Authors: Phil Callaway
reads like a novel, one of three generations laughing, growing, and conquering. With its twists and turns—even a surprise ending—Phil’s story is one most of us find ourselves in as the sandwich generation copes with troubling questions while looking for examples of those who are thriving amid the challenges. This book will make you laugh, cry, and leave you bursting with hope. I highly recommend it.”
New York Times
best-selling author of
The Case for the Real Jesus
“Phil Callaway is master of the funny bone and the heart-tug. In
, he plays both to good effect, mining wisdom and wit from some of life’s trickiest terrain—the growing up and leaving of children, the growing old and nursing of parents. He pretends to be just a fellow traveler, but I’m not fooled: he knows the ground well, and I’d follow him anywhere.”
, author of
The Rest of God
Hidden in Plain Sight
“My sisters and I watched my dad live with Alzheimer’s for six years. I learned that two things are absolutely necessary if one is to navigate that difficult journey: a boatload of compassion and a sense of humor. In
Phil Callaway demonstrates both. He has also managed to be a good dad to three teenagers in the process, which means he is now very wise or very crazy. Either way, this is a great read.”
, author and speaker
“Phil has done it again: made us laugh and cry reading just one page of this magical, wonderful book! The best of life is always captured by Phil Callaway’s words, and he inspires us all to live a life worthy of passing on to our families and friends. He brings out the best in humankind, all while making us laugh out loud.”
, authors of
Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti
“I don’t know of anyone else who makes me laugh out loud, and then within moments, finds a way to touch the deep parts of my heart. Maybe it’s because I helped care for my parents the last ten years of their lives, or maybe it’s just that our journeys really are much more similar than we realize. Whatever the case,
was particularly timely for me. Phil has a knack for helping us remember God’s presence in the hardest seasons of life, and he provides a generous dose of humor, lest we get lost in the maze of self-absorption.”
, Dove Award-winning musical artist and author
“This book blindsided me big time and moved me profoundly. A masterful, well-crafted manual filled with phenomenal advice and fall-down funny stories, this book has been a life-changer for my wife and me. If you’re caught in the squeeze of two generations, Phil delivers life-saving counsel to help you navigate the darkness. In implementing the wisdom of this book, my lost joy has come home. The power of this book is in the fact that Callaway has already been where I am going! Thank God for his warm, wise words that illuminate the unknown path ahead.”
evangelist and author of
Would You Like Fries with That?
“I loved reading this book.
and seriously honest. I’m grateful that Phil has transparently shared his life so we baby boomers could be reminded how to leave footsteps worth following.”
worship leader and author of “Come, Now Is the Time” and “Faithful One”
“I laughed and cried and identified wholly as I read
. Phil Callaway has the gift of using gentle humor to convey powerful truth; in this case that family is infinitely worth loving, however difficult the moment, and that God’s grace and strength are the hope that carries us through each day. A must-read for every parent caught in midlife crisis between teenage hormones and aging parents.”
“I commend to you the sentiments expressed in this volume, not only because we need them and because Phil wrote them, but more importantly because he and Ramona live the grace so humorously articulated here. I’m already planning to move in with them when I retire.”
, columnist, pastor, and brother to Phil
“Phil Callaway’s books are not just a pleasure to savor, like eating a perfectly ripe pear. They are full of firm insights that give grace for the daily race, especially when the journey is hard. I loved
. If your life is full of children, parents, and everything in between, you’ll love this book too.”
New York Times
bestselling author of
It’s All About Him
To my loving siblings, Dave, Dan, Tim, and Ruth,
who tell people that their younger brother
is a successful court stenographer
And to my children, from their number one fan,
who anticipates the day they discover that
the volume control also goes left
Introduction: Shotgun Memories
I Used to Have Money, Now I Have Teens
Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Son
I Proposed in a Chain Letter
The Great Big Marriage Quiz
Brad, Britney, Bill, and Jim
Snatching the eternal out of the desperately fleeting
is the great magic trick of human existence
few years back, when my forehead was covered by hair, I agreed to write a column called “Family Matters” for
magazine. It was a daunting task for a young father and one for which I feel underqualified to this day. Staring down the barrel of that first deadline, I whined to my wife, Ramona, about the stress of it all. “I can’t do it,” I said. “Look at me. I’m an imperfect dad. I get mad at my kids. I used to slide hamsters down banisters when I was a child. I argue with my wife sometimes.”
