Nic Davidson is bouncing with positive energy. In some ways he reminds me of the squirrel in Ice Age who is constantly trying to get the acorn, except infused with a confident intelligence and resounding spiritual clarity. Nic is a youth pastor by profession, a convert to Catholicism, who will wait until someone brings up the faith before launching into his extensive knowledge of Catholic history and his deep love of God. He tries his best to respectfully contain his zeal around those who are not religious. He is warm, engaging, and knowledgeable, and there are few topics he seems uncomfortable discussing. Indeed, he is quite a talker.
Nic was born and raised in Duluth, Minnesota. “It’s okay. It’s a good place. I got bitter towards the last five years, because I just got tired of the cold. Never liked the cold when I was younger. Great to be around my family, but I hate the cold.”
He moved out when he went to college in Minneapolis. “It was warmer. Two hours warmer.” He met his wife there, and they were married in 2001. “We met in an audition for a one-act, and then we got cast together. We played Rolf and Liesl from the Sound of Music. ‘I Am Sixteen Going On Seventeen.’ That’s the scene we had to do. I was the last choice. I don’t have a musical theatre voice, so to my buddy who cast her, I said, ‘Hey if you need a guy, I would love to be in a scene with this girl.’ He’s like ‘Yeah okay, if I can’t find anyone else on this earth then I’ll call you.’ He called me two weeks before because he couldn’t find anyone. I always joke that when she and I met, and we started rehearsing, she had a boyfriend, but not by the end of the rehearsal. But it was only timing, she was planning on breaking up with him. Our first picture together is of us doing that kiss on-stage during a performance.”
His parents were born in Duluth. “My mom had me when she was seventeen, with a guy, and he didn’t come from… he came from a really bad home. He was abusive to my mom and he was an alcoholic and stuff. My mom got pregnant, and the way my family found out was: my grandpa was told to stay away from this guy, and my grandpa showed up at this cabin they were at, grabbed her out of the cabin and was taking her to the car, and was like, ‘Stay away from my daughter.’ And he answered, ‘Alright well I’ll see you in about nine months.’ That’s how the family found out. They got a restraining order out on him, so I didn’t know him until I was eighteen. I met him just because of curiosity. When I was two my mom married Mike, he’s like my dad, my adopted dad. He was the only dad I knew, growing up. So they got married when she was nineteen, and I was two.
“When I was ten, I was looking at my baby book, and you know how they always have a family tree? One entire side of the family tree, each branch was scribbled out and rewritten with a new name. And at ten I was thinking ‘What the heck? She made a mistake on every branch on one side of the tree.’ I remember she was like, ‘Well, we’ll have a talk,’ and made it formal all of a sudden. She was really good about it because she never, she didn’t divulge until I asked, all through the years. At that point she just said, ‘Well because there used to be a bunch of names on that side, is all.’ For a ten-year-old, I was like, ‘Alright.’ Within a year I had thought about it more, and I asked, ‘Well why were there other names?’ She said, ‘Well the daddy you have now wasn’t the daddy you had before. He’s not in our life.’ And I was like ‘Okay that’s fine.’ Then as I got older I would ask more and more. Whenever it came up she would answer really honestly, but never forcing it on me, which was really nice because when I was fifteen, and going through all the angst, then I asked, and she told me most of everything, at that point. For me, she did the right thing. When I was curious, she was totally honest with me. And we were really close. It’s funny, I always say we grew up together because she was so young when she had me that we were really close, so she was comfortable being honest. She would say it wasn’t his fault all the way, but he wasn’t a nice guy, because his dad was highly abusive, like would slam his head against the walls and put him in the hospital. That was his upbringing.
“I was open about it with the dad that I did have. I told him when I was eighteen, ‘I want you to know I’m gonna meet Chuck, but it’s not cause I don’t love you, it’s just curiosity.’ I didn’t have one of those after-school special, ‘Oh I really need to meet him’ things. I just wanted to know more or less why. I had a solid home, my mom was great and my dad was really quiet…he wasn’t…he was a good man, he wasn’t a good husband.”
“You’re talking about Mike?”
“Yeah. They divorced when I was seventeen. It was never a bad home, he went to church with us every Sunday, he just never talked at all. He works long long hours, he comes from a family… I would say they’re lumberjacks. Five massive burly men, and they work hard, and they don’t communicate a lot. He didn’t communicate, so they’re divorced and they’re better friends now, our family is more calm. They fought all those seventeen years.
“That’s when I met Chuck, after the divorce. That was fun too, because I had never known him but we had the same mannerisms, we look a lot alike. Growing up my mom would accidentally call me him all the time, especially when she was mad: ‘Chuck! Nic! Just sit down!’ I was nervous, and he was so fidgety and nervous too. I’ll fidget with things, and so when I got done I had this pile of shredded napkin and I looked over and he had the same pile in front of him. He’s the same, in the nurture-nature thing, a lot of the nature’s the same, like we walk the same, but maybe more our moral fiber is different, as a result of upbringing.”
