposed to lessons of hate just because he may have a belief that is different than others. 

We will teach him to remain strong. March to his own drum (which he already tries to do) and continue to love others even when he doesn't get that back from others. 

I understand that politics is decisive by nature. Even our independence caused strong feelings, and yes hate, while the people in Colonial America tried navigating the New World. 

But the basic principal of what this nation was founded was one of having the right to believe what you feel is right. Certainly, I understand trying to persuade others to believe as you do. I think it's healthy to have discourse as a society but lately the far left and far right are taking it to far. 

I promise that neither the average Republican or the average Democrat is trying to destroy America. They are just exercising their Constitutional rights to have an opinion. 

I pray Matthew sees the best of that process and doesn't become disenfranchised because of the ugliness of politics. 

I hope one day he walks into an election site and executes the basic fundamental right of voting. He will be proud that a  peaceful transfer of power can take place here in the United States where in so many places around the world it doesn't happen that way.

And on his way to the polling station I hope he drives someone who can't drive, holds the door open for them, and he smiles as they welcome him to the polling station. 

That's what real Iowa values are about. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Striving to be more like Him

Lots of things have happened since my last decision to publish my blog. My parents have moved to Vegas, I'm working at a high school, and most importantly I was saved. 

 For years I danced back and forth between atheism and agnosticism. Usually ending up on the side of atheism and in my mind (or out loud if I was drinking) ridiculing the people out there who claimed to have found a savior in Jesus Christ. It was easy to do. I would use flawed logic, intellect, and skepticism as I implored folks to prove it. Smirking as I saw you pray or read the bible. "Where's the proof" I would say. Or when times were tough, "where's your God now"? 

 Of course I didn't know there were people in Las Vegas (and beyond; I would later learn) praying for me on a regular basis. Nobody would ask if they could pray for me; the answer would not have been in the affirmative. 

 Like most instances of change mine came during difficult personal tragedy. Over about a sixth month period Andrea and I lost a child, lost my Grandma, lost a close family friend, and lost Treffie. I was hurting and angry. The things my family went through proved to me that God couldn't possibly exist. But like true Christians should, people continued to be there for me and not ask but tell me they were praying for my family and I. 

Meanwhile I continued to try to push those same folks away by diving into a life of sex, alcohol, and self loathing. If you've been to Vegas you'll realize there may not be an easier place to do this then in Sin City. And if I lived in Sin City I was determined to be the biggest sinner the city would ever know. It didn't matter to me how badly I hurt those people around me. If I had to hurt, so they should they my flawed logic went.

 But a funny thing happened on my way to an early demise. I began to feel hope. Hope in the people around me and that there may be something out there bigger than me. A couple of years earlier I had read a book called The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel that made a solid argument for proving that Jesus was the unique son of God and had very much walked the earth. Typically, I wasn't ready to admit I was wrong (no Cole male ever is ready!) so I continued doing what i wanted when I wanted and how I wanted while secretly reading everything Lee Strobel had written. 

 Then in early February of 2011 it happened. I accepted an invitation to Central Christian Church. It was surreal as I found myself walking through the door wondering what a broken sinner like me was doing walking through the doors of the biggest church in Las Vegas. I couldn't believe how many people were there. Were there really people in Sin City that believed in God? 

 Then the band started playing music. It was the first time I heard the Chris Tomlin song "Our God". It felt like that song was written especially for me and was not only speaking to my ears but directly to my heart. With the exception of holding Matthew for the first time nothing had so instantly brought me to my knees. As a rookie attending church I had no idea at the time that it was the first time the Holy Spirit spoke to me. I was confused, scared, and curious all at once. Then a man walked on stage and said, "Welcome to Central. We want you to know that Central is a place where it's ok to not be ok". I literally chuckled to myself as I thought, "that's because you've never met me". 

 But something was different after that day. The hope I had felt over the last few months was turning into something more as I again dove into The Case For Christ. Then in my bedroom a few weeks later I was again visited by (I had by then learned) the Holy Spirit. As I was texting back and forth with a friend and tears streaming down my face as I searched for a few more answers I lifted my hands and acknowledged Jesus as the unique Son of God, my Savior, and leader of my life and I asked for forgiveness. I was baptized a couple of months later. 

