The choices we make

We have a family story that has ben told so many times in so many different ways that i probably have written about it in my blog before. After completing his service in the Army Air Corps, my father used GI Bill benefits to earn his airframe and power plant certifications at a school in Oklahoma. Upon graduation he and my mother began looking for airport operations that they could purchase. One operation in Oklahoma was for sale, but the price was high and the bank financing didn’t come through. There are many other details, including those that I don’t know, but the result was that they left Oklahoma and looked in other places.

When our daughter was a student at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs, Wyoming, my mother told us of them flying into Rock Springs to look at that airport and its operation. It was a very windy day and there were no trees in sight. It was one time when my mother put her foot down and said, “Absolutely not!”

The search continued and they ended up settling in Big Timber, Montana, a small town that, at the time, had a small dirt airfield, but no airport operations of any kind. They saw promise in the possibility of charter, air ambulance, agricultural and contract work for the Forest Service and Yellowstone National Park. It turned out well for them and that is the place where they settled and where I grew up.

We’ve made it a bit of a family game, on occasion, to speculate on the “what ifs?” What if they had obtained the financing and settled in Oklahoma? Certainly our life would have been vastly different. Our parents’ first two daughters were adopted after our parents became foster parents. Foster care is done state by state and they most certainly would not have been in a position to adopt those particular two girls. The entire shape of our family would have been different. Those of us born to the family would have had vastly different lives. We would have gone to school with different people, to church with different people, and met different people along the way. My wife and I met a church camp - a place that was about an hour and a half’s drive from my home. I’d likely have never visited that place if I hadn’t grown up in Montana.

Now that the years have gone by, I can look back and see decisions in our lives that have made all the difference in the world. We might have attended theological seminary in a different part of the country. We might have accepted our first call in a different state. Since we began our careers in North Dakota and our life story includes an adopted daughter, our family would certainly have been different had we not lived in that place at that time.

Like my parents, I was young when I was married. It has been a wonderful decision that has made my life incredibly rich. But that wasn’t my decision alone. Susan had to agree to the relationship. She had plenty of options. She was intellectually brilliant, a top tier student, with parents that were fully supportive of her education. She had the capability to do graduate study in a number of fields and the choice to pursue a seminary degree was, in part, because of her relationship with me. She could have ended up with a partner with a more lucrative career and be comfortably retired at this point of her life. Somehow, however, her choice to take this life’s journey with me was made.

That choice opened up so many different doors. Obviously our children and grandchildren are the product of our marriage. The places we have lived and the things we have done have been direct results of her thoughts and ideas. I don’t think I would have ever considered living in North Dakota. But she had family in the state. Her grandparents and an aunt and cousins lived there. It turned out that living in North Dakota was a wonderful adventure. It was the birth state of our children. It was the place we learned the practical skills of pastoral leadership. It was the place where we learned to navigate church politics and become engaged in the Conference. It was while we were living in North Dakota that we came to Rapid City regularly. Susan had an aunt and uncle and a cousin living in Rapid City at the time. Those trips planted the seeds of appreciation for the Black Hills and opened doors that eventually led to our moving here. It is the place where both of us have lived for the longest period of our lives.

I don’t invest much energy playing, “What if?” these days. I am deeply grateful for the events that have shaped my life. It seems that the choices that have been made by others and by ourselves have led us to a very good place in our lives. There is great joy in this particular phase of our lives. When we have vacation, we have no problem choosing what to do. We almost always want to head the same direction. Grandchildren have a powerful pulling power and we both feel that pull strongly. We often trade books and even when we are reading different books, we enjoy discussing what is being read. We have similar tastes in food and both of us can cook a meal for the other that is deeply appreciated. We can trade off family chores without even needing to think about it.

I can’t explain how I got lucky in the choice of a mate. Others, including some of my siblings have not been so fortunate in their choices. I know that it wasn’t the product of great maturity or deep insight. I was young and impulsive. Now I am old and impulsive. I’ve made my share of mistakes in this life and some of them have been significant. But the good choices outweigh the bad and life is good.

Our family’s story now is deeply influenced by the choices our children make. And, from the looks of things, they are making some pretty good choices. Soon the decisions of our grandchildren will shape our family’s future.

Life goes on. And our choices make all the difference in the world.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!