The Nickel Plate Road
When I was a young boy, my Dad worked in the Tribune Tower overlooking the Chicago River in downtown Chicago. It was a beautiful Gothic building that is the destination of many architectural students who travel from all over the country to study it. I can’t exactly say that I grew up in that building, but I did spent a ton of Saturdays down there while my Dad caught up on his paperwork from the week as he spent most of his time out on the road selling.
It from from his office window that I watched the famous Marina Towers being built back in the early 1960’s. And it was in that same office that I used to check my math homework on a Monroe calculator that looked more like a cash register than the state of the art mechanical calculator that is was. And it was also in that office that I watched my Dad schedule shipments of plywood from the various mills that our family controlled the production from throughout the southern states. There were plants in Valdosta, GA; West Helena, AR; Pascagoula, MS; Beaumont, MS; and a host of other southern cities.
And when Dad scheduled those shipments, if they went by rail, he preferred to use the Nickel Plate Railroad. I never actually travelled on the line, but it was a freight line and I particularly liked the gummed note pads that Dad’s rep gave him all the time. They were white, with a dark blue logo in the upper left corner. He always had stacks of pads and I can still see his hand written notes on the various pages. And when I was learning to write, when I was a little guy, I used them as my scratch pads to practice forming my letters. My brothers and I also used them to color pictures and I know it sounds crazy, but I really liked those note pads. In fact, to this day, I like to write notes on scratch pads… I’m sure it is a throwback to those early days with Dad and the Nickel Plate Road.
Anyway, tonight I had dinner with our own son, Andrew, at the Nickel Plate Grille. It’s a restaurant on the rail line in Fishers, IN that is about 10 minutes from our home and right down the street from Andrew’s house. Although I have eaten there throughout the years, on rare occasion, I don’t think I have ever had the strong memories associated with my own Dad as I had tonight. I also don’t think that Andrew and I have ever eaten there alone together.
As you know, this week I have been thinking about the past – my childhood, our move here to Indiana, and tonight, I was struck by the passing of the generations. As tired as I was, I saw the same tired look in Andrew’s eyes that I remember seeing in my Dad after he had worked a particularly tough week. And I’m sure that it was the same tired look that Andrew has seen in my eyes throughout the years. It was just a little strange to see that same look on my own son’s face. And through it all, I remembered writing and coloring on those wacky Nickel Plate scratch pads. Andrew’s now 31 – it’s difficult to believe that I was re-living things that happened before I was 10. I never even thought about having a son – let alone one who is more than 3 decades old, and he has two older sisters!
It’s kind of like the circle of life. Time marches on and I am struck by the strong desire to continue to influence, teach and coach our children as long as I am able – just like Dad taught me until his death when I was 25. Come to think of it, I never realized until just now that my Dad never had dinner with his 31 year old son – he was already gone by then. Very strange to me, very strange indeed…
I learned many things from my Dad – but the the one thing that I never learned from him was to have faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In fact, I’m not at all sure that my Dad was even a believer. I do know that for a long period of his life he renounced religion and I don’t know that he was saved when he died. That’s sad to me… Particularly because he came from a family of devout believers – for generations.
Although Janet and I have been very overt in our faith with our three children, it is critically important to me that we repeat, time and again, the importance of a faith filled life. Tonight’s verse is from the book of 2 Timothy. Paul is talking to his young protege and instructing him in the faith. In 2 Timothy 2:1, he says, “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” In other words, BELIEVE…
My encouragement this evening is to let you know that you can be a lifelong influence for your children, no matter how old they are. My prayer is that you will continue to preach the Good News to everyone who will listen, and your children are at the top of the list. So, Kristin, Jill, and Andrew, please hear it once again… Be strong in your faith and believe in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. That goes for all the rest of you as well… Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…