Sunday, July 11, 2010

A tall story

Beve pulled out an envelope of photographs this morning.  He'd squirreled them away somewhere but wanted to give them to his big brother to take back to Finland.  But before they leave our house, I thought I'd put my new scanning skills to the test and upload a few of them.  After the photo story of my dad, it's only right, I suppose, that I share these pictures of Grampie at the height of his college basketball career.

Looks pretty tall, doesn't he?

And like he could jump fairly high...especially in front of a short guy, dribbling.
 But the fact is that these were the two starting guards on Oregon's team when Grampie played center, which tells you how things have changed.  Grampie was 6'8" and though he's shrunk a lot, his hands are still as huge as they were when he could easily palm basketballs without thinking about it.

Grampie had a hiatus right in the middle of his University of Oregon career.  A little thing called World War II.  He wound up in the India/Burma theater where he built roads and the occasional recreational facility.  Played in a tournament once in what they laughingly called "Calcutta Square Garden" and his old Oregon hoops buddy (number 3 above), who was an airtrooper at the time, showed up to cheer him on. It was one of Grampie's greatest war memories, having Al Popick show up from who knows where to watch that game.  Then it was all back to the business of war for another 18 mos.

OK, so it wasn't all business.  He didn't take many pictures of the actual business of war.  Why on earth would he, when he could get pictures of riding elephants (which is exactly why I've included them here).
I love this picture of Grampie with two Burmese women (are they nurses? Soldiers? He can't remember).  He's not even sitting up straight, and is as tall as they are standing.  They must have come up to his waist when he stood up.
Grampie with his brother and their proud parents.  Grampie's brother flew airplanes for the navy.  After the war, he finished his engineering degree at UW and went to work for a little company called NASA.  You might have heard of it.  Grampie went back to Oregon and changed from Math to Physical Education.  He became a teacher, coach, professor, administrator.

And met the younger sister of one of his early teammates.
Yep, right there in the middle are Beve's taller-than-you-can-imagine parents.  His mother (whose eyes are just like my E's, and whose nose I swear is in the middle of SK's lovely face), was 6'1" so they definitely made a statement whenever they walked into a room.  They were so breathtaking together.  I can only guess what it was like when they were these two young people with the world at their feet, since I really only knew them well, starting in their fifties (though I'd been afraid of them for decades before that!).  I can guess because their youngest son has that same kind of light in him, that same kind of spirit.  Every picture of Grampie shows it. You know the saddest thing?  He came from a carefully delineated family, where the dad preferred one child, and the mom the other.  So Grampie's brother asked their mom one day why she favored Grampie so much.  And you know what she said?  "He's so big, I just worry that life will be hard on him."

But she was dead wrong.  Life wasn't hard on Grampie.  What his mother thought was a weakness, what she worked so hard to compensate for that she neglected her other child, was the very thing most used in his life for good. God gave Grampie size, was purposeful in that creation.  And the favoritism his mother showed him because she worried that his size was some cruel mistake caused strife between Grampie and his brother for years, and with her husband (who never watched Grampie play a single game of basketball).

Grampie's mother is not the only person to guess wrong about what life will do to her child.  We all guess and often guess wrong about how life will turn out for our kids.  However, what I want to learn from Grandma W (as Beve calls her) is to trust that God doesn't make mistakes.  I mean, this is faith 101--and I'm talking about a woman who was a very faithful woman, by all accounts.  That's the first lesson.  Grampie's size was no accident.  And secondly, the harm she expected from that size, (and I'm not sure it did), God could use for good, which is exactly what He did.  That size became the most valuable asset in Grampie's long life. And God knew it would be so.

This is great news for all of us.  What worries you most about yourself may be exactly God intends to use in your life.  It may be the one asset you will need in myriad ways, with myriad people. God doesn't waste anything.  The pastor who preached at Sam's memorial service reminded us of that.  He doesn't waste sorrows, disappointments, joys or disadvantages.  With Him there is no waste at all.  So what is it that most troubles you about yourself?  Why don't you ask Him what He intends to do with exactly that weakness? Ask how He will help your weakness be used for good.

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