No Bow On This One

by DanWolgemuth on January 27, 2023

Most often in my writing I work to wrap up a piece with a perfectly tied bow. You know, a wonderful and tidy conclusion to a compelling story or a Biblical insight. But not today. Not that the reflections that follow are untidy, or angry, or bitter… they’re just unfinished. And for whatever reason, 50 years after they happened, they surfaced during a time of quiet reflection.

Fifty years ago I was a senior at Wheaton Central High School. My high school tenure had been uneventful, and without ceremony. My singular leadership accomplishment came in an overheated wrestling room. This was noteworthy enough to earn me a co-captainship my senior year with my friend, Steve Lux. In 1973, we were unlikely District champs…

As a freshman at Taylor University, a broken leg in the Fall of 1973 nudged me into wrestling retirement, until, as a senior, I decided I wanted one more go… something I will always be grateful for.

While I was navigating the nuances of high school and college life, my dad was working through an incredibly intense time of work. Specifically, ministry. During my high school years he was both the national and international President of Youth For Christ. He traveled extensively, and shouldered both leadership and fund raising responsibilities. He was busy and focused.

My most memorable and distinct memory of my dad engaging with me and my wrestling career happened at Wheaton Sports Store. My dad offered to buy me a nice pair of wrestling shoes. The old canvas pair that I wore screamed of incompetence and Sam knew it. So in an act of extraordinary generosity, he bought me a very nice pair that lasted the remainder of my Wheaton Central High School seasons. I was both surprised and deeply grateful…

Yet, in a four-year high school career, and my single collegiate season, I can only remember my dad at one match. And that was because he was upset with Ed Ewoldt, my coach, for letting me cut weight down to 119 pounds as a senior. My dad wanted to give Ed his insights on dieting!

One match. That was it. And yet, I don’t ever remember feeling bitter, or angry, or frustrated.

I certainly never had to wonder about performance-based love. I didn’t consider my dad attempting to live vicariously through me. There was certainly no accomplishment-based support, or overamplified advice or involvement.

Wrestling was my thing. The team was my community. I poured myself in, and returned home to the love and safety of 103 East Park.

Yet, of late, I’ve ached a bit for my dad. Perhaps because I remember the joy of watching high school basketball and volleyball as our kids participated. It was an important calibration in my General Electric corporate life. A delight. A relief. An outlet.

So the bow on this Fragment is still untied… because I know it’s much too easy for a parent to be too involved in the athletic, musical, theatrical or academic accomplishments of their kids, but I also know that there can be a void or an absence as well. Both postures can extinguish joy. And neither, is inherently wrong.

An unfinished thought. An invitation to ponder and process. A balance between not enough, and too much. A journey to navigate on so many fronts.

So I linger in the tension of this untied bow. Now with grandchildren… and a memory that tugs me back 50 years.

Untied. Yet, grateful. Untied. And asking for wisdom…

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