1000 Wells

 

Archive for the 'Story' Category

Written February 01st, 2007 with No Comments »

“What are you waiting for? If not now, then when?”

I wasn’t really sure what to say to Dave, in response to his inquiry. He had a forceful way about him that seemed honestly persuasive, initially, but quickly became demanding, even domineering. He meant well, and that was the source of my problem. How do you tell someone to shut the hell up when you know they are right?

“Seriously, what in the world are you waiting for … ?” Dave continued as he reached down and turned the car stereo off to command even more off my attention.
“I know Dave, I know.” I said with more than a hint of frustration on my lips. “I’m stopping. We’ll help the old man. Man, just relax.”

I made sure I properly clicked my turn signal to the right before I pulled off to the side of the very busy route. I gently applied pressure to the brake and glanced in my rearview mirror as my Escalade came to a halt. I saw the old man retrieving his tattered backpack from the berm as he weakly jogged toward our vehicle. He looked old. He looked tired. He looked hungry. He looked like a complete bum.

“Man, this old man looks pretty haggard.” I said to Dave, “You know he’s going to smell pretty bad, right?”
“Yeah. He probably will stink like three-day-old funk.” Dave replied. “He definitely hasn’t had a shower in some time, by the looks of it.”
“Dave, seriously man, I’m not sure about this …”
“Everything will be fine.” Dave interrupted. “Besides, it’s the right thing to do, right?”
“Yeah, I suppose it is.” I said as I gave the custom scent hanging off my rearview mirror a few test sniffs just to make sure it was up for the inevitable challenge approaching via the passenger side of the car. “I’m just concerned the smell will become a permanent characteristic of my SUV. I have a date with Holly tonight, you know? I can’t be stinkin’. Where are we taking this guy anyway?”
“You know, I’m not really sure.” Dave said. “I hope it’s not too far, I have a three o’clock biology class I can’t miss. What time is it man?”
“It’s two o’clock.”
“Two o’clock! Ah shit!” Dave exclaimed as he threw both arms in the air. “It’s already two o’clock! I can’t miss another class or I’ll be over the …”
“If not now when, Dave?” I interrupted with a side of sarcastic retaliation. “If not now, when bro?”

Dave slouched into the passenger’s seat of my Escalade, clearly relieved of his earlier enthusiasm for the old man. He nervously adjusted his custom-fitted Starter cap as he reached for his pocket PC to double check his afternoon schedule. He glanced into the passenger side mirror to catch a view of the old man’s approach. He was getting closer.

“Man, I’m telling you, I’m going to miss my class if we pick the old man up.”
“It’s too late now Dave.” I responded. “He’s coming! Man, he looks like he really stinks …”
“Look man,” Dave interjected with his typical thinly disguised persuasion, “I can’t miss my class, and you have a date tonight with Holly. Holly isn’t going anywhere with you in a stink-filled Escalade. You know that, right? I will be in serious academic trouble if I miss one more biology class. We have to …”
“What Dave?!?” I semi-shouted. “Leave? Do you want us to leave this old man on the side of the road after we made him think we were seriously going to pick him up? It would have been better if we just kept going, but no, you had to get started with that whole let’s help our fellow-less-fortunate-man routine …”
“Well,” Dave interrupted, “It was a good idea. It looked good on paper, at least.”
“He could be dangerous, you know?” I said as I calmed myself down a bit. I admit it, Dave’s impulsive nature was getting the better of my patience.
“Yeah,” Dave said, “What in the hell are we doing picking up the old man anyway? He could be a serial-killer or an escapee from some asylum.”

The old man was closing in on the passenger side’s rear quarter panel. I had my eyes on him via the rearview mirror. Dave was peeking at him through the passenger side mirror. We both were silent for a few moments, nervously contemplating our next move.

