I Love New Mexico

About all things New Mexican

Posted by admin on May - 29 - 2011 | 7 Comments


My handsome Daddy - Porter High School 1950

May 29.  It’s John F. Kennedy’s birthday.  And Bob Hope’s.  Both undisputedly great men in the history of our nation. 

My Uncle LE, Dad, My Uncle Marvin and Grandpa Terry - 1935, Porter, NM

It’s also the birthday of my Dad, Kenneth Terry.  He was born right here in Quay County in 1932, the youngest of Thomas Etheridge and Lenora Estelle Terry, and the only one born away from home. 

I was trying to imagine this morning how it was when Granny Terry brought him home, how she probably held and nursed her new baby while she stirred something on the stove – even in her 80’s I seldom saw my Granny Terry sit still, and with a houseful of kids (in a very small house), I’m pretty sure she didn’t have a lot to time to spend sitting around admiring her new boy.  

Porter Elementary Photo of Kenneth Terry

But here’s what I’m certain of – I’m sure she and my Grandpa Terry loved him.  Because there’s no way my Dad came by his capacity to be so unconditionally loving unless he was first loved like that. 

Dad dancing with my Mom in 1975 at their 25th anniversary celebration

I write this blog, “I love New Mexico”, mostly because it’s true, because I really do love New Mexico and I want folks out there to know what it’s all about, that we’re not just a dry dusty desert destination with little character.  But I also write it because I know the world needs just a bit more – more enthusisam, more encouragement to get out there and see what’s just around the corner, more optimism.  And I write it because my Dad has inspired me all my life to see and believe in the better side of the world.

My Dad is the happiest and most optimistic person I’ve ever known.  If you ask him how he’s doing, his standard response is, “If I were any better, I’d have to be two people.”  And he means it.  He truly means it.  Despite years of back-breaking hard work and financial hardship, he truly believes that he has been over-abundantly blessed in his life.  He knows his cup runneth over, every day.  And he makes sure we all know it.

My Uncles Milton, LE and Marvin, with my Dad (far right)

His is not a wide-eyed simple Pollyanna sort of optimism and care – he’s been to countries and seen abject poverty and the result of political abuse.  In Uganda he saw outdoor classrooms of hungry children who had no books and no shoes; In India he saw beggars starving on the side streets; in the Philippines he slept in a chicken house where the cockroaches ate his cough drops because there was no room in the houses for the visiting missionary.  In El Salvador he saw children suffering from a lack of medical attention, and in Chile and Bolivia he saw the results of political unrest. 

Mom and Dad in their disaster relief worker attire

But what my Daddy really saw in those places, and in the people he meets every day here in Quay County, or at Sturgis where he and my Mother spent a week talking to bikers about God, or at Mardi Gras where he slept on the floor of a New Orleans church so he could minister to people of  the streets, or in Slidell, La, where he and Mom spent three weeks rebuilding after Katrina – what he really saw was that people are good and decent and deserving of love and attention and care.  Before each visit was over, my Dad has made hundreds of friends just by seeing and believing in the goodness and potential of those people.

Of course that kind of optimism and belief in the human spirit doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  My Dad would always say that his first love is God, and it’s his unyielding faith in the fact that someone else is in charge of his life that gives him such a determination to see the best in everyone.  He knows it will all be okay in the end, and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. 

His second great love is my Mom.  After 61 years of marriage, they’re still sweet and affectionate with one another, sometimes so affectionate it embarrasses their grandchildren.  He leaves her notes telling her how important she is to him, and he’s quick to say, “Your Mom’s the prettiest thing in the world, isn’t she?”

And then there is the rest of his family.  I have never spent an hour with my Dad in which he failed to give me a compliment, tell me how smart or beautiful or clever I am.  That’s powerful stuff, folks.  Hearing all your life that you’re amazing makes you pretty certain that life is good.  When my friends say their parents were hard on them, when other people complain about their unhappy childhoods, I try to suppress my disbelief.  Surely that’s not true – my memories are so the opposite of that.

So, I learned at the feet of the master of happiness.  My Dad has always chosen to believe that life is a gift of the greatest magnitude, and that his job is to enjoy it and give himself back to it. 

