New York City

Somehow the Assistant to the Dean of the Bible College David Roth got in contact with a pastor in New York named Paul McCardel. His son Bruce was the assistant pastor of All Nations Bible Baptist Church in Queens, NY. Paul was from Florida I think and he moved to NY to pastor. His son served with him. Somehow David was introduced to Paul and a trip was set-up for a group of us guys to go up there to serve them by passing out bible tracts in the subway system, the streets and hopefully lead some folks to Christ and help the church grow a bit while being an encouragement to the members at ANBBC.

A trip was set-up. I think we left on a Saturday and came back late Friday night, early Saturday morning the next week. We made two of those trips. New York quickly became one of my favorite destinations as a young man. It was incredible. It was not like I expected. It was far better than I could ever have imagined. It was one of the highlights of my life to go to NYC and meet the folks at ANBBC.

Later I took Lucia there and we got engaged on top of the Empire State Building. We saw a couple of Broadway shows and did quite a bit of shopping down Madison Avenue and other places. We took a carriage ride in Central Park and much more. The people of NY were incredibly friendly. I enjoyed talking to them and they seemed to like listening to me. I loved it in the summer and the winter. It is a fun city. I don’t think I could live there. I’m sure it is different visiting as opposed to living there.

New York was alive. It is a town full of life. There is so much happening there. Lucia and I have said many times that it is our second favorite place in all the world to attend. It was our number one place until we went to Hawaii in 2000. The two destination are radically different and I hope we can go to them both in the coming years. I want to go again.

It was easy to talk to New Yorkers. They were engaging. However, to do so on the street offered its challenges. If you talked on the street it appeared that you were either gay or you were about to mug someone. New Yorkers could be tentative in some ways, but it didn’t take long to get them to open up. It is my kind of town.

Meredith & Matthew

Meredith and Matthew were beautiful children. I loved them very much. They were ideal. I don’t remember any problems out of them. We had lots of fun together.

I remember one time Matthew was eating some food from a paper plate on a metal folded chair at the Academy of the Arts. An African-American kid asked him if he was coming back to the Academy next year. He told the kid that he could not. He was going to another school. I was standing behind him listening to him talking to his friend, two 6-year olds having a chat. He was going to begin the first or second grade at Summit Elementary. I did not respond well. My heart was sinking by the moment. My son was changing schools; I could do nothing about it. It was a sad day.. 

The first summer or maybe the second summer after they left I went to the circus with them at the old Greenville Braves Stadium parking lot on Mauldin Road. The kids were there. I began to rub Meredith’s back. She was six or seven years old. She was wearing a bra. I did not respond well, again. I said some unkind words to her mom. Unfortunately I can say dumb things. I’m not sure what happened after that. It didn’t get better, that much I remember. It was another sad day for me. I could see what was happening and was helpless to do anything about it. My kid’s lives were spinning out of control from my perspective. My heart was bursting. Divorce is twisted. Life goes sideways when one is divorced and never seems to straighten out.

About four years after the split I asked the kids what one thing they wanted in all of life. We were staying with Mama Grant in Wingate, NC. We were walking around the campus of Wingate University. It was a summer night. Matthew told me that all he wanted was for his daddy and mommy to get together again. That was his dream, his desire. That ripped my heart out.

Sometime later I asked them what they thought about me dating again. A year or so after the divorce I wanted to start dating, but I didn’t know how they would respond to that, particularly if I got married and had other children. I think it was Meredith that said that she just wanted me to be happy. That was very releasing. I think, for the most part, they have not been jealous of my new wife and new kids.

My Children

I was excited about having children. There was also a nagging drawback as well. That drawback still abides a bit today. The fact is that I am much older than I was when my first children were born. Tristen was born when I was 42. Meredith was born when I was 22. That is a huge difference. Ansa Katherine was born when I was 46, almost 47. That means I will be 67 when she is married, in college or whatever God has for her. I don’t know if I will be alive at that age. I hope so. Most people my age have children graduating high school by this time in their life/careers and they are setting themselves up for retirement. I’m preparing to have a family at 50 years of age.