“I really want to have a good date with Holly tonight. She’s so amazing!” I said.
“Yeah,” Dave replied, “I really don’t want to fail my biology class, man. I can’t miss another one”
That’s was all we needed to say to one another. I quickly threw the Escalade into drive and accidentally spun out atop the berm’s loose dirt and gravel in my excitement to leave the scene before the old man’s hand actually took hold of the Escalades’ back door handle. We headed back to our Franklin & Marshall dorm, with a quickness. I tried not to look back at the old man as we were leaving him on the side of the road, but my eyes could not resist the Escalades’ rearview mirror. The old man was just standing there, completely void of emotion, in the midst of the dust cloud we created as we spun out, on his berm. He dropped his tattered backpack back.

“We really should have helped the old man.” Dave said.
“Yeah,” I replied, “We should donate some money to a shelter or something. That’s what we should have done in the first place. Seriously, do we want to help one old man, or ten of them?”
“Now that makes a lot of sense, man.” Dave agreed. “Why apply a band-aid when you can actually cure the disease?”
“We should look up a shelter when we get back and give some money to it.” I suggested.
“We’ll hook up tomorrow and do that.” Dave said. “I have a two o’clock, and you’ll be out with Holly by the time I’m done. Tomorrow. We’ll hook up tomorrow and donate to a shelter. I hope they’ll take a credit card.”
“I’m sure they will,” I said. “It’s the 21st century Dave. Get with it. Everyone takes plastic.”

Written January 28th, 2007 with No Comments »

We are all born naked. We rush youth trying to become old. Then we beat time into delusion in our vain attempts to stay young. We refuse to die with grace and dignity. We prefer crowds to mirrors. We frame discussion in the past or future, forever avoiding the present. We are more ‘other’ than we are ‘ourselves’. We insist on defining ourselves by things we do, rather than who we really are when we are completely alone with the self in the dark.

We are the perpetual man & woman in the Garden of Eden, trembling in fear at the mere sight of our naked selves, and doing our very best to hide the nakedness with ridiculous fig leaves. We don’t fool anyone! We don’t even fool ourselves! God still calls out for us, by name, even though He already knows where we are hiding.

Kim sported fig leaves of her own. She was an honors graduate of the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA Program, President and Chief Executive Officer of Bartlett Marketing Partners, Inc., and a very successful entrepreneur. She wore designer business suits and the most exquisite of fashionable accessories. She also sported just enough blond hair dye to conceal time’s foreboding tracks.

Her fourteen-hour work days concluded with a tired click of her garage door remote and a lovingly ritualistic tucking in of her deep blue 2005 Jaguar XJ. Her Jaguar XJ rested for but a few peaceful hours in an oversized two-bay garage lining the cul-de-sac of a gated community in the Philly suburbs.

In spite of her American success story, Kim found herself struggling with an aging process that couldn’t be halted. She could, of course, continue her attempts to cosmetically hide it from others, but this did not relieve the personal and deep emotional effects time dealt her. She was still completely aware of what was occurring beneath her thinly decorated surface. Her long and stressful work hours helped little, but she could not stop. She needed to work long to buy much. Temporary happiness is, after all, better than zero happiness, or so she rationalized.

Kim also struggled with extreme loneliness. All the money in the world could not change her personal reality. Her parents were gone and she had no brothers or sisters. Sometimes, and in spite of the loneliness, Kim considered her lack of siblings to be a blessing in disguise. Burying one’s parents was difficult enough. She was at least ensured of the impossibility of any repeat performances of the dreaded and expensive event.

She never married. Her career came first, always. Perhaps, this too was for the best. Intimacy was not a virtue in Kim’s world. It was wrought with the danger of investments never returned. In Kim’s world it was better to be alone then to risk being left utterly alone.

So, Kim continued on, moving in place, loosing herself in career and crowd. She refused the mirror, save the regular glances to check her decorative disguise. The illusion was, after all, much more comfortable than the nakedness lurking just beneath the surface of her life. Still, she was not happy. Still, she longed for internal rest & peace. She longed for something to make her whole. She silently cried out for it daily but never …

We are all born naked. It’s true. None of us have to die in such a helpless spiritual condition. In fact, none of us do.

