Thursday, September 20th, 2018

Son I Need You…Introduction


Father and Son 21 300x229 Son I Need You...IntroductionGuest blog post by parenting expert Jim Crawford


The early morning light often finds me hiking the slopes of Black
Mountain nestled in San Diego’s North County region. The mountain is
about five and a half miles from my home, and my habitual trek spans
about three and a half miles, lifting me more than one thousand feet
above where I begin. As if shielded by the early morning commute that
is about to begin, with countless souls hustling to school and work in
the valleys below, the mountain and I are alone. The otherwise peering
world takes no notice of me, and it is as if the mountain and I are all but undiscovered for a time. Even with the rural Midwestern days of my
youth now decades behind me, I still hear a whisper from the mountain
every morning, beckoning me to come, and I come.

As I begin my ascent on the western side of the mountain, the
heavy shadow cast by the mountain could be confused for dusk at the
end of the day, but in fact a new day is just beginning. Venturing higher along the trail’s switch-backs, I can see the bluish-gray hint of the California coastline in the distance as I muse over this apparent
confusion between the previous day’s ending and this new day’s
beginning. Although I can see many miles in almost every direction
around me, the mountain still banishes the strong light of the new day
awakening to the east from reaching me.

At last I reach the summit where the brilliant rays of the early
morning sun leave no question in my mind that a new day has begun.
Gone is any confusion between the dusk and the dawn, and I can see
the sprawling landscape below me in every direction. The intense
sunlight reveals great clarity in the distant landscapes, and at that same moment, I can recognize the path that I followed to the summit from the west, and the trail that I will descend from the mountain’ s peak to the east.

After a time, I must leave the mountain top because my work day
in the valley can be delayed no longer. Heading down the mountain’ s
eastern slope, my view to the west is quickly obscured by the
mountain’ s slope, but even though I can no longer see to the west, I
trust that nothing has changed. The sun’ s climb above the eastern
horizon seems to hasten now, and it causes me to quicken my pace as

I head home to clean up and prepare myself for the new workday ahead. Shortly thereafter, I find myself driving along the freeway on my
way to work, with the distant mountain silently watching my progress.
It seems almost surreal to me that only 45 minutes earlier, I had been
atop that mountain. Although the changing sunlight has transformed its
appearance appreciably now, the mountain stands there unchanged and unmoved.

Returning home that evening, the mountain is still there, still
watching me, but now captured in the deep hues of the setting sun. I
say to the mountain, “I will visit you again in the morning, in the new
day.” And so I shall.

The mountain has become almost a refuge for me in these past
months. I have found that it is the mountain that captivates me. It does not matter if the day is overcast with heavy clouds, or if the clouds even bring forth rain, I still feel compelled to make my sojourn to the mountain. I know that although the weather changes how the mountain may look, and the fog may obscure it all together for a time, the mountain is the same; changeless.

In a similar way at this time in my life, I realize that I can clearly
see to the west where my life began, and to the east where my life is
leading me. The dim morning light that often made it difficult for me to see the trail at the beginning of my life has given way to the full light of midday. In the days of my youth, it was often hard for me to discern
where my heart was leading me, but that too has passed with the
midday sun into a much clearer understanding.

Gone is any confusion between the beginning of my life and the
end; I am at least halfway through the journey. To the western horizon, I see my father’ s and my grandfather’ s generations. And to the east, I see my children’ s generation and contemplate that of my grandchildren.

It is from this perspective that I have come to realize that the
words, “Son, I need you,” have been ever-present in my life as another
mountain, words often spoken to me by my dad. But for a large portion
of my life, I was so close to this mountain that I did not recognize that
it was really there. Only with distance from this mountain have I come
to grasp its height and magnificence.

In my youth, I may have heard his words as, “Son, I need you…to
pick up your toys.” During my junior high years, my father’ s words
were transformed to, “Son, I need you…to mow the lawn.” But still
those same first four words, “Son, I need you,” did not change.

The weekend before I left home for my first job in California
following college, I asked my dad to join me for a high school
basketball game, but he could not speak or even murmur the words that I now know were on his mind, “Son I need you…to be here with me.”

It is only now as I have to say goodbye to my oldest sons as they
complete college, that I understand what my dad could not say to me 32 years ago.

The early morning dawn light that first illuminated those words,
“Son, I need you,” many years ago has now turned toward dusk as my
dad and I have both grown older. Even though the words, my mountain, have not changed, the light has revealed a new meaning to those simple words from my dad. And just as I have been captivated by the mountain each morning during my hikes, so have these words captured my heart and my mind over the past three years since I have been forced to hear them in a new way.

