June, the traditional month for brides, is fast approaching, and this pastor has been hard at work praying I won’t have to put on my suit and officiate at any June weddings this year so I can spend those four Saturdays riding my motorcycle instead. My wife and I were married in June 32 years ago, and when I think of what we put our poor minister through, I want to dig him up and apologize. We were married 100 miles from his house, which meant he had to drive down the day before, conduct the Friday night rehearsal, and then sleep in the only hotel in town — a buggy hovel that rented rooms by the hour — because it was too far to return home. I’ve had to do the same thing more times than I can count, and I usually ended up wishing the couple had just eloped and saved everyone the trouble.
I’m not sure how June became the month for weddings. It’s a tradition we seem unwilling to shake, even though February is a much better month for weddings because we’re all tired of being stuck inside and could do with a good party. Then the couple could honeymoon in the Caribbean, and it would be a nice escape from winter. What good is the Caribbean in June, when it’s just as warm and sunny back home? Plus, there’s a symbolism to winter weddings, the inference that it’s just the bride and groom standing together against a cold and gloomy world. All June promises is endless stretches of sunshine and roses, which is why so many people married in June get divorced when they hit their first patch of trouble. A wedding should prepare us not only for the best life has to offer, but also the worst. Sickness and health, richer and poorer, for better or worse. In June, it’s nearly impossible to convince anyone there might be sickness or poverty awaiting them. In February, sickness and poverty are all we expect, so health, wealth, and happiness are a nice surprise.
Every year, I ask my wife what she would like for our anniversary, and she always says the same thing: “There is nothing I want nor need.” This is the problem with being married to a Quaker. Just once, I wish she’d pretend to be an Episcopalian and say jewelry or flowers or candy. I would especially like it if she said candy.
It’s interesting, and I hadn’t considered this until now, but in all the years we’ve been married, my wife has never asked me what I wanted for our anniversary. The cultural expectation seems to be that wives should get anniversary gifts, but not husbands. There are a whole bunch of things I want, and would happily provide my wife with a list were she to ask. Which might be why she doesn’t.
I have three motorcycles, each of them long in the tooth. One is 17 years old, another is 32, and the third one is 42. That’s close to 100 in human years. I’m long overdue for a new bike, so that would be the first thing I would suggest. I already know she wouldn’t get me that, so I would have to go to the second gift on my list — a new truck, which she also wouldn’t get me. Which brings us to my third gift request — a new pocketknife, which is what she always buys me for my birthdays. I own 34 Case pocketknives, most of them gifts from my wife. I like pocketknives, but I can only use one at a time, so my other 33 knives sit in my sock drawer, tarnishing.
This year, I hope we make it to the fourth item on my list — Saturdays off. This means my wife will have to officiate my weddings for me, which will give me more time to ride the new motorcycle I’m going to buy for myself just as soon as my wife isn’t paying attention.
ast November, I wasn’t too surprised to hear the topic of an afternoon radio call-in program was Brittany Maynard, a terminally ill California woman who moved to Oregon to take advantage of the state’s death with dignity law and end her own life.
The fact that an attractive young woman made this decision caught the media’s attention and reignited debate on the issue of physician-assisted suicide. Her story also caught my interest, having gone through the slow and painful cancer death of my own wife.
The first caller said that Brittany’s husband should have talked her out of her decision. He was sure that her husband would regret losing her before the last possible moment. The caller said that he would give anything to have one more hour with his wife. I’m sure that is a common attitude, especially if the loved one has died suddenly, but it is not my experience. I would give anything to not have experienced the last week of my wife’s life.
As I see it, Brittany gave her husband a gift. He will not have memories of his beloved gradually losing her mind and control over her bodily functions. He will not have memories of watching the person he loves most moaning in pain. He will not have memories like the ones I have — of vomit and bedsores and things so horrible that I cannot bring myself to type them into this keyboard. He will not have memories of reaching the point where he started wishing that his wife, his partner of 38 years whom he loved with all his heart, would die. Those memories don’t go away; they come back in dreams and nightmares.
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The house I grew up in was built in 1913, in that murky era between horses and cars, when a homebuilder had to decide which way the transportation winds were blowing. The man who built the house evidently believed cars were a fad, so he constructed a barn behind the house. My father was always trying to park his too-big car in a too-small stall, like someone struggling into a too-tight pair of pants. Half the back end hung out. While the barn was a bust, storage-wise it was ideal, handily absorbing the flotsam and jetsam of my parents’ lives. Growing up, I spent many a rainy Saturday in that old barn mining for gold.