Written January 27th, 2007 with No Comments »

There once lived a woman, in an age not too far removed from our own, who had not seen her children for sixteen years. The choice to leave them was her own. Her twenty year marriage to her husband was not a particularly healthy one. Jealousy, bitterness, rage, and a nagging feeling of nonacceptance gnawed at her fragile soul until it could no longer participate in such union. Her husband’s early drinking and philandering didn’t help matters either; he was a dog, in every sense of the word.

The normal rigors and obstacles marriage presents might have been better handled by the woman had her father not died during those early years when a child instinctively expects an over-abundant supply of nurture. She was only a year old when her mother was abruptly cast in the role of sole provider for a family of eight individuals. Nurture is not an option in a large family in serious survival mode.

Her life experiences - consciously realized or not - slowly mounted until the unstable pressure beneath the surface reached critical mass. It exploded and wiped out an entire family. This was the last thing she wanted to happen in this life, but she just could not stop it. It didn’t matter if she could see it coming. She just couldn’t disarm the bomb.

Her children were bitter, of course. They were forced to live their adolescent lives without a mother. The hand dealt to them was clearly unfair, and they were wise enough to realize they had never asked for it in the first place. The children were subconsciously content to embrace the resultant dysfunction as their own and they were poised to pass it along.

Then the woman came back.

Sixteen years, almost to the day, the woman came home searching for the children she abandoned. The children had all grown up and started families of their own by this time. Time was not a commodity they could cash out, even if it was to see their missing mother. The children weren’t exactly sure they wanted a mother! Sixteen of the most important years of a young person’s life is an awful long time to go without a mother. Why would they need one now?

The woman was stubborn. She refused to go away and railed even harder at the children with excuses meant to somehow ease the reality and truth of her past actions. The excuses missed the target.

The woman was unmovable. She didn’t help her cause by displaying for all her continued dependence upon the same old jealousy, bitterness, rage, and nagging feeling of nonacceptance that wrecked a home sixteen years ago. It was obvious that very little changed.

The woman was in denial. Everything was everyone else’s fault.

Then one day the children got together to talk. The sun was shinning bright rays. The birds were singing songs. Their own children were running care-free through the green grass of the youngest daughter’s yard while their parents were care-laden and collectively asking, “What should we do about this woman?” They were very surprised to find their original and bitter opinions changed by circumstance, time, and, most of all, having children of their own. They were still angry, but slightly less so than before, it seemed. Perhaps they all were simply tired; wearied from years of fighting invisible enemies. Maybe they were enlightened, a bit wiser? Maybe, just maybe? Whatever the reasons, the children somehow managed to surpass their parents in wisdom. The children found themselves playing the role of parent for their parents.

No one really knows for sure why those children laid down sixteen plus years of understandable bitterness and drove together to the woman’s house to simply tell her, “We love you.” They did …

Written January 25th, 2007 with No Comments »

There once lived a man - a young man - who stumbled upon a familiar crowd of people sharing drink and food.

“Hey there!” The young man shouted. “What are you all doing gathered here like this? Is there nothing better for you to do today than gather together yet again in this tired, old courtyard? It is a beautiful day and the sun …”

“And what …” A woman from the gathered crowd interrupted. “… and what of the sun young man? Does not the same sun’s rays light even this tired, old courtyard? Why do you have to stop here and interrupt our gathering of food and drink with your belated nonsense of a more beautiful day and a much greener gathering spot? We do happen to enjoy our tired, old courtyard! Now, move on, won’t you! Just move you on and keep your tired opinions to yourself! Stop spoiling our food and drink!”

“Old woman, I do think you misunderstand me!” The young man replied. “Did I ever suggest you should cease your constant gatherings in your tired, old courtyard? No. I know full well you and your companions could not live out a single month without a tired, old gathering in this courtyard. I would not take such a necessity from you; no more than I would withhold oxygen from your tired, old lungs.”

“Tell me then young man,” the woman mumbled between two heaping bites of mayonnaise drowned macaroni salad, “What then are you saying, young man?”

“I, um …” The young man begin to say something, but hesitated. The silence of an open mike silenced him on the spot. “Um … I really …”

Suddenly, from out of nowhere in particular, a pair of adorable blond ponytails attached to a small girl peddled through the crowd on a bicycle decorated with a thousand handlebar streamers and one obnoxious, little thumb-bell.

