My mother texted me a series of photos last Thursday and I have been unable to get past this one for the last four days. First of all let's just get the pants out of the way... yeah, I want those pants back, I'd wear them to work tomorrow. More than that though, for me that photo is as iconic as those seventies fashions. That's my Pappaw Harry. I'd break my Mom and Dad's rules over and over each time he'd ask me to go outside and get him a pack of Marlboros from the the car glove box. I have no idea why he kept them there? It must have been convenience? I suppose he'd stop by his favorite store and pick them up on his way home from work. He worked at Black Clawson. I think he was a welder?
I was forbidden by my parents from touching cigarettes... but he'd sit there in his leather recliner, and when he said my name, there was nothing that I wouldn't do for him. He was my Pappaw. I'm so glad I was disobedient. It's a good memory.
The younger fella next to him is my Dad. There's no one in the world I admire more. I've come to know more of his story. I know that there is yet more to know. He's taken care so that I will know it when the time comes. The more I learn, the more he has my loyalty and respect. I see his father in him and I see them both in me. He gives me the soundest of advice and he loves my mother deeply. I could not ask for a better father.
The Big Red truck gets an honorable mention. That's "Big Red." Big Red is pictured in my mind every time I think of my Dad. That truck was like a super-hero when I was a kid. I remember flying in the back of it, or sitting on a tool-box with Dad's arm around me as we went down country roads in Preble County, Ohio. My childhood was pure magic.
Of course I'm the little guy there. So much of my life was unwritten. Now, some forty years later I'd share all of my life with you openly. Heck, what do you want to know... I don't care much for secrets. Some details I feel really good about, amazed really. Others... well, my voice would soften a bit when I tell you about them. But, I find myself here today, on the right side of the dirt, and I don't aim to live with regret.
There's another not pictured. My son, Caleb. My view of him is greater than that of the lot of us. For sure he carries our blood, but he is something more. He still carries the promise that is seen in the eyes of myself in that photo above. While he carries the grit of us all, he also carries a promise of something more.
In short, all three men: Thomas Harry, Leo Thomas, and Caleb Thomas, define my life. Who I am can be measured in who they are. Two were before me, one is after me. Two shaped who I am and one is representative of who I am. Four generations of Shepherds.
Had I only a single wish, it would quickly pass from my lips. I wish to spend a lifetime with Harry, Tom, and Caleb as my best friends. I want to grow up with them. I want to fish with them, hunt with them, go to camp with them, talk about girls with them, share life with families with them, grow old with them, and spend eternity with them. I think there'd never be a better set of friends.
Maybe that is what heaven will be?