When I was young, my dad seemed bigger than life to me. He was
six foot three inches tall and weighed roughly 225 pounds when I was
in grade school. In the summer time, he would walk home from his
furniture store in our small Midwestern hometown for lunch, and I
remember pleading with him along with the other neighborhood boys
to kick the football for us, almost into orbit. He would engage us a few
times, almost always kicking a perfect spiral as high as the tallest tree
in our large backyard. I still remember the distinctive crack of the
football as his foot contacted the ball each time.

Although almost always soft-spoken, he had an inner strength that
seemed all but unattainable to me. I knew that he had personally saved
people’ s lives in a variety of precarious situations involved with the
ambulance service that he also owned. I frequently thought of him as
the Rock of Gibraltar because he was always cool under fire.

Strange as it may seem, he also owned the local funeral home in
our small town. This was not that peculiar if you grew up in that part of
the country though. It was only natural that the furniture store and
funeral home were linked through the wood-working skilled trade of
days long gone by.

My great grandfather had started working in the furniture store in
the late 1800s, but it wasn’ t until about 1945 that my grandfather
actually bought the businesses. The ambulance service was a natural
extension of service to one’ s own small community, rather than an
apparent conflict of interest as it would be viewed today.

People were known quantities in this small town as in most rural
small towns in America in the 1950’ s. A man’ s word was his bond, or
it wasn’ t, and everyone in town knew which side of the fence a person was on. Many city-folk detest this lifestyle where seemingly everyone knows what everyone else is doing. But I viewed this as great comfort, believing that an honorable life was one that need not be hidden from others in their community through anonymity or facades.

In high school, my twin brother and I would joke with Dad
that once we were adult professionals, we could have adjoining offices
uptown with my brother being the medical doctor, my dad being the
funeral director, and I would be the preacher. Our motto was going to
be, “We’ re sure that one of us can help you.” Almost like the tax man,
we would get you coming and going into and out of this world.

In college, my friends nicknamed my dad “Digger,” to which
he would automatically never hold back a laugh and a grin. The
standing joke was that my dad would be “ the last to let you down.” But it was so true; he was reliable, truthful, constant, and immovable. I
never once heard him use a foul word, even in the most stressful of
situations. In the vernacular of that day, he was the real McCoy, the
genuine article.

Three years ago when I visited my hometown for his 75th
birthday, I was unexpectedly forced to see my dad in a different light
and hear his words in a different way. The visit turned out to be an
incredible wake-up call; a nightmare.

Instead of coming home to a carefree and joyful birthday
celebration like I had expected, I was thrown into a rapid series of
doctor and hospital visits, and sleepless nights that spanned almost a
week. My dad was wound up tighter than a snare drum. Unable to
sleep, he would pace the living room floor back and forth for seemingly
hours at a time. He was in a panic and angry with himself at the same
time, and verbally chastised himself for his behavior like I had never
seen before.

As if the mountain was shaking under the strain of a giant
earthquake, none of us knew where to go for cover. We seemed
powerless to help him. It was as if his health was rapidly falling apart
right before our very eyes.

My mom was visibly shaken to the core, asking many of the
questions anyone would ask when pondering what might lie ahead the
next day and beyond. I found myself completely unprepared for what
was happening too. My mind raced between thinking about what I
could do in that moment to help him, to future questions like how I
would take care of mom if dad were gone in the near future.

It became clear to me that regardless whether I felt prepared or
ready for this situation, I had no choice but to act. Dad had more or less shrugged off all of our attempts to help him for several long days,
trying to rely on his own strength like he had through out his entire life
to right the situation; but this was not working. When things seemed at
their very worst, I finally went to him, grabbed his hands, and at first
asked him to sit down in his easy chair to relax, but he balked again as
before. My asking turned into a loving command, and at last he yielded
to my will. I massaged his feet, and his legs and shoulders, talking with
him through it all.

At last I could sense the tension in his muscles subsiding, and his short rapid breathing turned into the long deep sighs of relief. And there in his favorite chair, he at last fell asleep as his son became the man taking care of his father, rather than the father taking care of his son as it had always been before.

I am very grateful that the root problem turned out to be only a
serious imbalance in his medical prescriptions, and the problem was
fully remedied during the days that followed. It is business as usual
now with my dad.

