Friday, January 23, 2009

and Then I Wept...




When I was around five years old, I had this Tonka Tractor. I loved that little tractor. It was a Christmas present that year and for about six month's I had rolled that thing all over our yard doing all kinds of imaginary work. On one occasion I had been playing with it in the drive way and being a kid became distracted and left it there. About an hour later my Mama had to run to town and in the car we piled. In backing out, we all felt the tire hit something and fearing it was our cat, we all piled out to see. What I saw horrified me. It was my Tonka tractor smashed into pieces; not even Daddy could fix it. On that day I wept.

Still five, my sister had rescued a baby chicken from the local hatchery and she and I (the baby chicken) quickly became the best of friends; I named her Jackie. My relationship with Jackie was a secret as I didn't want my siblings to know that she and I were close for fear that they might become better friends with her. As she grew I had managed to teach her to follow me around, fly up to my outstretched arm's, and sit on my shoulder so I could pretend that I was a pirate and Jackie was my parrot. It was our secret relationship and nobody could steal it from us because nobody knew it existed.

One day me, Jackie, and Daddy were in the yard when he told me to go fetch him something. When I returned, there she was, flopping around the yard with blood going everywhere. I ran up and saw her head in Daddy's hand and at that moment, I felt as if I had died.

Daddy, thinking I was just upset because I had never witnessed anything being killed before, sent me into the house. In short order Daddy had dressed and Mama was frying her up for supper. When supper finally came, Jackie was served up on a yellow platter for all of our dining pleasure. Daddy offered the prayer and everyone started filling their plates. Mama gave me a leg and I finally lost it. I wept like there was no tomorrow.

Daddy then asked what was the matter with me. I unloaded. I told him that Jackie walked with me, she would fly to me, and that she played pirate with me; she was the parrot. She was my friend.

Hearing this, Daddy looked down and apologized. He then told everyone to just stop as he left the table. He returned with a box and gathered her from each plate and asked us all to follow him out back where he conducted a funeral for my friend Jackie. He prayed and asked God to forgive him and asked that I would be able to do the same. We buried her and we all wept together.

At ten years of age, my parents had bought a bike for me from the neighbors. It was the coolest bike any kid could ever want. It was green metallic with chrome fender's. Had a sissy bar, high-boy handlebars and a banana seat. Just flat out cool, and every kid in the neighborhood new it!

Later that summer, while riding around a corner our neighbor, Old Man Vanderpool hit me. I was just bruised, but my bike didn't survive the ordeal. The frame, forks, and front tire were twisted into a mess. Old Man Vanderpool never even saw me as he pulled his 67' Pontiac Tempest into his drive. Dragging my bike the block back home was one of the longest treks I had known up to that time in my life. Due to the fact that I could only drag it about ten feet before I would have to stop and rest, I had plenty of time to consider what had happened. How would I tell my parents? Then as if drawn by some invisible magnet, every kid in the neighorhood appeared to see the spectacle of my twisted bike. Some would ask what had happened and I couldn't even look up for fear that they might see me cry.

When I finally got home, Daddy came out the door and saw me and my bike. He asked if I was okay and I nodded that I was. He then picked up my bike with one hand, and with the other led me out back. He sat the bike down and continued with me to the back of the house where nobody could see. He picked me up and told me it was okay to cry, and I did.

When I was eleven, Mama and Daddy brought home a puppy that we named Happy. He quickly grew into the best dog any kid could ever wish for. He was a black cocker spaniel-poodle cross and was the kind of dog that had the wisdom of years, even as a puppy. For almost five years, Happy was always there to play when I wanted, and was content to just sit patiently by my side when I didn't feel like playing. He had this insight that let him know when you were sad and could always cheer me up...he did this for the whole family. He was the last to say goodbye to Daddy as he left for work, and the first and most excited to greet him when he got home. None of us kid's could leave the house without Happy tagging along to protect us. That's just how he was.

