My husband is a type of modern day steadfast tin soldier. He serves his God, his family, and his country to the best of his ability. When we were raising our children his thoughts were often on how to execute these three things creatively and well. No matter what circumstance, position on the globe, or financial situation, J. V. always found ways to stay in touch with us; me, our son, and our daughter.
Often we were apart because of his military service. This provided challenges in raising our children to respect and revere their earthly dad so that they would in turn have the same and higher view of their heavenly Father. J.V. used many modes of media to communicate with us. Before we owned a computer, he laboriously wrote letters and labeled little stick figures or drew charts and graphs to be funny about people or events. At various times during our separations he also employed the telephone, cassette tapes, simple storybook drawings, video tape, and eventually, computers and instant messaging.
When our son was an energetic three year old and our daughter a beautiful brown eyed, 4 month old, we received news that J.V. would be diverted to an unaccompanied assignment. This was a low blow at the time for several reasons, one being that we already had orders assigning us to another place and were scheduled to go as a family. J.V. had a hard time imagining having to leave his precious infant girl and blue eyed, always with a gleam in his eye, toddler.
In a short time we switched the ever turning gears in our minds toward God and what He would want for us. We were now forcing ourselves to look forward to me and the children living in my hometown nearer to grandparents and extended family. Our parents were sad with us that we had to be separated, but very willing to be accommodating and present in our children’s lives.
It was during this particular separation that J.V. engaged the use of cassette tapes. He would devote one side to the children and one side to me. When it came time to make a tape in return to the lonely soldier dad who missed his family so much, it was not as easy as I had hoped. The three year old didn’t understand why daddy wasn’t talking. And it went something like this: “Okay, Zack.”I smile excitedly. “Now, say ‘Hi’ to Daddy.” And Zack’s reply, for at least five minutes at each sitting, in his very cute little toddler voice said, “Ohhh…” “But Daddy’s nah taalkeeng.”
“Yes, Daddy’s not talking.” I reply.
“You need to talk to him, and he will listen to it later.” I remind him.
“But, Daddy’s naaahhhhh taaalkeeeng,” argues the little blonde.
“No, Zack, Daddy’s not talking, you are.” I say somewhat patiently.
Click. Off goes the tape recorder because I have to regroup.
One day while we were in a nearby park playing on a sliding board, Zack climbed up the slide rather quickly, so proud to be at the top by himself, when he shouted, “OW!” and began to cry. He did not want to whirr his way down like usual. A bee had stung him.
Many details later, this was truly going to be a story to tell Daddy. And Zack was already talking about wanting to tell him into the tape.
“Tell Daddy what you did today.” I told the toddler.
“But Daddy’s nah taalkeeng.” the toddler reminded me.
Then all of a sudden the flood gates of his day opened up as I tried again to get him to “talk” to Daddy into the cassette recorder.
“I got a bee sting in the park Daddy!” Zack squealed as he held up his swollen finger.
I urged, “Tell Daddy what happened.”
“Ohhh!” “I ‘stinged’ myself!” he exclaimed louder.
Then he chattered for the next five toddler minutes about the rest of his saga at the park and how he eventually was soothed, bandaged and home to tell about it. This cassette meant a great deal to the steadfast tin soldier who felt melded with his family whenever he listened to it.
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