Our son Kirk, who with his wife Christine, live in Melbourne, Australia, arrived last week. He was on a business trip with his mission (Wycliffe Global Alliance), which met in Arlington, Texas, so he was able to spend some time with us in Waco.
He had explained to us that while he was at some meetings in India he had been asked to tell his “life story.” That is pretty difficult, even if you only remember parts, but as he did so he realized that there were some major “gaps” in his story. One of his reasons to visit us was to try and fill in some of the holes.
I don’t think he fully realized what he was in for. We have newssheets, letters, diaries, computer files and photos that almost predate Adam and Eve, so the problems was not so much where to start (some purists would say “at the beginning”), but what to avoid or eliminate.
Kirk knew what he wanted or what he felt was missing. Our newsletters, he felt, were factual but showed little of the emotions that we might have had at the time. Getting us to express the emotions that were behind the facts proved to be arduous.
For example, I reported that Kirk was born at Jagaum Hospital, near Madang (in Papua New Guinea) on April 11, 1959 and that it was a long a difficult delivery for Joice. We didn’t say anything about pain or worry or any of those more “emotional” things. Just the facts, ma’am!
We had been very emotional and there should have been tear stains all over the letters we had written home. We had sent a telegram to our parents announcing the birth, but you don’t say much in a telegram when each word costs about a dollar. We wrote—well, to be honest, mainly Joice wrote—in more detail on the old “air forms,” those ancient blue colored , folded letter-envelopes, with the postage paid for and stamped when you bought them at the P.O. The more you wished to say, the smaller the handwriting.
We took some polaroid black and white photos and sent them later as well, but they have long since faded into oblivion. Kirk had to rely on our memories to pull the emotions out of them.
He had of course heard most of the stories before: his forceps delivery, with a capable former army doctor who pulled hard and remarked to me “It is a wonder his head doesn’t come right off.” My emotions were overcome by the sight of blood and the moaning of my wife, followed by the delightful bawling of the infant. I have never been fond of blood, but I didn’t faint—as I have on a couple of other occasions.
Kirk lived in the village with us for a number of years and he wanted to know if we worried about him. To be honest we had—the first village we lived in was at 6500 feet altitude and it was cold and rainy a good deal of the time. Kirk had a stuffed up head and nose and I would use a small bulb syringe to pull the mucus (some call it’s not) out of his nostrils. Emotions—disgust and disbelief—where and how could he store all that stuff?
But we didn’t worry when he was out playing with the village kids. Everyone seemed to know where the kids were, even when we couldn’t see them. They were off fishing, climbing trees, using their imaginations and skills to have fun. We watched and learned in awe as Kirk began to speak the language fluently, much better in the early stages than his parents.
What about his education—how did we feel about it? Very uneasy—he seemed to get in mischief a lot and was often reprimanded by his teachers. He needed special tutoring in math and provoked a lot of prayer. But, on the other hand, he was industrious and knew how to work. He mowed lawns and started a small photo developing business. We were amazed at his visual aptitude and did not realize that a lot of his academic difficulties were due to what was later discovered as dyslexia.
After a year and a half of college, he dropped out. I was upset and angry, Joice was the model of a mother with patience and love. She encouraged and supported him; I was less certain of how to handle the situation. I was glad and relieved to see him back in the photo developing and enlarging business again and we tried to show our support in various ways.
But it is hard to reconstruct how you felt emotionally at the time. Kirk is gracious and doesn’t seem to bear any psychological scars from the various educational experiences he had—schools in the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and New Guinea. In fact he happily shared with us the conviction that his high school days in PNG were instrumental in shaping his personality and life. My emotion has always been surprise—we did some right things and didn’t realize it.
We spent several days looking for the “historical Franklins” and concluded that they really had existed, despite some conjecture by a few of our supporters that we were actually angels in disguise and had come from another planet. That made me feel competent for a while.
It is good to reflect on a life time, even if your son asks you some hard questions and makes—or at least helps—you think about the emotional aspects of certain events. We had forgotten about some key times in our lives. He wanted to know how I handled the inevitable criticism I had received in my 8 years of working in directorate roles in PNG: did I hold grudges? Do I stll remember and think about the events? And so on….
Well, these are family stories and matters, so I’ll leave it there and simply thank Kirk for his persistence and interest in finding out what he could about the “historical Franklins.”