With my kids last winter, after dragging them through the snow behind the pickup on a car hood

For a long time I’ve wanted to write a blog post about my Dad, but I’ve never felt like there were words enough to express what he is.  I’ve been sure that whatever I wrote would fall short.  And I still feel that way. 

This evening we’ll take cake (I’m baking) and ice cream (Viola’s making) to their house and we’ll sit around the table and celebrate his birthday and he’ll tell a story or two to make us laugh, and he’ll play with his great-grandbabies, and he’ll smile at his good fortune, thinking what a blessing we all are to him.  But the opposite is really the truth.  He is a great blessing and a great teacher to us.  I’m still learning.

With his youngest great-grandchild, Kyle, last month

JFK and Bob Hope and my Dad.  It might seem pretentious to add his name to that list, but I don’t think so.  He’s touched the lives of thousands of people in far-flung places all over the world.  His smile and his hand on the shoulder of someone who needs a little faith and encouragement has made all the difference in hundreds of days for countless people.  I’m just incredibly lucky that I’m one of them.

7 Responses so far.

  1. Bri says:

    As happy tears roll down my face, I can not stop smiling and these words are so true. You have described my Pop to a “t,” when I truly thought no words could describe him. He is one amazing guy….full of amazing stories, loaded with advice (You always get good advice in your birthday card! I look forward to it every year and now Aaron does too! Whether the advice is a reminder to keep God first or to not flick boogers, it’s good advice!), overflowing with love for God, Granny, our family, and everyone else in this world, full of compassion for all, big or small, rich or poor, makes no difference, and like you said, an unfailing faith in God and and eternal positive outlook. I know (I think we all know) that when things are rough or we just need to be reminded to put our faith back in God, or just need a pep talk, we call Pop and Granny. They gently remind us to pray, and keep God first along side a few stories of hardships they’ve endured in their life, follow up by lots of live and encouragement and hugs, whether you’re right there around Grannys table or through the phone. We are truly blessed. As kaedyn grows up, he loves to “work” alongside Pop. He tinkered with a trailer for hours with Pop and his newest story is how Pop told him that if you drink too many cokes and not enough veggies, your teeth fall out. And Pop proceeded to pop his teeth out! Now Kaedyn brushes all the time and tries more veggies! Thank you for finding words to describe and celebrate our Pop! Happy Birthday Pop!

  2. Linda Lovett says:

    I love your Mom and Dad. Your blog post is great, Bunny. Thank you for writing.

  3. Karen Watts says:

    My goodness…where do I begin. In 1981 John, Tanya, JJ and I moved to Logan New Mexico. The smallest town I had ever lived in up to that point was Albuquerque! I thought, “oh my gosh”..then I met Kenneth and Betty. Betty was my mentor. She was the most loving, kind, forgiving woman I had ever met. She truly was the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31. And, after meeting Kenneth for the first time, I had to add to Betty’s virtues “patient and longsuffering”! I don’t care what was going on in Kenneth’s life, there was always a smile on his face. He could always get me to laugh no matter what the situation. And he he had a story to go with every situation..and if he didn’t have one he would make one up. He never hesitated to put on a wig and a bridesmaid dress when I asked him to. And when he and Ronnie put on those pantyhose at the Fall Festival..priceless! I have lost both my mom and dad. I always wanted a “big” loving family. And, Bunny, I never could imagine anyone having such a wonderful childhood as all of ya’ll did..at least until I met your father and mother. Tell the “old fart” I love him very much! And if it’s alright with them, I would think it a great privilege to call Kenneth and Betty my Mom and Dad also. To the Terry children, grandchildred and great-grandchildren, don’t waste one minute of your lives not holding on to each other and the wonderful matriarch and partiarch of your family. I love and miss you all, Karen.

    • Bethe Terry-Cunningham says:

      Love this post and Bunny, love that mommie and daddy of yours….man did God ever Bless Quay County and the world with two wonderful people….happy, happy birthday!! Bethe San

  4. Lynn says:

    What a tribute. Your dad would probably be a little embarrassed but I think it’s great and a fantastic way to honor him. I hope you have him for many more years. Happy Birthday (belated) to your daddy!

    (And I really like your statement that the world needs a little more optimism and enthusiasm. I couldn’t agree more.)

  5. Roxie says:

    What a wonderful tribute to your dad. He is truly blessed and a blessing.

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