I’ve long reconciled the reality that my life will not be normal. I was born to be different. I got a clue about this when I was 12. It hit me like a tornado when I was 28. My life did not really begin until I was 38 when I married Lucia. The first 38 years of my life was spent getting ready for the rest of my life.

Though I struggle with the idea of living late, having children late, it was God that worked in my heart about 12 years ago when I realized that I would never have Meredith and Matthew as my own and never even considered that I would have other children. God convinced me, I believe, that the point of my life was not to be able to throw a ball to my children and the many other things that “normal” dads do with their kids. The point of this life is to glorify God and get to Heaven. My goal for my children became “get the to Heaven” as well. I had to change my plans, my goals and desires. I had to give up on the idea that I would always be there for my children and enjoy the fatherly benefits of being there. I had to develop another plan. There had to be a goal to live a life before them, to pray for them and hope to be able to lead them to Christ.

What I didn’t realize was that God was going to give me some kids that I could raise. This never really crossed my mind. I gave up on that notion a long time ago. Therefore, whatever tinge of regret I have about my life God is making up the difference in incredible ways. I never imagined that I would lose my children and be divorced. I further never imagined that I would remarry someone and have three more children. It has been unexplainable so far.

Meredith and Matthew seem to be a long way from God. I really do not know. I feel very sorry for them in that they never asked for the life they got. They got off to a bad start, just like their daddy. However, they are adults now and the choices are theirs. I hope God draws them to himself.

Ansa Katherine

I was looking on a baby name website one night in the kitchen at our 1611 house. It was a Latin name website I think, maybe Greek. I can’t remember. Anyway I began in the “A’s” and I was going to work my way through the alphabet. I was reading out the names to Lucia. When I got down to Ansa I read it as a joke. Lucia didn’t like it and neither did I. It was more of a joke and out of my devious desire to irritate Lucia. I began telling the kids we were going to name our third kid Ansa. It took about two weeks before it would begin to turn in our minds. We kept saying it and we began to like it. I don’t think anyone else really liked it. Today, it could not be anything else. Hannah Pratt at church said it sounded like a “grandma’s name”. I’m not sure if many liked it. It is amazing after the name connects with the person that they become it and it suits them perfectly. So it is with Ansa.

Ansa was born on March 9, 2006 in our master bedroom at the 1611 house. I wondered if I could love her. She has been swallowed up in the activity of our home. She has been the silent one in our home. She has not received the attention the other two have received. She has been louder than the other two combined. She was a crier the first 7 months of her life. She seemed to cry all the time. I wondered if she would ever stop crying. She would cry in the van, in the bed, during the day, at night at about any other occasion. I have not been as attentive to her the way I was to Tristen and Haydn. Our life has definitely accelerated from the time Tristen was born to when Ansa was born. I am changing this however.

She is a beautiful baby. She was the first of my children to look different. The first four looked about the same when they were born and even at this point in their life. Their behaviors were about the same as well. Ansa has been different. She is louder. She had black hair at birth. She has different facial feature. She looks more like Lucia when she was a baby. I’m curious as to how she will turn out in that she is so different.

She is very cute, extremely cute. She is more petite than the other children. Tristen was really fat. Haydn wasn’t too fat because he started moving a bit quicker than Tristen. Ansa is not fat, but she has not started growing. I can hardly remember Haydn as a baby because he grew up so quickly. Ansa has been so small that her baby-ness has gone on for a long time. About one month ago she began to change in her loudness. She is recognizing more, laughing more and interacting more. Her personality is coming through. I’ve taken more time to interact with her as well. She is a baby doll, a real joy to be with. She has so much personality. Haydn has really taken to her. He spends a lot of time playing with her. Tristen doesn’t spend as much time with her. Tristen does like to carry her around and treat her like a baby doll. Haydn treats her more like a little sister.

Haydn Mason Grant

We were watching a Josh Groban DVD and when they rolled the credits we saw a name that we both liked. We didn’t know how to pronounce it, what it meant and what gender it was for. The name was Haydn. It looked cool on the screen as they were rolling the credits. I found out later it meant “heathen” in German according to some sources. It was also pronounced “Hi-den” with a long “I”. It is the name of Joseph Haydn the German composer. In English the name means a “field full of heather” from what I have been told.