He never dug through the trash, nor chased a cat or car. He would always go up and greet anyone he saw during his adventures around the block. Everybody in the neighborhood knew and liked Happy. He simply was that kind of dog...a good dog.

One morning Daddy poked his head in the door after walking out to leave for work and asked if anyone had seen Happy. Someone said that they had the night before. Daddy said, "well...he's probably out runnin' around," and left for work.

At school that same morning, Tommy, my friend whole lived a block up on the highway, came up to me and said we had to talk. I thought it strange as boy's just don't, "have to talk." He took me aside in the hallway as we waited to go to class and when I looked him in the face I knew something was wrong. He then told me that Happy was dead. I said no...he's not. He said yes he was, "we saw the trash truck run over him." I told him that it was just probably some other black dog. He said, "no, it was Happy. We saw it was him as the trash man stopped, picked him up and threw him in the back of the truck." I said, "no, it was some other dog."

The whole day I tried to tell myself that it wasn't Happy, but inside I knew it probably was, yet I continued to hope.

When I got home I nervously walked around looking for him. I was too scared to call out for fear that he would not come. After about a half hour of hoping against hope, I realized that Happy was no more. I finally just sat under the maple tree in the back yard and refused to cry. Just sitting and looking at nothing.

After a short spell I heard the rumble of Daddy's truck and felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach. I knew how much he loved Happy and I knew what was coming. He called out to Happy. Four or five times he called as he circled the house. As he walked up he asked if I knew where he was and I looked up and lost it. He knew as he sit and wept with me. We loved that good dog.

For a good spell the sad things in life just seemed to take time off. I grew up, went to school, found good work and finally was blessed with a good wife. Life truly had become good and I had an appreciation for being blessed.

About a year into our marriage, I received a call at work from my Father-in-law who told me that my wife was on the way to the ER. He didn't know what was wrong but told me to meet him there. We beat her there and time just stopped.

When she got there she was having sever pain in her abdomen and it was discovered that she was pregnant. PREGNANT! It hit me like nothing else in life had ever hit me before. I was going to be a Father. Instantly life changed. There was a new meaning for my existence and I liked it.

After the exam my wife got some pain meds and I just sat with her in a whole new world of potential and the hope it held. All we had to do was wait for the Dr's to fix her and life would be good. When the doctor did come in, he explained that my wife was having an ectopic pregnancy, which meant little to me. I listened and finally asked what the procedure was to fix things. He explained that the baby couldn't be saved...at that point, it wasn't really a baby anyway.

In just a few hours I had feared for my wife's life, celebrated that she would be okay, rejoiced over being a father, and finally told that my baby would not live. I was just numb inside as I tried to be strong for my wife. I really needed to talk to Daddy, but it had to wait...I had responsibilities.

After I got my wife home and settled, I managed to visit Daddy. I told him all that had happened. All the fear and all the hope. How I was almost a Daddy. He then shared a time in his life I had little knowledge of. His first wife and he had two son's. The eldest was born with heart problems and had received many surgeries to preserve him. He shared how he feared losing his little boy. He then went on to tell about losing his first wife to cancer. How he held her as she passed and how his world had died.

Again he spoke about loss. With a smile he told me of my brother Harold, whom I had never met. How he was a good boy. Always helpful and always had a smile...even when nobody was looking. He was just good. He then went on to tell me of someone running up to the house and yelling that Harold had drowned...they couldn't find him. Daddy had run down to the pond and pulled his son from the water and held him. In his bedroom, me and Daddy held each other and wept for and with each other.

A year later my wife gave birth to our son Samuel. I still held a place for our first child, but Sam had a place all his own and life was good. He and Daddy were best buddies. They had such the relationship. They loved playing games and one of Sam's favorites was to sneak up on Daddy and scare him. Daddy had a huge heart, but it was tired, and when Sam would do this, Daddy would almost fall over. After a couple of minutes Daddy would recover and they would just laugh and go on having fun. Daddy always had a candy bar hid just for Sam; didn't matter that we were trying to limit his sugar...