When my wife and I bought our first home, I began to fill the garage with all manner of useful items over my wife’s objections. We have five bicycles. Their tires are flat, their frames coated with dust, their chains rusted to the sprockets. But it’s nothing a bicycle pump and a squirt of WD-40 can’t fix. I have four bicycle pumps and three cans of WD-40. Supplies aren’t the problem; expectations are. If I fix the bikes, my wife will expect me to repair everything else and sell it all on Craigslist, which I have no intention of doing. There’s no sense raising her hopes only to see them dashed.
I have four lawn chairs I intend to fix just as soon as I find the time to get the webbing to repair them. I bought them 20 years ago at a garage sale. The lady selling them apparently didn’t understand their value. The seats need to be replaced, but it’s nearly impossible to find a good old-fashioned lawn chair anymore. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve tripled in value. With CD interest rates running around 2 percent, I can’t afford not to keep them.
As a general rule, my wife avoids the garage. But every now and then she wanders in, poking around. She invariably sees something she thinks I don’t need and quizzes me about it. Like the time she came upon my watering can.
“Why do we need that?” she asked. “There’s a hole in it.”
“It’s nothing that a little duct tape can’t fix,” I said. I have six rolls, and possibly more, in an old refrigerator.
Her efforts to reform me reach a fever pitch each spring, a season customarily associated with putting things in order. Spring is my least favorite time of year.
In April my wife hints at her intentions. “Wouldn’t it be nice if there were room in the garage to park our cars,” she says. I let her remark pass. It’s only the warm-up.
In early May, always on a Saturday morning, she reminds me the town dump is having a free community day, and that we can throw away anything we want for free.
As if she has to remind me! It’s my favorite day of the year. I drive to the dump and bring back a truckload of perfectly fine stuff other people have discarded. That’s how I got my three-wheeled lawn mower with the blown engine. I’m going to fix it one of these days.
Not long ago, my wife and I were watching television at my parent’s house and a show about hoarders came on. Their houses are stacked from floor to ceiling. A psychiatrist was saying it’s a mental illness, an excuse we trot out when we don’t want to face the truth. Let’s put the blame where it belongs, on architects who 70 years ago stopped designing houses with adequate storage. My parent’s house had a full basement, a full attic, a two-story barn, and three extra rooms with no specific purpose, to be used at the homeowner’s discretion. As a consequence, my parents got along just fine. If the architect who designed our house 22 years ago knew what he was doing, my wife and I wouldn’t have to argue every spring.
Life is good for actor Kirk Cameron. In 2008, he starred in the hit independent movie Fireproof and released his autobiography, aptly titled Still Growing.
In Fireproof, Cameron plays a firefighter named Caleb, who is called a hero at work but facing marital strife and burnout at home. The inspiring and action-packed film cost $500,000 to make but as of early February has raked in more than $33 million in ticket sales and is now out on DVD.
While forever linked to his role as the lovable teenage troublemaker Mike Seaver on the award-winning TV series Growing Pains, the actor did an about face in his teens, converting to Christianity and leaving the Hollywood scene behind. In 1991, the former teen heartthrob married his on-screen girlfriend, actress Chelsea Noble. Seventeen years later, the couple—along with their six children—remains happily together.
The Post recently caught up with the actor to learn more about his latest movie, his family, and his faith.
In Fireproof, the firemen emphasize the firefighters’ creed “Never leave your partner behind.” While a theme in the movie, is this also a key to successful marriages?
Absolutely. Never leave your partner behind. Statistics today tell us that more than half of people who say “I do” at the altar end up with a failed marriage before long. In this movie, we wanted to uphold a very, very high standard of marriage in a day when marriage is attacked and undermined in many ways. The writers, producers, and I wanted to say, “No, marriage is honorable, sacred, and wonderful—a foundation for a family.”
Your character lives in a strained relationship on the verge of divorce. Both parties blame the problem on lack of respect. You say, “Marriages aren’t fireproof. Sometimes you get burned.” Do you believe that all marriages can be saved?
If including all possibilities, I would say yes. Now, there are extreme circumstances where marriages are just destroyed beyond hope of recovery. I was talking to a friend the other day who did everything he could possibly do to save his marriage, but his wife was just absolutely set on a divorce. You can’t make somebody love you and stay in a marriage if they don’t want to. But more often than not, both people suffer from the same thing—a chronic case of selfishness. If one person can find what it takes to make an about face and put 200 percent into loving their spouse, the effort can transform a person. Suddenly an antagonistic spouse begins to melt and warm up. Pretty soon, he or she starts to bloom into the flower you married. That’s what love can do. It’s certainly not easy. It takes hard work. For many people today, it’s just so easy to trade in your spouse for a newer model.
Your character, Caleb, questions his faith in the movie. Did he mirror your personal struggles with faith and belief?