Haydn is an amazing child. He has a tender spirit and is very cooperative. He asks questions before he normally does things. He is very cute and has a charismatic smile. He is a lady killer. He loves his little sister and treats her friendly and with much compassion. He seems to be a compassionate boy. I recently went in our walk-in closet and Haydn was sitting in the basinette playing with Ansa. He was taking care of her on his own. This is typical of him.

He was born at home, the first child to be born in our home at 1611 Winding Way. We could not decide on his middle name after we both immediately loved the name Haydn. Lucia wanted to name him after her mother’s maiden name. I didn’t like Mason. It reminded me of Perry Mason the homosexual. But I loved the Perry Mason show. It was still too effeminate for me. I liked the name Grant. It sounded hard, rough and rugged. That’s what I want him to be in a way, to be a man. We called a truce and named him Haydn Mason Grant Thomas. It was a whopper of a name, but it is a cool one. He is both compassionate and somewhat rugged. I’m teaching him ruggedness. He would default to softness. He is a work in progress, but a good work. He doesn’t cause trouble. He is a learner and responder.

Haydn has been very coordinated. He hardly ever walked. He went from crawling to walking seemingly almost immediately. It was quite amazing. He is not like his older sister. He has the potential to be athletic. I remember the first time we disciplined him. He was probably 8 months old or so and he put his hand toward the electrical outlet. Lucia popped his hand. He was in moderate shock. He seemed as though he could not believe that someone would hit him. It was very soft and he was very surprised. He continued to reach for the outlet. I think he did this about 7 times or so. I thought this was the precursor to a kid from Hades. I thought we had the worst kind of kid and it would take an all out effort to discipline and train him. Some of our friends said they hoped we got a rebellious child because Tristen was such a model of obedience. She was the perfect baby and it was quite obvious. That knowledge didn’t bless some folks with more disobedient children. When we told the story of Haydn and the electrical outlet some people were wrongly encouraged. We were concerned. However, Haydn was nothing like what we thought. He has been a joy to discipline.

Tristen Synclair

Tristen was named after Mama Grant’s brother who died in 1921. He was 21 years old. Mama Grant, my grandmother, was born in 1906 and she died in 2005. She would have been 99 years old on December 26 of ’06 if she had not died in October. She talked about Tristan, her brother, all of her life. I have grown up knowing about him. I told Mama Grant that if God gives us a child that we would name him/her Tristan. We changed the name from an “a” to an “e” once we found out it was a girl. The “e” has a more feminine appeal to it. After she was born Mama Grant called her a he for a long time. She later transitioned to an “it” and then later called her a she. It was hard for a 90-something year old lady to change after knowing Tristan one way all of her life. The Synclair name came from Sinclair Ferguson. I read a book on the Sermon on the Mount by Sinclair Ferguson that was quite awesome and I thought it would be cool to call our first child after his name. I don’t think it was so much him as we thought the name was cool.

Tristen was born almost 20 years to the day after Meredith was born. It was sort of odd. She is also the spitting image of Meredith. The appearances are uncanny as she has gotten older. Haydn was born 20 years after Matthew. I got a girl and boy and then 20 years later I got another set of girl/boy. After Haydn was born I told Lucia one day when I was going to change his diaper that I was going to change “Matthew’s diaper”. It was odd. It was not premeditated. I have gotten Tristen and Haydn confused several times since then. Their appearance to Meredith and Matthew is quite odd.

Tristen was the perfect child. She never caused us a minute’s trouble. She slept on cue. She slept in the car when we started up. She hardly cried and she was almost always obedient. She played alone. She loved playing by herself so if we had something to do she would keep herself occupied. She did what she was told when she was told. The desire to play by herself and not participate in community has been a problem since, but it was nice when she was a kid. We didn’t realize how the independence was going to backfire. She loved to serve and picked-up quickly on what we taught her. She liked Riverdance, the video and soon developed a huge love for any kind of videos.

She was such a treasure that I didn’t think I could ever love another kid. She was so perfect. Everybody loved Tristen. Chuck Crumpton soon started calling her “Tritter” and it stuck. Everyone called her that. She soon became sort of a mascot for our little church. She fit in and everyone spoiled her. She took longer than most kids to get potty trained, walking and other activities. She seems to be more cerebral than athletic.