“Ch-Chwing … Ch-chwing… chwing” The small girl thumbed her bell as she parted the gathered crowd. “Chwing … Ch-chwing … Ch-chwing … Ch-chwing.”

“I know what the young man is saying,” said the small girl as she peddled through, ringing her thumb bell all the way. “The young man is just saying he enjoys gathering over there, while you all enjoy gathering right here. There is not much more to be said, really. Unless, of course, your choice of gathering spots depend so much more on the other’s … but neither of you would want to admit such a thing, I bet! Why your bitty-bitty, little meaning would shrivel up and die! It’s so funny how much you and your choice gathering spots need one another! Bye!

“Ch-Chwing … chwing… Ch-chwing” The small girl rang as she peddled off into the distance, leaving the young man and old woman silently behind.

Written January 21st, 2007 with No Comments »

The audible brush of his wheel chair’s rubber coated steal wheels gliding across the mahogany-stained, crack-gapped, hard wood floors was customarily accompanied by a broad sense of gloom that naggingly pricked at the remaining four senses of coherent individuals within an earshot of the notorious sound.

“Samuel Jay is coming,” the whispers would begin is a sort of disjointed unison, “Samuel Jay is coming!”

The wheel chair’s long distance sensory announcements regularly betrayed the Independent Bible College President’s predictably bitter descent upon what would undoubtedly otherwise be completely dumbfounded students. The students adapted and quickly evolved into a masterfully aloof group of escape artists who could normally manage to duck out of the range of his sunken blue eyes, which were framed proportionately upon an even sulkier countenance sandwiched between a whitish-yellow mop and beard. This unpopular headshot was typically topped off with an equally grumpy looking multi-colored painter’s cap, which Samuel Jay would peer out from under as he passed you during his regular glides around the hallways.

Samuel Jay never really aspired to become the President of the Bible College his demanding father founded and built from the ground up. He would have rather been behind the wheel of a PETERBILT 379EXHD, loaded to the brim with California almonds destined for Pennsylvania, New York, or even Ohio, listening to the “swoosh” of the air-brakes.

Perhaps everything would have been different, had it not been for that damned black-smoke pumping, rickety old John Deere tractor.

It wasn’t a terribly menacing piece of machinery. It was a simple farm tractor: two big traction promising wheels provided propulsion from the rear; and two tiny wheels granted control from the front. If it looked freighting at all, it was a result of the bright blue paint attached to it by students living in the sixties, who obviously found 5 inch hand brushes to be aesthetically pleasing enough for a farm tractor.

One fall afternoon, the deceptively docile and bright blue tractor turned on its twenty year old pilot and snapped his spine in half.

Forty-Five years later Samuel Jay could be found gliding in stealth mode around the archaic and time-trapped hallways of the Bible college he never wanted to head.

The most Holy and Sacred of settings could not have concealed the bitterness, disappointment, and anger attached to the man’s soul. It drove an irreconcilable wedge between him and the young twenty-something spiritual seekers surrounding him. No one cared for Samuel Jay’s constant criticism of everything that made life good. Students were saturated in youth and its prerequisite zest for life, but zest was a doorway to Sin, according to Samuel Jay. Students fell in love with other students, but love was just a euphemism for sex behind the burn-barrel. Students longed for afternoon Frisbee games beneath the warm ray’s of the local park’s sun, but this was pure laziness, at least when compared to polishing the mahogany-stained wood floors of the admin building and dorms. Samuel Jay’s personal concept of life, and everything within it, was, unfortunately, built upon the bitterness of loosing the ability to walk, the PETERBILT 379EXHD, and the girlfriend he had before the accident.

Christianity became his outlet, the dog he kicked every day in disgust. He ruled his father’s little Bible College with an iron fist. Demanding nothing short of perfect sanctification from every student who mistakenly enrolled. He spit, spat, and forced his bitter will upon everyone involved in the daily operations of the college.

