Posts Tagged ‘fatherhood’

I was in really good shape for about ten minutes of my life, and it happened when I was twenty four.  I worked in a school where I would occasionally have to walk from my classroom to my office and to get there I would have to walk right through a huge room that was built for dancing, and which stil had wall to wall mirrors.

And everytime that there wasn’t anybody else around, I would look in that mirror and remark to myself that I looked good.  Yes, you got that, I would check myself out.

Major D-Bag at the time…and I can see that now.

And yet.  When I was 24 I thought I was the greatest guy ever.  I thought I was religious, prayerful, generous, selfless, oh and talented…did I mention talented.  Yeah, most days I gave myself an A+.

That was then.

The reality is, I’m not a worse person than I was then.  Its just I now realize what a fool I was.  Because when I turned 25, I got married.  And now, 12 years later, my wife and I have six chidren.

Once I got married and had children, I started to get impatient, angry, yell.  I would start to guard my free time and little parts of myself like it was the most important thing in the world.  I have had arguments with 2 year olds that, if taped, would make Alec Baldwin look like a nun by comparison.

The hardest part of being a husband and a father has been realizing that in many ways, I am a total crap bag.  You see, as long as I thought I was an A+ dude worthy of checking himself out, I didn’t have much room for growth.

At least now, its a little easier to see the truth of who I really am, who I’ve always been.

And guess what, it sure is alot more obvious to me why I need Jesus in my life.

And I suppose that’s the best part of being a husband and a father, at least for me.

Although it probably won’t happen any time soon, my doctor still tells me that its medically possible that I could still get in very good shape some day.  So hypothetically, if I ever do, you’d guess that I would  be able to tell you with certainty that I would never ever check myself out again. Right?

Ah, the 24 year old me would have made that guarantee.  But the 37 me can’t.  I’ve learned that much at least.

And you know what else I’ve learned.  There’s some way I act right now, some way I live my life right now, that I think is fine.  But in about ten years, I’m gonna look back and realize what a fool I was.

Maybe it would be a good idea to spend some time reflecting what that be right now…and then do whatever I can to change it…now.

It sure would save me the embarassment of having to write about it ten years from now.

And maybe this applies to you as well.  Maybe there’s something your doing right now, that if you spent some time considering it….would embarrass you a little bit.  If so, ask Jesus for help….to have the courage to change it now.

God Bless!



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korean-war-memorial_large       This is a story about the Great Gift that my Grandfather gave to my Dad.

The radiogram was short “Dad had a stroke, not expected to Live – Richard”

My dad read it outside his medic tent, a little before sunrise one October day in Korea in the year 1954. The message was from his older brother and within a few minutes my dad  was in front of the Sargeant Major.

“Kenney, go on leave, if you don’t you’ll always regret it.”

My Dad, Corporal John Kenney, was, at the time, a 21 year old Navy Corpman attached to the Marines near the Dimilitarized Zone in South Korea.  He was also the youngest boy of Dr. Bernard Kenney, a man who delivered thousands of babies, got paid in chickens and pies, and raised eight children in Dodge, Nebraska before moving for the big city of Omaha where his children could get a better education.

Corporal Kenney knew that the Sargeant Major was right, but that it would also take a minor miracle to get halfway around the world in time to see his Dad again…but he had to try. The Sargeant Major pulled a Marine Corp Uniform out of the closet, told Kenney to get out of his fatigues, and within a half hour John was in a jeep on his way to Kempo Air Strip just North of Seoul.

At Kempo, Corporal Kenney caught a ride on a Navy Mail Plane to the southernmost tip of Japan.  But his trip began to stall almost before it began when weather grounded air traffic in that part of Japan.  Within a few hours, my dad’s luck changed when a pilot motivated more by his exciting plans in Tokyo than common sense, decided to give it the old college try. He told whomever was listening that his C-47 trasnsport plane was taking off shortly and he had room for anybody who wanted to risk the rough weather.  So John jumped aboard, sat with his back against the outside wall of the plane, and squeezed in between two Navy pilots who showed the young Medic just how green they actually were were by promptly getting sick on the short flight up to Tokyo.

And in spite of the terrible weather, with a jolt and a screech the plane landed, and Kenney was on the ground looking for the next flight headed back to the States.  By the time John had found a flight going to California, an entire day had passed..and he doubted  he would make it home in time.