Matthew Justin

Matthew Justin was born on December 12, 1983. The Dallas Cowboys were playing the Washington Redskins that day. As an immature 22 year old I was torn between going to the delivery room and keeping up with the game. Fortunately the game was on a TV not too far from the delivery room. Also in those days the dad didn’t have a priority like they do today about going into the room where the kid was being born. Matthew had no complications and was born on time. He was my boy! This filled out our family perfectly. It was a good time for us.

Mother bought Meredith a large baby doll so she would not feel left out with all the hoopla about Matthew being born. I remember one time when somebody came to the door to see Matthew and Meredith answered the door and immediately said, “He is in there.” She said this w/o the guests asking anything or saying anything. I struggled with that because I felt like Meredith felt she was moved to the backseat and didn’t matter anymore. My first tension as a dad with two kids. I soon realized that Meredith loved Matthew and there was no jealousy at all. They became best buddies and did everything together.

This was right at the time when I became fascinated with cameras and bought a Canon AE1. I went to a class and began taking lots of pics. Some of my favorite ones were of Matthew sitting in a chair playing with an old Brownie Camera.

I remember one time when Matthew walked up on the church steps at Grace Baptist Church and there was a dog on the porch-type-area. Matthew started petting the dog and said, “Puppet”. Our pastor was standing there and we both looked at one another and laughed real hard. Matthew was in Awanas or was familiar with it and we did puppet programs a lot. I was the Puppeteer at the time so he was growing up around puppets.

Probably my biggest disappointment with Matthew were the lost expectations. I planned to throw the ball with him and teach him how to play sports. Him leaving at four years of age was an incredible blow. It was even more difficult to watch another man teach him how to play ball. As I went to his games and watched him run the bases and swing and miss and sometimes hit and interact in the dugout ripped my heart out. At one time I helped his step-dad in practice as I fielded balls. I tried to pretend everything was okay. At one moment he was mine for four years and two years later he was playing ball with another man who would get drunk and verbally abuse him. I don’t know if he ever hit Matthew. I felt lost in it all. I cannot even imagine how Matthew felt. I remember asking him one time that if he could have anything he wanted what would it be. He said to have his daddy and mommy together again.

Meredith Nicole

Meredith Nicole Thomas was born on September 03, 1981. She was named after Meredith Baxter Birney, a movie actress I was infatuated with. Her mother’s water broke late one night while I was watching Quincy, the medical show with Jack Klugman. I asked her if we could wait till the show was over before we went to the hospital. She did. What a jerk.

Meredith was born at Presbyterian hospital in Charlotte. She was pre-mature by about 5 weeks. Everything went well and her lungs developed and she was fine. She was the child of my dreams. A beautiful kid. We had so much fun together. I took her everywhere, played with her constantly. Everyday was an adventure. I remember when she was three I dropped her off at Bible Baptist Tabernacle School to stay in the daycare. It was before dawn. I can still see her standing in the hallway crying her eyes out as I was pulling away. I was looking through the plate glass door. It was a horrible experience for a dad. She wasn’t thrilled with it either.

Meredith was a sensitive kid. She had a tender heart. One night, after our move to Greenville, we were having our family devotions around the kerosene (Kerosun) heater in the kitchen. It was winter. I remember talking about hell that night. I didn’t realize it, but Meredith was looking at the orange-red glow of the flame and heating element in the heater while I was talking. Either that night or the next she came into my office and asked me if she could be a Christian because she didn’t want to go to hell. I put her off that night and told her we would talk about it later. The next night she came in again and asked me a similar question. I don’t remember if we talked that night or if I put her off again, but she was persistent and was not going to let it go. I was hoping this would be the case. I told her how to become a Christian and she prayed to asked Christ to save her. She was five years old. Shortly after that she was baptized. It was a thrill of a lifetime. I truly loved that girl. We were buddies.

The day they left was w/o doubt the worst day of my life. I cannot even imagine how difficult it was for them. What went through their head, I have no idea. I still can get angry at times in my soul when I think about this time in my life and how that devastated our family. It was a dark time, the clouds of which are still not too far off.