I ask him to describe his mother. He had earlier told me that despite going to a Bible college, he had considered himself an atheist for the better part of a year, and he built on that story to describe his mother.
“So my mom…so I told you about when I was atheist in Bible school, I always sum up my mom in that moment when at the church, I gave God the finger and I walked upstairs and I called her right away. She just said, ‘I love you, if you die an atheist I’ll always love you.’ That’s the way she was, she was really sacrificial, really giving, completely all-in. She was the perfect mom for me. She was always honest. One time I found, I don’t know what it’s called, dipping snuff, or chewing tobacco. I told her, ‘Mom I found this today,’ when I was seventeen. She’s like ‘Wanna try it? I’ve never tried it, let’s do it.’ Disgusting. That’s the way she was with me, very approachable, I never had a curfew.
He begins to tell me about his grandfather, Richard Anderson (“Same as MacGyver”, he says), whom he considers a father figure.
“My grandfather was solid. He’s the man, he’s a good good man. So I had a good male influence. We lived with him for a long time, until she got married when I was two. He was always there. When I was three days old, we came home from the hospital, he was driving home carrying me in the truck. I was always with grandpa. I know people have issues if they grow up without a father figure, but I didn’t have that. He wasn’t my dad, but he was the male that I needed, he gave me the: ‘Here’s what a guy is and does, and here’s how you treat people.’ I had a good upbringing, because of him.”
I ask him if there are any memories of his parents that stick out for him.
“Yeah. From when I was a little kid, there was a time when, like I said, she and my dad always fought. They fought all the time. It was right from the beginning, and I remember I was five years old, and my dad had just stormed out, and my mom was sitting there crying. And I had, I don’t even know what they were, I had this stack of cards of some kind that had writing on them. It doesn’t matter, whatever they are. I remember I was playing with them because I liked them, they were mine, and my mom was crying. I remember I said, ‘It’s okay mom, it’ll be alright, we have this card.’ And it made her laugh, and I remember thinking ‘Oh wow I made her feel a little better.’ Then I realized how stupid it was, I critically thought, ‘Ok this actually helps in no way.’ But as I said it I thought, ‘This will help, if I tell her we have this card, this will help.’ I don’t know why that always stuck out, I think it’s because I saw my mom cry a lot, and I was able to make her laugh then. For whatever reason, I always remembered that one.
“I think my dad, the only, I guess it’s not the only good memory, I don’t have bad memories. The only memory that stands out is the day that he left, because of the divorce. We were still living at the house. Like I said, my dad never really talked a lot. He was packing up his stuff out of his crappy dresser, he was packing it and he was crying, and he hugged me. I remember, even as a kid, bawling – I always cry, I’m a crier – but I remember thinking at the time, ‘Okay this is one of those moments, this is one of the moments that you actually won’t forget, this is the movie moment.’ Because I was seventeen years old. It was tough on my dad, because my dad crapped it up for the first fourteen years of the marriage, and then toward the end when my mom was like, ‘I’m filing for divorce,’ it woke him up. It was too late for her. But he changed. That kind of hit him, and I remember that about him.
“My grandpa there’d be too many memories to stand out. He’s quiet, he’s soft-hearted. My grandpa he’s the farmer man, the ‘You don’t say a lot, but when you say it you mean it’ type. When he would talk it was it was always good and it was always loving. He’d do anything. I totaled my car when I was in North Carolina, and within a day he was there, he drove all the way with his truck. He’s driven all over the nation for me. I don’t have one good one. I should, there’s just too many.
“And Chuck. I guess that memory with the pile of napkin would be the closest thing to a good memory. He’s got good intentions, he’s a well-intentioned man.”
I ask him if there’s anything he wants to add.
“The only thing I would think of to add to the end, and I’m always hesitant to be that way, but I when I got into college, I found myself always wanting older male approval. I started to realize that I had formed my view of God based on the male examples in my life. I started to think that God was like my biological father, so God was just pissed and drunk and abusive, like he was just an angry…whatever. Or he was silent and he would leave. I had to work through that, that was the biggest stuff I had to work though, just, ‘Well these are the guys that were in my life, what is He like?’ If God’s a “he”, you know. Having taken from then, when I started asking all those questions, till now, to get to know Him, God, the one that they were supposed to be acting like, God the father, the idea we get from Scripture. Then taking the time to get to know Him and how He thinks of me and allowing Him that relationship, has really helped take all of the rest of them, not just in stride but to put them in their correct structure and framework. I always hesitate to bring God into stuff, but I think the only reason I am what I am, if there’s any good, is as a result of that relationship. Being able to, in my worst moments in marriage, my worst moments in relationships all through college, after going through all that to be able to turn to Him as a father, and actually having that father who’s the perfect father, to be the father they all should have been in a sense. Seeing the goodness that we’re made for, and seeing the goodness in Him, in my life, helped me to be what they weren’t. I would be remiss to not mention that, not to be overly religious. It’s always about His goodness, through all of that, when it all goes to crap, when they each fail you in some way, the fact is that He hasn’t.”