Of course, everyone pushed back, in some form. This behavior is not unique. Students, professors, staff were all seduced by the overpowering bitterness, and they too became bitter. The fighting was epic. It destroyed the small college. That is not say that no one tried to get through to Samuel Jay, and show him the love his bitterness seemingly took from him. Many did try, a few may have even experienced a bit of success. In the end it was not enough.

Samuel Jay damaged some who would have followed Christ to Christian maturity. They instead slid away permanently, because of his poor example. He angered others. They fought back, in vain. A few others went on with their lives and forgot all about him, while they held tight to their faith and followed Jesus Christ. They were the wise ones! One poor man’s example is no reason to discard Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. It can be an excuse, but it is never a reason.

One time someone even tried giving Samuel Jay a bouquet of flowers, but the man simply linked the giving of gifts to the giver’s dire necessity to hide something from him.

Perhaps someone should have tried a fistful of flowers.

Written January 11th, 2007 with No Comments »

Stephen Crane’s The Open Boat is the story of four ship-wrecked men struggling for survival against forces well beyond their control. Their ship sunk, the cook, the correspondent, the oiler and the captain are forced to float their lifeboat close enough to land to see it, but far enough away to escape the sharp, rough, crushing and ice-cold waves and surf guarding it. It is an awful and cosmically-ironic situation. The four men, sea-weary from the traumatic ordeal experienced thus far, are forced to endure their own awareness of the potential lose-lose situation they now find themselves in, unfortunately. They are forced to float in the deep but gentle waters of the sea to sustain their own slow death, while all the while holding in full view their ultimate but seemingly unreachable goal for survival - dry land. Should they attempt to make it to land, their lifeboat would surely be destroyed and they would be ferociously tossed into the water. There they might suffer hypothermia, death by drowning or both! None of the men have the strength required to make a swim of such great distance. So, the cook, correspondent, oiler and captain spend two long, sleepless, cold and helpless nights thinking about it in the lifeboat.

The cook, correspondent, oiler and captain spend their two nights floating in the deeper parts of the sea rowing, sleeping, freezing and trying to figure out what exactly the people on the shore are doing. Yes, it seems people from the shore can see them, floating there, dying, out in the deep, gentle parts of the sea. One person waves a coat from shore at the four men. The coat waving proves to be an act which draws serious criticism from one of the four in the lifeboat, who says: “But look at him! He just stands there and keeps his coat revolving like a wheel. That ass!” The four men thought, for a fleeting moment, that a lifeboat was finally being launched from the shore in a sensible rescue attempt. It proved to be not be a lifeboat, but an Ominbus. It was a big hotel Omnibus, not a rescue boat. Another man standing on the shore, starring at the four men floating in the deep of the sea, was joined by another man who was riding a bicycle. They both waved at the cook, correspondent, oiler and captain, from the shore. No rescue boat was ever sent.

A thought is repeated a few times throughout Crane’s story. It is a thought repeated almost word for word at each uttered occasion. It makes a great deal of sense too, given the dire and seemingly hopeless situation in which the four men seem to be trapped. Remember, the four men are forced to float far enough away from their salvation (land) to render it unreachable, yet they still can see it, or risk being crushed and surely drowned by the harsh waves existing between them and their precious terra firma. It is quite a choice. The men summarize the situation with the following repetition:

“If I am going to be drowned - if I am going to be drowned - if I am going to be drowned, why, in the name of the seven mad gods who rule the sea, was I allowed to come thus far and contemplate sand and trees? Was I brought here merely to have my nose dragged away as I was about to nibble the sacred cheese of life?”

What a great question! It is one with which all of us should - and will - wrestle with at some point in this life.

The cook, correspondent, oiler and captain, after two nights of floating in full view of people who happily remain on the shore, and send no rescue boat, decide to test fate, before they become even weaker, and charge the crushing and cold waves in an attempt to reach shore. The captain warns the men of the impending tossing they are bound to receive. The lifeboat will be destroyed, he warns, and they will end up in water far from the shore. Swim they will. Swim they did. The lifeboat was crushed and sunk, just as the captain predicted. The men were tossed. They all made it to shore, save the strongest and most capable in their midst - the oiler. Their strongest drowned before reaching shore. Cosmic irony? Indeed. Stephen Crane’s The Open Boat is cosmic irony, epitomized.