 Two years later I acknowledged to Andrea that I wasn't the husband she deserved. During that very late night conversation we allowed the whole house of cards to fall. With anger in her eyes and hurt in her heart she forgave me. The struggle continues for us both. Day to day neither of us knows how the hurt, guilt, and anger will effect the other. We suffer wounds that only God (and perhaps time) can heal. (This journey is a whole other blog) we are still trying to figure out where this journey is leading our relationship. 

 Every day remains a struggle. I continue to hurt those around me on a daily basis. I continue to selfishly put things other than Jesus first in my life. I still struggle for worldly desires that Las Vegas makes so readily available. Fortunately through grace I'm able to wake up and strive each day to be a better version of myself than I was the day before. I've learned to forgive those who have hurt me and more importantly I've also given myself forgiveness for the bad things I've done to others

 But I'm no longer alone.  

 How big is my God? I only have to look in the mirror to know. My God is Mighty to Save. So thankful.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Live Like You Were Dying

It always takes a tragedy or an early end to life to start to truly appreciate the joy that comes with living. How often during these situations do we hear people say, "live every day", "don't miss a moment", "stop and smell the roses", "live life to the fullest",(?) and the list could go on and on.

However, how many of us actually heed that advice? I know in the past I rarely have. However, I've decided to start living life better and fuller. In my case, that means making some changes to my lifestyle. I've basically cut out the fast food, started working out at the gym, and more importantly-- letting those I care about, know it.

Amazingly, giving up fast food and soda was the easiest part. Since I had a six pack a day soda habit, I thought that would be difficult. Even my once (at least!)a day habit of hitting Wendy's, McDonald's, or Taco Bell wasn't that difficult to stop. I simply made up my mind and stopped them. I quickly started eating more fruits and vegetables just like they recommend. Add in some fish oil pills and vitamins and I was on my way. I then started working out (close to daily) and consider that a good habit I have developed. I have been rewarded by losing over 30 pounds since February 9, 2010 (although I will probably gain a couple of pounds while I am here at Wilcoxson's in Arkansas).

The hardest part for me is letting people know how much I care about them. As a guy, I've traditionally lived by the "don't wear your emotions on your sleeve" credo. Even with my wife and son I've often said (and probably show) that I believe showing love is by waking up every day, going to work, and paying bills. My wife knows how romantic that is! But because of recent events in our lives I've started to realize that isn't enough. Assuming that people know you love and care about them isn't enough.

Tim McGraw sings a song called Live Live You Were Dying. But, how many of us actually live by that simple philosophy? Not many of us do because we get busy with work and the daily hustle and bustle of our lives. However, just telling people you appreciate them and that they are important to you is an important first step. In the song, Tim tells us, "I was finally the husband most the time I wasn't and I became the friend a friend would like to have". I've decided that I want to be that husband, father, and friend that the people I care about deserve. Although I am not going sky diving or 2.7 seconds on a bull named FuManChu, I figure I can "love deeper, speak sweeter, and give forgiveness I've been holding back".

With that comes the easy things, like taking a much talked about trip to Zion, going to the baseball games, having backyard BBQs, taking a much needed flight to Arkansas, watch Matthew play in the park, and go on date nights with my wife. Doing these things will take sacrifices like spending less time in my Lazy-Boy, less on line poker, less time browsing the Internet, and other things. However, we all know those aren't actually sacrifices--they are just things that get in the way of our living life.

It's the difference between being alive and living.

Many people that these words reach I have known between 20 and 30 years. Some folks I've known much less. Either way, if you are reading these words, you can bet that you have made a difference in my life and I am thankful that you are here for and with me. I'm not to big of a man to say, I love you.

At least that's the love filled view as I see it.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Treffie Robert Cole: April 14, 1970 - January19, 2010

What I wouldn't do to hear you say one last time in that gruff voice, "Hi Greg". It's always the little things. What I wouldn't do to have those days we rode in the car for that funeral drag on like they did when we were young. What I wouldn't do to play one more game of ping pong with you. What I wouldn't do to watch you ball fake people five inches taller then you using all three seconds before putting the ball in the hoop. The list would go on and on. I miss you. I love you.

Growing up it seems like the days drag on forever. You can spend all day playing and barely go inside to eat, let alone wonder about life. Growing up in a small town the days of summer especially seemed to last forever. Rushing outside at first light and being sure to be on your own property when the street lights came on was a way of life. It was no different for me.