The thirty three hour flight from Tokyo to San Francisco took two stops to refuel.  The first was in Midway where Corporal Kenney watched in amazement as thousands of huge goonie birds swallowed up the plane as it found an airstrip that appeared to jump out of the deep black water and catch the plane by surprise.  The second stop was at Hickam field in Hawaii, where, as Kenney and others stretched their legs, a large rack of phones was rolled onto the runway.  “Anywhere in the world”, the Red Cross volunteer told them.  “Whatever calls you need to make.”

So John called St. Catherine’s Hospital in Omaha, reached his Dad’s room and spoke with his Mom.  His mom encouraged him to hurry as Dad did not have much time left and just in case, John better say his goodbyes now.  So she put the phone up to his ear, and thousands of miles away, on a moonlit runway in Hawaii, he said what he was sure were his last words to his Father.  John told his Dad the things that a boy needs to tell his father.  The things that are between a father and son.  Things we will never know.

The plane left Hawaii and made the last dash across the Pacific to San Francisco.  Once Stateside, John  had hoped to find a military flight to Omaha.  Or Kansas City.  Or something close.  But he was out of luck so he did the next best thing; he hopped a train.

And so after forty eight hours and two thousand miles of vineyards and mountains and potatoe fields and more mountains and ranch land and sandhills and corn farms,  Corporal John Kenney had finished the last stage of an unexpected journey that had taken him from a medic tent on the 38th parallel in Korea to his parent’s home at 38th Ave in Omaha, Nebraska.  And as he pulled his duffel out of the cab parked by the curb,John saw his older brothers Pat and Emmet rushing out of the house.

“Dad is slipping away, we need to hurry”, they said, as the three of them hopped into Pat’s old Hudson and drove the early morning streets of Omaha down to St. Catherine’s Hospital.

The three boys made their way through the hospital and when John finally reached the hallway outside his Dad’s room, there were nun’s everywhere, kneeling and praying the rosary. The hospital room was packed, with family, priests and religious…when John’s mom saw her son, she motioned for him to come over to his father’s bed.

John moved through the crowd to his Dad’s side, put his hand on his father’s hand and said the words that apparently, Doc Kenney was waiting to hear.

“Dad I made it Home.”

And within a minute…..he died.

Bernard Kenney had, at fifty seven, died relatively young….yet he packed a great deal of living into those years.  As a Doctor and Father he had given so much.

But for his youngest son John, he had saved his greatest gift for the end.  You see a dying man waited.    While Jesus and the Angels and Saints waited  for Doc Kenney, he had waited for his boy.  He held on to the very end….and when his youngest son John finally arrived, when he had said his last goodbye, Bernard drifted off to his own Father in Heaven.

Now Bernard, my Grandfather, waits again.  His youngest boy John isn’t so young anymore.  Nope, John is my dad and has twenty grandchildren of his own to chase around these days and at 76, who knows when it will be his time to go. I don’t know if my dad is scared of dying.  But I am not scared for him.  Because I know that the Grandfather I never met has been waiting for his son for a long time.

And when they meet again, I think I know what my Grandpa will say to his youngest boy.

“John, well done, I’m proud of you….now sit with me while we wait….for your youngest son….Daniel.”

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Marlin Perkins of Mutual of Omaha's Wild KingdomMarlin Perkins and Jim Fowler were a strange team. As a little kid, I always kind of wondered if Marlin actually sold insurance for Mutual of Omaha during the week and then just got to hang out doing Safaris with Jim on the Weekend. Cuz sure enough Marlin was always the one in the chopper while Jim was risking life and limb down below.

Anyways, these days I think about Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom quite a bit. And there are two images that keep popping into my head. One is of the giant overhead nets that they would drop from the sky to trap a pack of animals. The other is of the tranquilizer gun bringing down the Rhino from 50 yards away.

And the reason I keep thinking of the overhead net and the tranquilizer gun is that these days, I really could use them with my children….specifically my boys.

Here are the stats. I have six children. Girl 8, {Boy 6, Boy 5, Boy 3, Boy 2} , Girl 6 months. And it is the four boys ages 6 to 2 that seem to be giving me most of my problems these days.

So tonight as we prayed the family rosary and the five year old wanted to regale me with how he could do headstands while holding the baby’s rattle in his mouth….I couldn’t help think about how much I would love it if old Marlin Perkins was perched in a helicopter overhead with a tranquilizer.  Not to hurt adorable 5 year old mind you, just put him out for a bit.

Does that make me horrible?  If so, then I am a much more horrible person then I was when I was 18.