Written January 09th, 2007 with No Comments »

Son - This letter will always be here for you to find it, wherever you may be. It will be accessible from any place in this not-so-small world of ours. I am pretty confident that when you are older Internet accessibility will not even be an issue. So, you’ll probably be able to find this letter. Pull it up and read it whenever you feel the need.

Always know you are loved. You are loved more than anything could be loved. The statement seems paradoxical, perhaps even impossible, but you’ll understand it some day, if you don’t already. I bet you do …

We started off this journey of ours pretty rough. You came to us with emergency lights flashing. We were terrified with thoughts that we might lose you. You managed to beat it though. You made it. Thank God you did. I’m positive life would not have been the same without you.

You were a fighter from the start, even before you were born. Life tried to take you before you could even get a grip on it. It failed; you succeeded. Never lose that quality son. Use it wisely and compassionately.

You jumped more than your fair share of life’s hurdles - before you were eight years old. You cleared them all buddy! You know you did! You were incredibly resilient even before you were ten. Don’t lose that quality either, son. You’ll need it in this world. Use it wisely and compassionately.

You always loved our houses, cars, and pets, not because of what they materially represented, but because they were ours. You wept profusely when we got rid of the old red Ford Taurus in late 2003. You would have rather taken it home and left the shiny new Accord in the parking lot where you thought it belonged. You loved our old stuff because it was familiar. There’s nothing wrong with that son. Hold onto those things in your life that give you stability. Change, for the hell of it, isn’t change. It’s restlessness. Don’t be unwisely restless. It isn’t necessary and only causes more restlessness. Only change when change is required; otherwise, hold onto the stable things in your life. You always seemed to do just that … which is very good. You’ll find yourself depending upon that quality as this world shifts beneath your feet. Use it wisely and compassionately.

You always were athletic. Keep your mind, spirit, and body healthy son. Don’t wait until you are forty-five years old to start worrying about your health and spirit. Begin in your mid-twenties and never stop. Forty-five is too late. Be wise and prepare for forty-five when you are young enough to do so. Exercise, meditate, and stay out of fast-food joints. Remember, I know how much you love going to restaurants. Go! Have fun! But be conscious of life’s balance. Use it wisely and compassionately.

You never really cared too much for reading when you were in K-3 (the time of this writing). I do hope you have reconsidered and will for your lifetime be a fan of literature of all sorts. You better get used to books, son. You getting my entire collection someday. You better not get rid of them either … ever. They stay in the family. Build an addition onto the side of your house, if need be. Read son, a lot. Books are full of knowledge, you’ll need as much as you can get to make it in this world. Use it wisely and compassionately

Son, don’t worry too awfully much about being totally prepared for love, marriage, children, and life. Life simply happens. When we let it simply happen it is refreshing, sustaining, and perpetually new. I imagine you’ll be comparing most of your future girl-friends to your mother. That’s good, really good. Stay away from shallow, materialistic, women who demand brands or commercial logos on their clothing. They are pretty much useless when real life kicks in - and real life always kicks in, trust me.

Look for a life partner, not a woman over whom you can dominate, but a woman with whom you can authentically share health and sickness, joy and sorrow, success and failure, wealth and poverty, life and death. Look for a wife who’s idea of a good Friday night would be cheese and crackers and a few home movies. When you find her be sure to wine and dine her, with much respect. Treat her right son, love, cherish and respect her.

Also, don’t make your work your whole life. Learn how to play. Learn how to invite your family into your personal play-time. You know how to play right now. You do it naturally. As you get older responsibilities will steal most of this natural ability away from you. Try to put some of it back, at least enough to break up the monotony work and adulthood can so often become.

Son, make the holidays in your house events your own children will never forget. We tried to do that for you, you guys loved it. Give your own children memories they will forever be able to taste, smell, touch, visualize, and long for deeply when they grow older. You can do it! You are creative beyond belief! All the artwork you brought home from school confirms it. Use your creativity; pass it along. Make a lifetime of memories!