I was fortunate enough to be a younger brother. That meant always having someone to follow around and never having to worry about finding someone to hang out with. I simply followed Treffie around. A typical summer day for us meant football in the vacant lot by Wilcoxson's house, baseball at Steve Baird's house in the afternoon, and basketball in our driveway during the evening. It was the best. Because he "let" (or did mom and dad insist?) me follow him around I was fortunate to play in all the games. It usually meant my friends and I getting to play last, but I didn't care. As long as we were playing some kind of sport, we were all happy.

Not surprisingly, Treffie and I became rather good at all three. No doubt it was watching him work at each is what allowed me to become good too. Good enough at least that we both became all conference basketball players. No doubt without Treffie's role modeling I would not have had the drive to be "better" than him and who knows where I would be today. For many of us, sports provided us the discipline and work ethic necessary to become productive adults.

Treffie agreed with my dad when it came time to go to college. It seemed that since I had no ability whatsoever to work with my hands I needed to have some kind of skill. Later Treffie would remind me (as he got a new boss or something else) that educated people were usually stupid. They would come in and make recommendations and directives while not knowing what really needed to be done. In his case it usually included adding and hour on to a task that he had performed masterfully in far less time.

However, in my case he was proud that I had gotten an education beyond high school. Other than Mom and Dad, I doubt anyone else was as proud when I got my master's degree. I especially wish he would have had a chance to see me walk when/if I ever finish my doctorate. I know he would have bored all his friends with that.

I'm glad that this summer my family took a six week trip and got to spend several of days with him. One of the things I will always remember is the pride and happiness he had while watching my son bowl. In fact, I rarely had another conversation with him where he didn't mention little Matthew carrying that big bowling ball and then jumping up and down. When I was with him I could see the huge smile or if we were talking on the phone I could hear it in his voice. Little did I know what a lasting memory those few days would also be on me.

After that trip, we talked on the phone once a week or two. Since he knew that I don't like to talk on the phone, we had an unwritten rule: if he left a voice mail, I called back, if not once of us would call again in the next few days. Every call I received or made to him was always started with the same gruff, "Hi, Greg".

Andrea and I had told him on that trip that we were pregnant and he was extremely excited to be an Uncle again. He was as equally devastated to find out when we got home that we lost our baby. Treffie always felt the weight of the world on his shoulders and this was no exception. I could hear the pain in his voice as we talked. For if someone Treffie loved hurt, Treffie often hurt more. That's who he was.

Treffie was a huge help and support for mom when Grandma passed away in September. Although Grandma's death was hard on her, it seemed equally as hard on him. Oh how he loved her. I know Treffie believed that grandmothers had to love their grandchildren but didn't have to like them. There was no doubt that his grandmother liked him and accepted him exactly as he was. This was a source of great pride for him and as a result he made sure he did whatever he could do to help her out.

He continued to help take care of her after she passed by being a rock for Mom. He did everything he could to help get her estate in order so that it would be easier for Mom and Dad. However, it was obvious that it was taking a toll on him mentally. Treffie had several accidents over the next month. As a result, a police officer in Warrensburg wrote a letter stating that he needed to be looked at by a doctor in order to get his license back. Treffie and the whole family agreed that this was probably a good thing and would probably save his life.

Sadly, a close family friend would pass away a few months later. Growing up her family was an extension of ours. Her brother, sister and her were like siblings to me and Treffie. We would go to their house after school so their Dad and Mom could watch us while we waited for Mom to pick us up. Christmas Eve was always spent with them and the memories were cherished. Being close to the same age as Treffie, this hit him very hard. It reminded him of his own mortality I'm sure so the fact he was going to have to complete a complete physical to drive suddenly didn't seem like such a bad idea.

As a close family friend, I decided to head back to Iowa to attend the funeral. Since Treffie couldn't drive I decided to fly in to Kansas City so that I could drive to Warrensburg to pick him up. After being "advised" by Mom to stay in Warrensburg during the blizzard, I got to spend a few days with him in his town before making the 4 hour or so trip home. Again, I had no way of knowing the importance of this trip would be. We had lots of laughs and scares as we traveled the roads and saw what seemed like a hundred vehicles in the ditch. We eventually made it and were glad to be able to attend the funeral together.

