Thursday, July 15, 2004

Our Adventurer

“The light in the eyes [of him whose heart is joyful] rejoices the heart of others….”

~ Proverbs 15:30 (Amplified)

There's this love that is burning, deep in my soul
constantly yearning to get out of control, wanting to fly,
higher and higher; I can't abide, standing outside the fire

Standing outside the fire, standing outside the fire
Life is not tried it is merely survived
If you're standing outside the fire

“Standing Outside the Fire” ~ recorded by Garth Brooks

Last year I wrote a Reflections column about our third-born son, Keen II, but since I was just getting my feet wet, the article was short and didn’t go into very much detail. So today I’d like to write a more thorough birthday tribute to Keen.

The titles I chose for our other sons were: Jared – Our soldier; Josh – Our Entrepreneur and Kirk Van – Our Little Man. For Keen, I’ve chosen – Our Adventurer.

After reading through my journals from when Keen was growing up, I found several stories that illustrated his lifelong love of adventure – beginning at the tender age of two. At that time, our boys all shared one large bedroom. One morning Keener decided that his crib was too confining and somehow managed to do a cartwheel right over the railing of his crib!

Keen was always a little trooper. When he was only 2 ½ he would go sledding with his dad and brothers and haul his own plastic sled back up the hill all by himself. But he never complained a bit.

Here are several excerpts from the journal I kept for Keen:

February 14, 1987 (age 2 ½)
Keen is racing to boyhood – it just can’t get here soon enough for him. With two older brothers he wants to do everything he sees them do. He’s always used a cup with a lid on it, but now he wants to be big so he says, “No Keener cup, no Keener cup.” The other day he was standing by Josh’s two wheel bike saying, “Help me please, Daddy. Help me, pleeeease!”


Keen is perpetual motion. He always wants to be on the go.
“Let’s go to shop and see Daddy, okay?”
“No, Keener, Daddy’s picking up trash.”
“Oh, rats!”


Keener Bean – what can I say about him? He’s like that song from The Sound of Music. “How do you catch a wave upon the sand? How do you hold a moon beam in your hand?”

You don’t. That’s just it. Keen is uncontainable. He wants to go – be – live!


February 16, 1988 (age 3 ½)
Today Keener said, “I know what I’m gonna be when I grow up. I’m gonna be a cop! I’m gonna have a gun and I’m gonna say, ‘Freeze!’”


Last night at supper he finished eating his chicken leg and tossed it back onto the platter in the middle of the table. When it hit the platter he said, “It’s a three-pointer!” The boys said when he plays Nerf basketball with them and makes a basket he’ll say, “This guy can’t miss!” He really seems to enjoy sports.


That certainly turned out to be the case. When Keen was about nine years old we enrolled him in a basketball camp at Washburn University. When they handed out awards on the last day Keen ended up with nine separate certificates. The coach made the comment, “What can we say? This kid just does it all.”

Keen really enjoyed the sport of basketball throughout high school, and he was good at it, too. But his true talent proved to be in the area of running. In his senior year in cross-country he was undefeated the entire season and ultimately won the State Cross-Country Championship.

A few years ago, Keen and his dad and brother all took scuba diving lessons together and took a couple of trips to Table Rock, Missouri. Keen went beyond the basic training course and earned two advanced level certifications, including rescue diver.

This past year has been one of particularly “high” excitement for our adventurer. Without telling his mom and dad (until it was too late for either of us to object), Keen enrolled in sky diving classes at K-State and went on a couple of jumps. Be still my heart! I couldn’t believe it! But he thoroughly enjoyed the thrilling experience. Thankfully, he’s decided not to make a lifelong hobby out of it; sort of one of those “been there, done that” things.

Keen’s latest attempt to satisfy his thirst for adventure has come in the form of a brand new motorcycle. (Okay, for all you motorcycle enthusiasts, it’s a Yamaha YZF R6 SS.) Keen works for the State in the computer division of the Department of Revenue and he decided to spend some of that hard earned money on something he’s always dreamed of owning. In fact, I was going through his box of memoirs the other day and discovered just how long he’s been dreaming of owning a motorcycle when I came across a list of “Letters to Santa” from Keen’s kindergarten class. Keen asked for “…new pajamas a new teddy bear to sleep with, and a new real motorcycle.” Well, Santa (and the bank) finally came through after all these years! When we saw the gray and black motorcycle with flames painted on the side we had to admit it looked like it was made for Keen.

