I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to talk about how great my father was. (His birthday was Sunday, so this is actually pretty fitting.)
My father was one of the most magnificent people and one of my favorite people ever. He was funny, charismatic, smart, honest, and loving. He listened to blues and bluegrass. His television heroes were Al Bundy, Fred Sanford, and Archy Bunker. He enjoyed action movies He fought in the Vietnam War. He hitchhiked across America. He had a fondness for McDonald’s gravy biscuits, Wendy’s burgers, and Taco Bell. He wore bandanas and played the harmonica. His favorite color was purple. He always said these weird little proverbs (“Wet birds don’t fly at night unless they work at Chathams on the midnight shift”). He loved singing slow songs. He was the best pool player around. He could blow smoke rings. He read his children The Hobbit. He held conversations with Jehovah’s Witnesses instead of running them off. Although he never said it, I think his favorite book of the Bible was Isaiah. And he always wanted to hear a sermon on “Jesus wept.”
But if you knew my dad at all, you knew two things about him: he loved God, and he loved his family.
My dad’s love for my mom was genuine. He always said that she could never leave him because he’d just go with her – pack a suitcase up and walk out right behind her. And in his last days, when the cancer that had spread through most of his body left him quiet and in a lot of pain, he would just look at my mom (whose parents were both completely deaf, so everyone in our family knows a little bit of sign language) and sign the word “more” to her. It was his way of telling her that he loved her more than she loved him. It was his way of letting her know for sure how much he loved her instead of his usual joking ways. Before then, whenever my mom would tell my dad she loved him, he’d say something like, “I’ve heard rumors.” But his last days were much more serious, and he had to know that she knew how much she meant to him.
No one could ever question or doubt how much my dad loved his kids. As far as I’m concerned, my sister, my brother, and I won the parental lottery in regards to both of my parents. I can only tell you with certainty about my experiences with my dad, but you should know that he loved my siblings just as much as he loved me.
When my brother and I were little, we did everything with my dad. He treated us exactly the same. There was no “Carrie, you can’t come,” or “Stop that, Carrie. It’s not ladylike.” He wasn’t concerned with my gender; he was only concerned with spending time with me.
He and my mom always encouraged me to try new things and be myself. I don’t recall a single time that my dad told me I was weird. And he’d talk to me about whatever it was I was interested in – the Duke basketball team, a band, religion, whatever. Although we were usually both interested in it, he would talk to me about it even if he didn’t particularly care for it. (Please note that my dad was the one who suggested the name “Othello” for our dog because the dog is solid black and because I love Shakespeare.)
My dad always told me and other people how successful I’d be, how smart I was, how proud he was of me. We had a plan that after I got rich, I would buy him a hurricane-proof hut in Tahiti. I’ll never forget what one of his co-workers told me at his wake. The gentleman passed through the line of family members, giving us each his condolences. He was watching the picture slideshow when he turned around to me and my sister and asked which of us was in college. I told him I was. He looked me in the eyes and said with nothing but sincerity, “Your dad was real proud of you.”
My dad was always there for me. If I needed advice, money, a good laugh, or anything at all, he gave it to me. He invested in me. He invested in everyone.
Those are the people we all need in our lives.
Those are the people we need, but they’re not always the ones we have around us.
A lot of times we find ourselves around people who just take the life out of us, and sometimes they take more than we can really afford to give. What’s crazy is they can do it without even realizing it or meaning to do it.
Strange, isn’t it? Almost a little shocking even. After all, we’re so aware of how miserable they’re making us, how can they not notice? And oh, they do it so well! How can they live their lives being unaware of how they’re ruining ours?
Excuse me, dear, but I’d like to remind you that you are someone’s vampire.
And I’m sure you don’t mean to be a spiritual vampire. Really, who does? Yet here you are, sucking the life out of someone, and chances are that you’re not even thinking about it.
“Carrie, people suck.”
Yes, they do. And some more so than others. Some people are constantly lurking with their fangs out.
“That’s okay. I’ll just rely on myself. Yep. Just keep it to myself. I can handle it.”
I wouldn’t say that.
“Well, if I can’t rely on others, I’ll just confide in myself.”
Before you do that, don’t forget that you can be your own spiritual vampire.
If I had a dime for every time I brought myself down, I’d be posting this blog from a luxurious apartment in a big city and not my mom’s house in Small Town, USA. I psyche myself out. I beat myself up. I criticize myself. Honestly, at times I’m the biggest vampire in my life, and let me tell you, it’s not a party. I can’t escape myself, and you won’t be able to escape yourself either.
“What’s so bad about that? I like myself.”
And rightfully so. You’re lovely. Maybe you enjoy being alone. However there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. We might not mind some time to ourselves, but we do mind not having anyone there when we wish we did. Loneliness leads to bitterness, and bitterness doesn’t typically lead to a happy heart. By shutting everyone out, you’re taking on life alone. Life wasn’t designed to be handled that way.
That’s why God created Eve. Take the love interest aspect out of it for a second. At the root of it all, God gave Adam someone to vent to, to help him, to share in his struggle. He gave him someone so he wouldn’t be lonely.
If Adam couldn’t do it all by himself in paradise, what makes us think we could do it by ourselves in the world we live in?
Don’t rely on yourself. At least not solely or even first and foremost. Above all, rely on God. He’s the only thing worth relying on. He’s consistent, and He only ever has your best interests at heart. Every time you’re offended, every time you’re bummed or depressed or furious, God’s right there waiting. He’s waiting for you to turn to Him so He can listen, advise, console, or fix it. God is incredibly patient, but why would you want to keep Him waiting?
Also, it’s okay to look to people as a sort of secondary source. Vampires exist, but so do investors. Not everyone is blessed enough to be Charles Prevette’s kid like I am, but many people were blessed enough to be his friend. He was an investor, constantly pouring into people. Admittedly, investors seem to be much harder to find than vampires, but they can be found. Maybe your investor isn’t one of or both of your parents. It could be a sibling or a friend, a co-worker or your pastor. Whoever it is, no matter how many there are, keep them around you. You’re going to need them.
Plus, I’ve found that investors often attract other investors. Sure, investors and vampires can coexist and even thrive together. But frequently, investors befriend each other to put positivity into each other’s lives. So if you’re having trouble finding investors, try being one yourself.
Listen to other people’s problems. Compliment them. Tell them how they’re going to overcome their problems. Do favors for them without expecting anything in return. Basically, be the friend you wish you had.
If you’re not naturally an investor, it may sound hard to do all of that. But I’ll share with you some of my dad’s wisdom. “Things worth having don’t come easy.”
By Carrie Prevette