There is an echo in the house. No, it hasn't always been there. Yes, it is there all the time. Do I like it? Well, I have mixed feelings but mostly, no, I don't. Why is there an echo? Because of the empty room. You see, Mark has moved out and is now renting the duplex where Baron and Laura lived before their house was built. So this bedroom across the hall from the master bedroom suddenly seems cavernous and with the hardwood floors and no furnishings the echo is noticeable--shocking even. Everytime LaWanna or I walk down the hall the echo reminds us that another of our children is gone from the nest. And just as when each of them was born, the nest will never be the same. Why don't I like the echo? Well, the first level of feelings is easy to explain; there is a room that needs to be cleaned, painted, and transformed into DAD'S OFFICE. That will be nice after completion but represents work, time, and expense first. And there are lots of irons in the fire already. The deeper level of feelings is more difficult to communicate. Mark has left before, once when he was very young and tired of the constant preaching of his old man. Once he left in the middle of the night in handcuffs. Neither of those times caused mixed feelings--at least not a mixture of good and bad. Everything I felt was bad. He was not ready for the world. I had not done my job as a father and he was not finished becoming a man. It is different now. Vastly different. Mark is mature and has demonstrated a couple years worth of discipline and spiritual growth. He is smart and fun to be around. He is no longer the angry kid thinking the establishment is against him and his parents are just trying to keep him from having fun. He has learned some valuable lessons the hard way--which I do not recommend for most, but can be very effective. How did all this growth occur? I wish the answer were that his mom and I demonstrated outstanding parenting. But the truth is prayer, prayer, and more prayer seems to have convinced God to pull Mark closer to himself. God did not blind Mark with a light on the road to Damascus or Columbus but rather blinded him with the unconditional love of a beautiful young woman named Lindsay who will become Mrs. Mark Wishum on April 7, 2007. That will be a great Easter weekend. So the feelings about Mark and the direction of his life now are good--very good. Still being a dad is a little like running a marathon. During each you are giving all you have and at times you become sure you can't keep going. Then somehow you do. It is not pretty, but you press on with all your might until you cross the finish line. You have mixed feelings immediately and feel completely used up. But after enough time passes, you think back and convince yourself you could have done better.
So, Mark, march on son. Become a better man, husband, and father than your dad. You can do it. I believe you will do it. I still pray for you and Lindsay and your unborn children and grandchildren because, while I can fill the room and rid the house of the echo only your continuing to become the man God wants you to be will quiet the echo in a dad's heart.
I love you and I am proud of you.