Finally, son, I just want to say: “I am who I am because of what YOU taught me. You have probably taught me way more than I taught you. Thank you.”

I remember looking at you, when you were just a few days old, wondering how I could pull off raising a son without doing too much damage. I don’t think I did too bad a job so far. We have made it to this point with a relatively minimal amount of damage. We still have all those rough teen years of yours ahead of us. There may be a bit of trouble waiting for us there, but don’t be too awfully hard on me. I’m just a human being, like you. Just realize that we still have a journey ahead of us, and I promise to do my very best for you. Save your final judgment until later son. When you are my age, and have a few kids of your own. Judge me then. You really have to be a father yourself to fully understand what I’m doing. I think you’ll be pleased when you fully understand.

Hang tight to the Gospel of Christ,
Dad

Written January 06th, 2007 with No Comments »

Six weeks had passed since the death of Stacy’s younger brother. He was only twenty-five. A twenty-five year old victim of his own false sense of youthful immortality. Normally, no one seriously thinks about dying before they are forty-five years old, at least. The thought may appear on their cognitive radar every now and then, but the blip is a fleeting one.

Your average mid-twenty something rarely thinks about their own death. Twenty-somethings are too busy living life to busy themselves with its temporality. Stacy’s brother didn’t give his own death a second thought as he swallowed another little blue pill, a shot of morphine, and a seventh beer. Any sounds of life’s instinctive warning siren was drowned out by the bass-heavy blare of his truck’s Pioneer speakers. He was seemingly in control and on top of his world; a world in which he would later blackout; a world in which he would never again awake.

Stacy really struggled with the shocking reality of her brother’s sudden and senseless death. The bad news burst out of nowhere like a levee break and flooded her with new and raw emotions never before experienced, or even asked for. It was really hard to watch her suffer so. She wept as profusely as anyone I had ever seen before. She groaned in agony at the mere thought of the permanence of the death event. Her heart ached bitterly as she forced her eyes downward toward the carpet as she passed by his many wall-framed photos still hanging in place in the hall as if nothing bad had ever happened. Her countenance even changed when she would happen by a vehicle that looked remotely similar to his. Stacy was hurting, and deeply so.

One afternoon, as Stacy’s boyfriend was scrolling through the phone numbers stored in their cellular phone. He noticed Stacy’s brother’s cell phone number was still programmed. He stopped and looked at the digital image in front of him, and sincerely wished he could change history. He couldn’t. He then took it upon himself to delete the number so as to prevent Stacy from accidentally coming across it and suffering more because of the many memories the cell phone number represented. A few electronic blips later and the number was gone.

Months went by and Stacy found the inner strength to carry on. The death of her brother still hurt her incredibly, but she was becoming more accustomed to the pain.

One afternoon Stacy cornered her boyfriend in the dinning room and sternly asked him why her brother’s cell phone number wasn’t still programmed in the cell phone. He told her that he deleted it to prevent her from accidentally stumbling upon it. He told her that he didn’t want to see her suffer anymore. She thanked him for his kind gesture and then proceeded to point out how seriously stupid it was for him to do such a thing. She was visibly upset. It turned out that his deleting of the number in an effort to protect her actually caused more damage then it prevented. She ran out of the dining room in tears.

Stacy’s boyfriend learned a lot from a little cell phone. He learned a lot from deleting a digital number. He learned how important it was to the person who put it in there. He learned a person’s grief is - and must be - their own. He learned a person should go through the grieving process at their own pace, and in his or her own way. He realized tampering with the process was unwise - in spite of the good intentions behind the act. The cell phone number was Stacy’s to save or delete; the cell phone number was her responsibility. His responsibility was to simply await the invitation to enter into her world and simply be the support she needed him to be.

Written January 01st, 2007 with No Comments »

My son just shared a New Year’s Day story with me over a stack of homemade apple pancakes and a bunch of sunny-side eggs. His tale began when I asked him a very simple and very fitting New Year’s Day question.