She laughed. “So write about it,” she said. “Tell stories. Tell us you feel like a failure sometimes. And tell us there’s hope.”
“But I’m no Dr. Dobson,” I protested.
“I know,” she sighed, stabbing at a potato in the sink. “He has money.”
The next day I sat at my desk, wondering what to write. The job was too big for me, so I pushed my chair back and got on my knees to pray. Then I wrote “Shotgun Memories,” the story of a hunting trip gone right. With five children and a to-do list taller than me, my dad somehow managed to throw a shotgun into our ‘62 Meteor and invest a Saturday in his youngest son. A decade later we fishtailed down those
same dusty roads with the same shotgun in the backseat. But this time it would serve a different purpose. This time Dad handed it to a farmer, trading it in on my very first car. The shotgun was an emblem, of course, of a father who took time for me.
Animal rights activists got hold of my article and twisted it. They didn’t appreciate my hunting or my work with hamsters. But kind letters began arriving too. People stopped me on the street. One said, “Great article! I’ll never forget you, Bill.” The farmer even called: “Phil,” he drawled, “I want you to have that shotgun.” I thanked him repeatedly, surprised that he had been so utterly blessed by the article that he was offering me the precious shotgun as a gift. I couldn’t stop thanking him.
“How does two hundred bucks sound?” he asked.
I coughed. “Not very good,” I said. After all, we hardly had two quarters to rub together in those days. Where would I ever come up with two hundred bucks?
Our children were three, two, and almost one at the time. (We had them so fast the anesthetic from the first birth was still working for the third.) They came along with no instruction manuals, no mute buttons, and no guarantees. They slimed doorknobs, left pointy toys on the stairway, and yowled long into the night. We were underqualified for the task, plus we were terrified. What if they turned out to be…well, what if they turned out to be like me? And so we did the only thing we knew to do: We got down on our knees and prayed.
A surprising thing happened: We found that we loved parenting (after the kids were asleep, and sometimes when they were awake). Sure, the children screamed, put jam sandwiches in the VCR, and turned dinnertime into a full-contact sport. But we loved these precious, sticky-faced gifts. We held them tightly, read to them often, and gave them back to God each night.
Our children are teenagers now. They come with a whole new set of challenges. Sometimes it’s hard to decide if growing pains are something they have or something they are. Once again, we’re in over our heads, so we get down on our knees.
And now a whole new challenge has entered our lives: aging parents. Once again I find myself looking for an instruction manual, a mute button, and some guarantees.
Instead, I have discovered that we are not alone. That a zillion other baby boomers are experiencing a stretch of time when the answers grow quiet and the questions slither in like the neighbor’s cat every time you open the door:
How do we honor our aging parents without guilt while raising our children without regret?
How do we retain our sanity in the midst of so much change (assuming we were sane in the first place)?
Is it possible to live without the stress, remorse, and anxiety that so many lug around with them?
How do I learn to laugh so that when I retire all my wrinkles will be in the right places?
And who said I’m having a midlife crisis? I’ve wanted a red convertible since third grade.
One night I sneaked up behind Ramona as she was stabbing potatoes again (be careful when you do this) and asked her if I should write about these things. She said, “Yeah, we need the money.” No, she didn’t. She said, “Sure. But we’re tired, so make us laugh. And tell us there’s hope, too. Oh, and while you’re at it, would you fix the dishwasher?”
What follows are stories of hope and hilarity amid the turbulence and splendor of what I’ve come to call the Middle Ages. I’ll admit that I often felt ill equipped for the task while writing this book. But then I
was reminded that God seldom gives us anything we aren’t to share with others, that nothing worthwhile I’ve ever accomplished didn’t initially scare me half to death, and that God often uses the timid and trembling to do His work. I guess it’s because we know we can’t do it on our own. And when good things happen, we never doubt who deserves the credit.
I pray this book will meet you where you are but not leave you there. I pray that you’ll savor these stories and find some help here too.
Sometimes, as I was writing, I found myself looking at a shotgun that hangs above my study door. It’s a lifelong reminder of a father’s love for me. A reminder that time is ticking. That the best retirement investment in all the world is memories. And it’s a reminder that sometimes writers strike it rich. After all, I sold my very first article to another magazine for two hundred bucks and bought that shotgun.