Last Friday before Keen drove his new motorcycle for the first time from Topeka to Manhattan, he called to ask me to “shout out a prayer” for him. (Actually, I “shouted out” several prayers.) But that leads me to another aspect of Keen’s character – his faith in God. Ever since he was a little boy, he has talked about God and prayed to God. He would often say out of the blue, “Mom, don’t forget God and Jesus.”

When he was 3 ½ years old I hurt my back and neck in a minor car accident and he would say, “I pray for your back and shoulders last night.” Then he’d ask, “How is your back feeling today, Mommy? Is it feeling much better?” If I said yes then he would throw his arms around my neck and say, “Good – now I can give you a big bear hug!”

Keen always was and still is such a loving and loveable son. Here are a couple more excerpts from my journal that illustrate my point.

October 26, 1987 (Age 3)
This morning Keener said, “I wuv you, Mom. I really wuv you. You’re the greatest in the whole world. And daddy’s the greatest in the whole world. And God’s the greatest in the whole world.” (He repeated the part about God three times.)

Later he told me, “I’m growing up so big and I’m so tall!” Then he pointed to the ceiling and said, “But I won’t break your wall. I’ll be careful of your wall.”


When Keener gets up in the morning he runs into our room and announces excitedly, “It’s Keener Beaner!” or “Heeeere’s Keener!” Lately he’s been telling Daddy, “I love you a hundred pounds.”

This morning I’m making chocolate chip cookies for a PTO meeting and I gave Keener one of the beaters.

“Thank you,” he said.
“You’re welcome. I like a boy with nice manners.”
“Thank you, Mommy.”
“You’re welcome.”
“Mom, you have nice manners.”

A couple of weeks ago I was zipping his coat before we went to story time at the library and he said, “You’re a real sweety, Mom.”

December 2, 1988 (Age 4)
Keen is so full of love. Every morning when I open the door to my room, he comes bursting in and says, “Mommy, Mommy! I love my Mommy!” Then he gives me a huge bear hug and says, “Good morning, baby!”

Tonight out of the blue he came running over to me and hugged my tummy and said, “Oh, I love my baby.” He said he hopes it’s a “brother baby.”

Keen is in a definite “I love you” stage. It’s only 9:30 in the morning and I’ll bet he’s already said it 10-15 times. Yesterday he came up to me and said, “You’re so nice to me, Eileen.”

Keen has become a song writer of late, too. He has the sweetest little song that he sings in the sweetest little voice. It goes, “I love Mommy, she’s so great. So, so great – so, so great. I love her so much…..Uh-huh. I love her. Why? Because I love her because the baby’s in her tummy.” And on and on it goes.


This morning I was sitting on the couch and he put his face down by my tummy and said, “Good morning baby. I love you. I can’t wait till you’re done. You’re great baby. I’ll be happy with either one, okay? I love you.” It’s so sweet.

When Keener gets ready for preschool sometimes he’ll stand on the porch and wait for the van to pick him up. Then he’ll talk to me through the screen door. Today he said: “I love you. Can you hear me, Mom? I love you so much with my heart.”


Yes, Keen, I hear you loud and clear. You have always been such a great source of joy and love for our family and we thank God for blessing us with you!

I’d like to close this birthday tribute by sharing the words from the Hallmark card I bought for Keen:

Son, there are so many things I want for you – so many wishes in my heart as I watch you grow into your own life…I wish you a world of adventure and experience ~ and also the serenity that comes from listening to your inner voice as the world rushes around you…

I wish you the strength to face challenges with confidence – along with the wisdom to choose your battles carefully…I wish you the satisfaction of seeing your goals achieved and also the true contentment that is born of simple things ~ work well done, friends well-loved, moments caught and cherished.

And my greatest wish is that you will always remember how much you are loved – for you are a good and caring person…a man I am proud to have for a son.”

Happy 20th Birthday, Keen ~ we love you!