Tuesday, December 20, 2011
She sent me a text a few days later, telling me that her parents had known my parents. They'd gone to the church where my dad first worked out; her dad had a note he'd saved from my dad! That's it up there. I was able to open the attachment for the first time this morning, and it took my breath away. My dad wasn't much of a note-writer; I have precious little in the way of handwritten documents. This is like hidden treasure that I didn't have to lift a single shovelful of dirt to find; it unearthed itself, shiny and perfect, and landed conveniently in my email inbox.
So not only did I find a new story about my beloved dad, who died nearly sixteen years ago, I found a new friend AND a new way to re-enter social work. As of this month, I'm helping her nonprofit with their Hispanic families. It feels great. I cannot help but wonder at the connections through time and space that somehow, incredibly, made this happen.
To mark the occasion, I thought I'd share some of my dad's voice with you. This is from a story-sermon about Toadie Olie, a bright orange bean bag frog that a little boy named Abe received mysteriously (no card) on his seventh birthday. His older brother Vic suggested Toadie might be magic; he might eat nightmares. Abe clings to this idea, as he is terrified of the dark. When he has Toadie in bed with him at night, the monsters don't come out from under the bed.
Eventually, Toadie has to come everywhere with Abe. If there is a place Toadie can't come, Abe won't go- it's too scary without his magical protection. All until the summer evening described here, in which Vic and Abe are home alone and Vic wants to walk over to his friend Steve's house. In the dark. Abe is unsure that Toadie can handle the dark outside his house and refuses to come along--but staying home alone without Vic is equally terrifying. So, crying, he agrees to come along, pressing Toadie to his eyes and stumbling along in the awful darkness. Here it is, the final part of God, Temptation, and the Frog by Kit Howell:
Vic said, "Abe, this is ridiculous. Open your eyes. You can see to walk."
"No," said Abe. "Everything is too dark."
"Of course it is," said Vic. "You've got that frog over your eyes. Now pull it down and open your eyes."
"No," said Abe.
"Let's sit for a minute," said Vic. ... He sat. Finally Abe sat too. "Abe," said Vic, "What do you hear?"
"Nothing," said Abe, not wanting to hear anything.
"Listen-don't open your eyes-just listen. Can you hear the crickets?"
Abe let himself listen just a little. "Is that what that is?"
"Yeah. What else can you hear?"
"Abe," said Vic, "Can you lean over close to the grass here, real close, and just peek at it?"
"Just peek. Move the frog away from one eye and peek."
Slowly, ever so slowly, listening all the while, Abe peeked. He was right over the grass. He could see. He saw the grass blowing inches from his face. The grass danced in the wind. It glowed.
Suddenly Abe looked up. He had to. He simply had to. And for a moment everything stopped. The world held its breath while Abe saw. For the first time in his life he saw the dark. He saw that everything was different in the dark, but not changed. He saw that everything was different in the dark, but it was still what it was.
In that brief moment, Abe saw that the night trees blow more gently than they do in the daylight. He saw the grass on the golf course glow in the moonlight so that the light seemed to be coming up from the grass itself rather than coming down from the moon. He could see his own house and all the other houses in the neighborhood somehow softer than in the daytime. Abe looked at Vic. He seemed pale. Still he was Vic. Vic broke the silence and the world took a quiet breath. "Look down at my shadow," he said. "See how much more jumpy it is at night than in the daytime. Abe looked and it was so. His own shadow was the same in the moonlight. It seemed more its own creature, dancing across the grass.
Vic said, "Come on." And Abe went, looking at everything, watching the night fill the spaces the day never touched. Vic ran to the top of one of the greens with Abe behind. But before Abe got there, for some reason, he turned and looked behind him. He saw his own footprint in the grass. There was dew in the footprint glistening in the moonlight. Suddenly, a ball of excitement as big as the world rose up in him. Abe went along with it. He ran to the top of the green and tried to jump at the moon and the stars and the sky. As he jumped, Toadie Olie slipped from his fingers.
When he fell back down, his hands were empty. He was free. Vic jumped up and down. He clapped. Abe looked up. Everything was clapping. The stars clapped. The trees clapped. The whole universe clapped and sang its own noise.
Vic walked over to Abe. "Abe," he said, "The world might be scary sometimes. But it is always better than Toadie Olie."
"Yeah," said Abe. And the two of them went to Steve's house to play.
That night when Abe and Vic came home, Abe took Toadie Olie and put him on his shelf. And that's where he is to this day.
Just in case.
In a world without end, Amen.