Yes. I call myself a recovering atheist. When I was young, I never went to church. We never talked about God — never saw the need for it. Things were going great in my life. I was 9 years old and in the entertainment industry. Growing Pains was going great. I just started asking questions like, What happens when you die? Walking down that path and asking those questions led me to a place where really, with all my heart’s desire, I turned my heart to God and allowed God to make me the person that he created me to be. That has just transformed my life. When I get a chance to share that with people on a personal level or in an inspirational movie like Fireproof, I consider it a privilege.
Was there one central message you wanted to convey in the film?
A line in the movie keeps coming back to me. My character’s wife is talking with her girlfriends, and they’re consoling her. One of the ladies says, “A man has got to learn to be a hero to his wife before he can be one to anybody else.” She’s absolutely right. If you’re getting an A at work and a D at home, you’re not successful. You made a commitment and a vow. I know that marriage is hard and everyone has got their unique situations, but a man has to learn to be a hero to his wife and kids first before he can be a real hero.
What is the “Love Dare” challenge, and how did it translate into a book?
In the movie, the “Love Dare” is the 40-day challenge passed from father to son. It was just a plot device in the movie. There wasn’t a published book titled The Love Dare until after the movie was released, then everyone asked where to get that book. They wrote the book quickly so that they could release it with the opening of the movie. The 40-day challenge is to love your spouse unconditionally. Halfway through the dare, you realize you can’t do it. The standard for unconditional love goes against so much of your feelings, as a person who deals with pride and ego. You soon realize that “I don’t think I can do this without some help.” You then turn to the source of love and the creator of marriage and ask for help me.
Is it true that the film cost about $500,000 and grossed more than $33 million?
Yes. We were all very surprised when it turned out to stay in the top 10 and be the No. 1 independent movie last year. No one expected that. But we were confident that it was going to hit the bull’s eye because the script was great. We had high hopes and good expectations but the film’s success really exceeded what we thought would happen.
Did you donate your time and effort to support a personal mission?
I didn’t have a paycheck. I agreed to donate my time up front, like everybody had done in the move. And Sherwood Pictures — the filmmaker — made a donation to the nonprofit camp for terminally sick children and their families that my wife and I run. It’s called Camp Firefly.
Would you tell us about the camp?
Camp Firefly is a camp my wife and I started when we were working together on Growing Pains. We met many children through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. These were kids with terminal illnesses, who wished to come to the set, meet the cast, and get an autograph. Our hearts went out to these families who were dealing with such tragedy in their lives. We wanted to do more than sign a piece of paper, so we put together an all expenses paid week’s vacation. Then, we invited six of these families to get away from the hospitals, needles, and treatments to simply be together as a family and have fun. Forget about being sick. Be around other families who understand what they’re going through. We spend time together as families, getting to know each other, making new friends, talking about life and death, what’s important and what’s not. It turned out to be a real blessing in our life and in the lives of over a 100 families who had come to camp during the last 20 years. If you go to www.campfirefly.com or www.kirkcameron.com, you can find out all about it.
In Fireproof, you had a physically demanding role. Do you exercise regularly?
It was physically demanding. I like to keep in shape, but I had to gain 15 pounds of good, solid muscle for this movie to not only look the role but to be able to carry some of the equipment and do things I had to do. I followed firefighters before the movie to research and prepare, which was very helpful. When you really realize what firefighters do, the courage it takes, the way that they put their lives on the line for other people, and the discipline to be ready in an instant to rescue somebody’s life while you put your own in danger, they command a lot of respect.
Your wife Chelsea came in for the kiss at the end of the movie instead of the actress playing your wife. What was the reasoning behind that?
When I married Chelsea, it was important for me to reassure her that my love is for her alone, so she didn’t have to worry about me being one of these actors who’s going out with other women. I’m not going to be kissing any other woman but Chelsea. That is a promise I made to my wife regardless of what it did to my career. When we did this movie, the writers were on the same page and thought, Wouldn’t it be great to write this romantic scene that is just screaming for a kiss? Then, the writers would have Kirk’s wife put on the dress and wig the actress was wearing and shoot it in silhouette, so you can’t tell. It allowed me to keep my commitment to my wife and make the movie great and romantic.
Anything coming up in the future that people might want to know about?
I recently wrote and released an autobiography called Still Growing, which is a fun, entertaining journey back into the 1980s. You get a feel for what it was like to be a teen idol and how I wound as I am today.
You and your wife have six kids and been married for 17 years. How do you maintain autonomy from the Hollywood community?
I just really dig being with my family most of all, and I don’t live right in the center of the commotion in Los Angeles. I live in the outskirts. We have a nice, big backyard for our kids, and my life is really about my family. My friends are really not in the industry—a separation that is just healthy overall. Your best friends are not the people you’re competing against in business.