Nevertheless, it was through this experience that I was forced to
recognize that there would be a time when even this strong, self-made man, my father would say those words, “ Son, I need you,” in this new
way that I have dreaded might happen some day.

Since those days in June three years ago, I have thought about my
parents a great deal. I’ ve thought about how lovingly and masterfully
my dad took care of his own parents in their final years. I remember
how overwhelmed I felt watching all of those things play out in front of
me, as unstoppable as a freight train that could not be slowed. I vividly
recount pledging to myself that I would take care of my own parents
just as well, if not better, than my dad had his own parents. But three
years ago, I was also forced to recognize that I was anything but ready for the challenges that could lie ahead of me and my family when it came to fulfilling my pledge.

Even though I am quite close with my parents, there were a
myriad of loose-ends that were unresolved three years ago when all of
this happened. There were outstanding thoughts and cares that I still
harbored secretly, and this was no doubt true with my dad as well.
There were things that I had said to him perhaps even a hundred times
before, but I needed to say them at least several times more. There were many practical issues like trusts, wills, property, banking accounts, etc. that needed to be discussed, and yet I had never wanted to talk with him about these private matters, nor did I even begin to know how to start.

Perhaps most of all, I worried about my mom who has been at my dad’ s side for over fifty years; what would she do if dad were all of a sudden not there? I wondered how I would be able to help when her whole life was centered in Iowa and yet I lived 2,000 miles away in southern California.

Realizing that the events of three years ago were a false alarm put
time back on the clock. But I had been changed. I decided that I did not want to simply wait for things to happen, but that I would fully involve myself anew with what was happening in the present when it came to my mom and dad.

It is with this perspective that I have written this book. It is a book
about preparing. It is about preparing to love, and preparing to live in
new ways, and in a different light than we have done as children and
young adults. And yes, this book has been stirred up within me by my
dad, and the many things that I want to yet experience and share with
him in my life even now.

And this book is most likely about your dad as well. As is true with most fathers and their sons, a lot of things can go unsaid, unheard, and unfelt through the years as each son labors to prove himself in his father’ s eyes. And although this wrestling between a son and the man who fathered him is crucial in making the son a man, there comes a time when these secrets need to be unshackled and shared. And other things, worthless and painful things, simply need to be buried once and for all, never to see the light of day again on this earth.

Join me now as we venture up the mountain in the clear and
revealing light of midday. It is a journey that you will not want to miss.

To dads:
If you have received this book as a gift from your son,
believe through and through that his aim is to deepen and or
restore his relationship with you. It is a gift of one more chance.
He has chosen to surrender. He wants to honor you. Take care of
this chance like you would a newborn puppy, making every effort
to put on the love and wisdom that should be yours from your
experience in this life. Regardless of the past and what did or did
not happen between you, use this book to be the father that you
want to be for your son.

To sons: If you have received this book as a gift from your father,
believe through and through that his aim is to deepen and or
restore his relationship with you. It is a gift of one more chance.
He has chosen to surrender. Recognize that he may well see
things much more clearly now than in the past. He realizes that
you are more precious than fine gold. Understand how hard it is
for a father to ask you for your help and or forgiveness. And
through all that follows, do your best to approach him and treat
him as you would your Father in heaven.

1. What stories about your dad are your most favorite? Have
you passed these down to your own children?

2. If you think about your dad as one of the mountains in your
A.To what extent do you still view him in the dawn’ s
early light as you did as a child?

B.To what extent have you considered him from other
vantage points?

C. If you think in terms of your proximity to this
mountain, where are you? Are you so close to the
mountain that you cannot see all of its grandeur, or
are you so far away that it is barely visible on the

3. What aspects of a mountain (e.g., its height, immovable,
unchanging, its long shadow at dusk) best describe your dad?

4. If you are a father yourself, how would your children answer
these same questions about you?

About the author: Jim Crawford is a boomer who lives in San Diego. He and his wife are the parents of four young-adult children. Originally from a rural town in the Midwest, Jim moved to southern California to go to graduate school and never left after graduation.

He has been self-employed or a company principal for over 20 years in the high-tech industry, has written two graduate-level textbooks in engineering, and authored or co-authored over 25 US patents. Jim and his wife have been involved with their church in youth work and helping growing families for over 30 years. T

He routinely teach a class in San Diego about Christian parenting and more information is available at In his spare time, Jim enjoys astronomy, designing and building telescopes, writing, and hiking.

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