I asked, “Son, what do you plan to do with the year 2007 now that it is here upon us? It is a brand new, shiny year!”
“Hmmm …” He mumbled. “I think I’ll build a house out of my Yugioh cards.”
“Cool! It sounds like a pretty heavy project. It might take you a while, huh?”
“Yeah, it might,” he said. “Maybe I’ll just become an Emperor instead.”
“Emperor!?!” I said, forgetting to mask the surprise inherent to my response.
“Yeah, you know, like Japan has an Emperor,” he said. “I think I’ll just be an Emperor.”
“Really,” I said. “What will you do as Emperor?”
“I’ll build a big palace with three kitchens and two bedrooms in it …”
“… Two bedrooms?” interpreted his mother, who was simultaneously keeping us well stocked in hot apple pancakes and sunny-side eggs and listening to our conversation with more than a bit of curiosity. “Why two bedrooms?”
“Well, I’ll need a wife,” her son replied. “She’ll need a place to sleep.”
“Oh!,” Mom responded. “So, you’ll sleep in your own room now will you?!? So, what are the three kitchens for? Why three?”
“Well, I will want three dinners!” he answered. “Three dinners at the same time!”
“Oh! OK!” Mom said while laughing. “Three dinners it is! You must be a hard working Emperor to be so, so hungry!”
“No, not really,” he said. “I have servants who do all the work. I even have a team of servants who do nothing but build video games for me.”
“Is that right?” I asked. “So, do you tell them what kind of game you want built, and do they then build it for you?”
“Yes! Yes they do!” He said with an obviously surging excitement. “If they make a mistake they will have to pay! They will pay!”
“Oh really?” I asked with my own bit of obvious curiosity. “What happens if they build a game you don’t like?”
“Well …” he began to say, pausing for a silent second or two to eat another chunk of his apple pancake and to think a plan through completely. “They will be demoted to poop duty!”
“Poop duty!” I said through a sudden and short burst of laughter and a lost chunk of mouth-bound pancake. “What on earth are you talking about, son?”
“Well, I mean they will be demoted to poop duty!” He said as if I was the last person on the planet to hear about the vocation. “They will all have to follow behind my dinosaurs and pick up poop with tiny shovels. The ones who don’t pick the poop up correctly will have all the poop thrown at them by those who do it right. You see? That’s what people who don’t make my video games right will have to do. I am the Emperor, you know.

Thus, began my New Year. I look forward to many, many more stories from my kids in 2007.

Written November 26th, 2006 with No Comments »

It shouldn’t have taken so long. The job required ten minutes of his time, tops. Yet, Kilroy was still there, barely balancing atop his rickety, make-shift ladder which was built out of a not-so-clever vertical combination of his cat’s tan-carpet-covered scratching post and a green, plastic clothes hamper. He knew better than to perilously perch himself atop stacked unstackables; but he really needed to hang his swag and lacked proper props. So, there he was, stretched beyond limits in a perpetual state of momentary flux. He was, on the one hand, stretching madly to tract and tack two handfuls of sun-stopping swag raised as far above his head as they possibly could be; on the other hand, he was fighting to stabilize the poorly designed skyscraper upon which his fickle feet were fluctuating. Now Kilroy hung, frozen, numb, and quite suspended in time.

Perhaps the suspense would not have been so dire, had the window actually been closed before Kilroy took on the swag. A backward fall into the room, now, was no guarantee. A two story plunge into the parking lot seemed completely doable, at least from Kilroy’s brand new perspective. Perhaps the suspense would not have been so desperate, had Kilroy actually strolled to the super’s shed and asked for a sizable step stool. His own doddering device, now, dangled him at will, threatening him with the sort of mystery which forced him to humbly bow. Perhaps the suspense would not have been so apathy laden, had Kilroy actually expected a friendly face and an extended hand to arrive on the scene. Kilroy knew no one was scheduled to arrive any time - or day - soon. Oh! How he now wished he had invited more friends and neighbors, and more regularly! Kilroy simply hung there, and surrendered to premature dotage.