Conventional wisdom is that people are these selfish egomaniacs when they are 18 and then as they age and become married and have children, people become these selfless virtuous folks.

If this is true, then why does my gaggle of kids many times make me feel like I’ve actually regressed since I was that young punkish kid?  I mean, the 18 year old version of Dan Kenney never said some of the things under his breath about kids that the 34 year old version often does.

I guess there is some lesson about suffering and humility in here somewhere but honestly I sometimes just feel like a grade A crap bag when I lose my temper with them or say the wrong thing.  I don’t remember Ward Cleaver trying to think of every different version of Frick so as to not actually drop the real F bomb around his 6 year old.

So Jesus, please help me be a better dad.  And if you don’t then I might just have to rely on that other guy up above. 

“Marlin, do you and Jim have the overhead net ready?  I see my boys are coming into the house with water balloons….frick…..and muddy shoes…..double frick!”

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As my roomate, David’s greatest skill may have been his dead on Darth Vader impression that he used to keep me laughing throughout college.

A dozen years later and now David has an infant son whose name is…you guessed it….Luke.

David and I were recently chatting about his own young Skywalker and we got to reminiscing about  David’s four favorite Vader sayings.  And as we looked forward to Father’s Day, we concluded that in these four sayings, a father could successfully deal with any situation that should arise with his son.

Vader Saying Number One:  “I Am Your Father”

The classic Lord Vader saying that has been practiced in front of thousands of rotary box fans.   A very flexible phrase that today could expertly deal with all sorts of situations.   It acts as a replacement for the stern look, the snap of the fingers, the “remember who your talking to”, the “watch your mouth”, but also shows enough range to be used lovingly for the son who needs forgiveness and compassion, or in desperate times, a cry out when your son is just waking from a coma.

Vader Saying Number Two:  “I find your lack of faith disturbing”

This great Vader saying is perfect for those times when your son questions your man skills….like when you are fixing something under the kitchen sink, finding a strange address without asking for directions, or attempting to put together the new computer desk without reading the manual.   This Vader saying also works well for those times you are regaling your son with stories…about that hunting trip that one time, about this huge guy you were able to take one night in highschool, and about that really amazing football game you played that one time.  And finally, this saying works for all those serious times as well.  When your son is struggling and finds it hard to believe that you really are with him, really do love him, and will forgive him no matter what. 

Vader Saying Number Three:  “If this is a consular ship, then where’s the ambassador!”

A big part of your job as Dad is teaching your son how to think and the corollary to this….spotting your son’s BS when he tries to give you a story for why he didnt’ do what was expected of him.

So this saying is perfect for those times you are helping your son learn how to form persuasive arguments, how to think logically, or how to use common sense to figure out the next step in a process.  Its also perfect for those occasions where you son doesn’t think.  The inexplicable desire of the four year old to whiz out the second story window.  The somewhat blank look on your six year old’s face when he explains that he didn’t  know why he started throwing rocks at the new sliding glass door.   But this saying is at its strongest when your son is late for curfew or some similar situation and he tells you his Story.  Why were you late?  “Well, I was going to be home on time but then I ran out of gas so I had to walk to the gas station and get some gas and then go back to the car. It just took a long time Dad”.  You then go to the trunk of the car, open it up and find NO GAS CAN.  Your son doesn’t seem to see what the problem is and so you put it into words he can understand.  “If this is a consular ship, then where’s the Ambassador!”

Vader Saying Number Four:  “Impressive, Most Impressive!”

Of course a big part of Fatherhood is encouraging your son to be better and then affirming him when he succeeds.  Whether its a good report card, a job well done in the yard, or a well played game… this simple Vader saying works wonderfully.  But even more important is when your son makes you proud by his life of virtue.  Whether its standing up for another,going out of his way for someone,  or finally dating a girl that you and your wife can tolerate, this simple saying can work for most anything.


And the point to all of this Vader nonsense?  Well, its not that Darth was the model of a good father.  Other than having some good natured fun my real point is that as a Father, you really don’t have to say a lot to your sons….. but you do have to communicate with them all of the time.

Boys communicate all day, they just tend to do it more with their actions than with their words.  As a Father, same goes for you. 

Translation?  You don’t need a bunch of big speeches in your Fatherhood toolbelt.  A few simple sayings will do just fine.    The most important thing you can do as a Father is to lead and teach with your Actions.  Trust me, your boy will be listening.

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