There in that place…

The days rush by, and I think about my grandnephew, whose days are unending, his nights just long enough to remember the tilled fields of spring followed by the green expanse of crops pulsating in summer’s breezes, broken only by the creek winding through our land connecting farm to farm where family wait for his return.

There in that place where even subtle sins are noted, he is lost amidst the many who are watched day and night yet never known beyond surveillance screens that reveal everything yet nothing of the boy he was when he became a man when he was barely more that just a boy.

Like any child who looks for love, he found it in the gentle words of his grandfather, who taught him how to put together and take apart the toys of boyhood one block at a time. And, as he grew older, he watched and learned under the gaze of his almost-dad, who was not there when the judge handed down the ruling that took him away from everything he loved.

He had looked for love so many times in the circle of other wounded children grown up, who saw each other through the glazed eyes of alcohol-induced laughter that hardly hid the pain that roiled deep inside. And the alcohol that took him away from the pain tore the best friend he had ever had from his days and his nights where now the constant glare of prison lights robbed him of the dreams he longed for.

He made himself remember the fresh smell of rain on tilled fields, the familiar aroma of oil and grease in his grandpa’s shop, the joyous atmosphere of family dinners and the sound of his mom’s laughter, the combine’s roar and the sound of the grain swirling up the auger to the bins. He thought of the clicking sounds Grandpa would make as they waited for their plates of BBQ to come at noon and the nudges in greeting from friends and farmers who filled the room from 12 to 1.

He remembered so much and then could take no more and waited in the still dorm as snoring ceased and breaths were held, as the dreaded prospect of one more endless day began.

O, Holy Father, just as Your Son burst forth from the grave, invade that stark place with the reality of Your Presence. Break into hearts and flood them with Your Perfect Love. Shatter the walls that conceal the men you created them to be, and destroy the plans of the enemy to steal, kill and destroy their very lives. Birth hope in jaded hearts this day, and set them aflame for You.

A cookie sort of Christmas

I wish Christmas gifts were defined as ‘cookies of any shape, size and flavor’ to include:

  • Grandma Powell’s iced honey cookies
  • Darin’s oatmeal chocolate chip
  • Ruth’s lemon bars
  • ¬†Jacquie’s shortbread
  • Mary Catherine’s butterscotch bars
  • My own buttery sugar cookies
  • Vera’s banana raisin oatmeal
  • Mother’s refrigerator cookies

One bite and I would be there, watching:

  • Grandma rolling the dough and me cutting the rectangles in her tiny kitchen
  • My son making the dough into balls and giving me one with a smile
  • Ruth opening her cookie containers in the church foyer
  • Me diligently watching Jacquie’s cookies so they don’t brown
  • Mary Catherine passing the plate laden with scrumptiousness
  • Cookies cooling just enough to enjoy a warm one with a glass of milk
  • Carolann stirring up Vera’s recipe and sneaking me a spoonful
  • Mother wrapping cookies in wax paper for me to take to Daddy in the field

Yes, cookies would be quite enough for me for Christmas.






Looking for my dad…

I had my dad for such a short time, just 24 years. He was 47 when I was born. Dad used to tell me that from the first day they brought me home, I was looking for him, which I cannot help but think was God’s doing. No matter how busy he was, my presence was always acknowledged and welcomed with a smile and most times with a sing-song “Do-Daddy, Do-Daddy, Do” in response to my “Whatcha’ doin’, Daddy?”.

In the middle of whatever he was doing when I found him–combining wheat, filling his grease gun, writing out seed tags, talking to a neighbor, or just leaning on a fence looking at a field of soybeans, he brought me into focus, welcoming me with a smile into the ordinary moments of his day.

I followed him around closer than his shadow, always content just to be with him. I loved sitting beside him in the big truck on trips to the feed mill or the gravel pit, and he never refused me once when I wanted to step up on his big work shoes to hang on while he ‘walked’ me to the house. We shared afternoon snacks of refrigerator cookies and ice cold water on the tractor; and before church, as we waited for Mother to finish getting ready, we read the funnies together, him in his chair and me stretched out on his lanky frame, the Sunday paper like a tent over us while we chuckled at Dagwood, Beetle Bailey and Little LuLu.

My dad was a man of few words. I was not, but never once did he tell me to be quiet. And even though he was usually doing something else when I was with him, I always knew he was listening. I began my days with him at the kitchen table and ended them by kissing his weathered cheek goodnight.

If he were here today, there would be chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream, and he would say he needed help blowing the candles out because there were so many! He would open our presents of homemade bookmarks, measuring sticks, unevenly hemmed handkerchiefs, and pictures colored just for him, lingering over every one, turning them into treasured possessions to be tucked away and found years later when he was gone.

My dad never talked about love but taught us by example. From him I learned that love is always patient and kind, doesn’t envy what others have, and never brags about what we have, that it isn’t prideful, rude or self-seeking, and that it isn’t easily angered and never holds grudges.

I grew up knowing that there was nothing I could ever do that would cause my dad to stop loving me. That was the greatest gift he gave me, because it made it easy for me to believe in a God who loves unconditionally and forever.

I still look for my dad in the corridors of my mind where memories come alive and are savored once more. But someday, and someday soon, I will look for him and he will be there where I never have to say good-bye again.