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Devotion. Stress. And Growing Up.

Does every person feel this way? I am sure they do in some way… I am sure we all do…

I sat in my chair at work. The day was about to end. Sitting in another training session I felt like I was back in high school. I watched the clock. Tick. Tick. Tick. Then, for a moment, I had a slight feeling of panic and I was reminded of the feeling that I used to get when school ended. My childhood wasn’t one of abuse, but it wasn’t filled with trips to the park and lazy weekends either. It seemed that no matter how wonderful the items on my plate, they were always served with a side of stress.

A constant need to please so many people was over-whelming and it seemed to opress and suffocate me like a sumo wrestler sitting on my chest. I hated school, but home was only a nominal reprieve. There was always so much tension. I got so used to walking on egg shells that I think I started to learn how to hover. Just hover above the surface floating on a sea of worry and anxiety.

The source of this tension, anxiety and fear came from my father. It seemed that there was always something to be done around the house. The lawn needed to be mowed. The dishes needed to be washed. A toilet had to be scrubbed. Lights needed to be turned off. There was no end to the list of things that needed to be attended to.

We grew up in the country with chickens, rabbits, dogs and horses. If they didn’t keep us busy enough then dad always found a project for us to do. Once he tore down a barn for scrap wood. We moved the wood from the front of the house to the back of the house on our 1 acre lot. Then dad wanted to move the wood again to a new location. We ended up moving it three times, but in the end, we never used it and so it rotted. I remember one day having a huge bonfire in our backyard we burned the wood and my insides burned with bitterness. So much time wasted moving that crap. Time I could have spent riding my bike, watching Thundercats, or fishing for crawdads. I didn’t mind the work, but so many of my dad’s projects seemed to be futile and to me there was nothing worse than doing pointless projects.

***

Panic. That is the word that best seems to describe the state we all were in when my dad arrived home from work. His mood seemed to fluctuate as much as the weather and so we always had to be on our best behavior. “Dad’s Home!” someone would screech. Then a flurry of activity would commence. The TV would be extinguished. Anything left out would immediately be tucked beneath a couch cushion or hurriedly put away. When my dad walked in we were all busy doing something, heaven forbid we just be sitting around and relaxing.

My dad would normally go to his room and change clothes and I knew that I had only a few minutes before the real work would begin. If my dad was outside working I was expected to be with him. Normally he would do mundane tasks that dads always do. Tinkering with a transmission on a used boat motor. Remodeling an ancient camper. Removing nails from over 300 used pieces of plywood. Shoveling gravel from the side of the road. Digging up plants from various locations to re-plant in our yard. Loading up truckloads of sand from the creek to use on our lawn. The projects were endless. There never seemed to be a single moment of rest.

My mom would always have to coerce me into going out and helping my dad. She would say, “Your dad needs your help.” My mom is amazing and so I could never say no to her. She always made misery bearable with just a rub on my head or a smile and a hug.

Mom’s life wasn’t easy either. She always had to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders, carefully balancing the happiness of her three children and her husband while working multiple jobs and scraping every penny we had to make ends meet. She was and still is the hardest working woman I know.

Today I sat in the classroom and for just a brief moment I panicked when I thought about the day being over. My stomach filled with worry and dread about going home. I knew something dreadful waited for me there.

I didn’t move out of my parents house until I was 23 and while at home I didn’t think that my life was really all that bad. My dad wasn’t a tyrant, he was just a hard worker with extremely high and sometimes unreasonable expectations. 7 years later I still feel guilty sometimes for not having a lawn to mow or doing my chores when I get home. I still panic sometimes about reponsibilities and then I am reminded that I am an adult now. I get to do whatever I want when I get home. I can leave my lights on and turn the air-conditioner down to ice cold. I don’t ever have to spend hours doing car repair. I don’t have to mow a lawn or paint a room or weed eat.

I don’t have to do anything that I don’t want to do and that is the most wonderful feeling in the world.

A special thanks to my mom for helping me to keep it together as a kid and even as an adult. Her constant devotion to the three of us children is a testament to the loving bond of a mother. A mother who will sacrifice her comfort and her happiness for the happiness of everyone around her. Mom nothing you do ever goes unnoticed and even though it may seem like it at times – you are never unappreciated. I love you.

By Evan Stark

Eddie Renz is an avid fan of Egyptology, Wilbur Smith and bacon. Not a fan of humility but often finds himself humbled when he is around people who understand numbers like the Fibonacci sequence and Pi.

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