Treffie scheduled his doctor appointment and after Mom visited us in Vegas for Matthew's fourth birthday, she headed to Warrensburg to be with him. While she was there he became dehdrated and made a visit to the ER to become hydrated with some saline. She took him to his appointment and he was cleared to drive. On Tuesday, January 19, 2010, she went to his place to pick him up for his court date due to the accidents. Unfortunately, when she arrived he wasn't answering his door. She used her key and found the worst case scenario for any parent. Treffie had passed away in his bed of a heart attack.

Your friends Kip and Snappy came right away to help. Kip immediately came to Mom to make sure she wasn't alone. He called several times a day while we were cleaning your place. We went with him and his wife to eat and talked about Treffie. He then brought some athletes over to help with all your guitar stuff. Snappy didn't ask what he could to to help, he called and said he would be there the next day. Then, just like you would have, he showed up.

Mothers and Fathers are not meant to outlive there children. It's not natural. I know it sometimes happens but rarely is there a more unnatural end for life. Although we are all glad to have had the 39 years that we had with Treffie, it wasn't enough. Mom and Dad shouldn't be having to live with this at this stage of their life. Right now they should be kicked back watching us live our lives.

Treffie, I think you would have been impressed with the number of people that showed how much they cared about you during this time of our sorrow. Everyone agreed that you were loyal to a fault and would be the first person to stop doing everything to help them. That is exactly what they did. They stopped, and came to say goodbye. I'm proud that Mom and Dad decided to have your ashes buried with Grandma. You, and her, would have been pleased with that decsion.

At least that's the tear filled view as I see it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

City Manners

So, I've recently become disillusioned by the fact that many people in the city don't seem to have manners. I guess it is because of our recent six week trip across the Midwest seeing family and friends. Back home in Iowa, people were friendly. They waved and always said hellow when greeting you or thanked you for stopping by their store. This is the way I feel it should be.

Unfortunately, I notice in the big city of Las Vegas (I know this is a relative term!) people don't have the same manners or general kindness that they do other places. I don't remember the last time I went through a drive thru window and had the worker actually thank me. I know, these people don't get paid much, they have problems, and they don't want to actually work there in many cases. However, I've always believed and found that the nicer I am to others the better it makes my day.

I'm not trying to start a niceness (is that a word?) revolution or anything like that, but I can't see where being a little nicer to others and showing a soft spot can hurt all that much either. As a male Cole, nobody expects that from me anyway! Heck, as a Cole male I think I'm supposed to be a little gruff and keep my emotions on the indside. At least that seems to be the case for the past several generations. I'm not saying that is a good thing or a bad thing, just the way it is.

With that being said, I still think that people in a city could feel a little better about themselves if they at least said "good morning" or "thanks!". I don't think that is asking to much after spending a few dollars at the establishment where they work. After all, if you want to keep your job it seems you may want me to come back tomorrow (the folks at JambaJuice are nice!). So, tomorrow I hope we all take the time to say "thanks" or "good morning" as we pass by another person. At least that's the cranky view as I see it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mystery Solved

Quite a while ago I wrote about Matthew's Padres blanket leaving. It was obvious to me at the time that our friends--the Tighe's--took it with them after a short visit at our house. The timing was so perfect, that I knew there was no way that it couldn't be them.

Over Matthew's birthday, I solved the mystery. I had no way of knowing how far this conspiracy would go, but it was shocking. You see, my mother comes out every year for Matthew's birthday. It's an awesome time and we all look forward to it. Mom was even in the room when the little dude was born so there was an instant bond.

I'm not sure how the Tighe's infiltrated her loyalty, but somehow they got to her. You see, the blanket mysteriously "showed up" while she was in town in January for his birthday. No sign of the blanket for such a long time and all of a sudden, there it was. To make things even fishier, she kept insisting that I owed Tighe a public apology.

My only conclusion is that she somehow smuggled it past security at the Des Moines International Airport (Yes---it is international. That's for another blog!). Anyway, imagine my disappointment when Matthew wanted nothing to do with the blanket. I guess absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder in this situation. Or perhaps, he just knows the Padres had such a terrible year.

Regardless, I slept better knowing the blanket came home. At least that's the view from the closet where the blanket showed up.