A few more years and pregnancy visited our home again. We had decided to deliver her at home and when the time came, I soon began to question our decision. Labor with this child lasted for almost 12 hours. I prayed and pleaded with God for help. I tried to bargain with Him. I promised to be a better husband and father. I honestly don't remember what all I did deal for, but know that I surely have not been able to live up to the promises made in desperation that night.

When the baby finally was being delivered her cord was wrapped tightly around her neck and we were in trouble. Again I prayed and when we went to try to loosen the cord, it just gave way and we unwrapped it. She was then quickly delivered. As I held this child, along with her mother, we wept for joy. God had delivered Josie to us that day.

Josie was a peculiar baby...very particular. She wouldn't let anyone but her mother and I hold her. Anybody else touch her and she would scream. She did allow one other person to hold her though. It was Daddy. They had a connection. I have never seen a newborn laugh and interact like that before or sense.

A couple of months later Daddy fell ill and was taken to the hospital. The normal routine was for the Dr's to call in the family to say goodbye and we would all gather and pray. He would always be back home in a week or so. This time when we went up to pray it was different. I just knew and so did he. Not this time. That week seemed to last a decade. As he went down over time, we seemed to do the same. It was just so...just not real. During this week though, I had toughened myself for the time that was coming. Daddy had raised me to understand and take security in life and death. I knew what he believed and believed what he knew. We were both ready. Then he died.

As ready as I was...I wept, and wept, and wept. My best friend, the guardian of my secrets, my Daddy was gone. The one I needed to hold me, the only one who could hold me was no longer there. Up to the day we buried him I wept. That night I walked out to the woods beside my house and prayed. I asked God why he had taken my support? The answer...It was time to stand up and be the man my Father had trained me to be. I wept no more for him...now I rejoice in being able to have had him for the time I did.

The scariest thing for me was in realizing that I was at the top of the hill. I then realized something about my Father. I knew him to be a very strong man. Nothing could scare him...now I know the truth.

After Daddy passed, Josie almost instantly decided that she didn't need to scream when somebody wanted to hold her. She was happy for anyone and everyone to hold her. It was like the time she had during the life of my daddy was set aside for him...the rest could wait.

We went on to have two more beautiful girl's, Aubrey Grace and Katrina Elizabeth, both born at home. All went well and I had little cause for sadness or fear. Time passes and the normal struggles of life progressed as all of life does.

Finally the reason for all this writing. In raising a family, sometimes it's easy for a child to feel misunderstood and unappreciated in the teen years. My son Samuel is there and the other night he had spoken harshly to his younger sister and I wasted little time reminding him that he was a gentleman and was expected to act as such.

In our family, when times are cross, I advocate just getting away for a spell to cool off, which is the norm for Sam. On this particular evening, we had the spat and he went downstairs and I had assumed he was in his room listening to his music.

When suppertime rolled around I called him up and there was no reply. My wife goes down to his room then comes back up asking if I knew where he was. I said he probably went out to the woods to think, like he often does. She went out the back and hollered for him to come up and usually he's there in a few minutes. Not this time. She calls him a few more times and comes back in with a scared look saying that she can't find him. I asked if she had called Bandaid our dog who's usually good at barking and letting us know their whereabouts. She had and there was no answer. I then decided to go get them.

Usually I will just walk to the back field and call them and they will come. This night I slipped on a light jacket and walked out and called. No answer from either of them. Then I started to get a bit scared. It was starting to get dark and it was getting cold fast, with a forecast calling for temps below freezing. I go back in and get a light and head out; I didn't think to put on a warm jacket.

We live on the top of a mountain surrounded by many rocky gulley's, which I know that Sam loves to climb down into. I quickly made my way to the gully that is the closest and it hit me. Daddy holding Harold after pulling him from the pond. I climbed my way down into the gully with a very bad vision in my head of my son laying hurt...or worse. Suddenly I knew the fear of my father. I wept and plead with God to let my little boy be okay. He wasn't there.

I assured myself that Sam would be okay. He's good in the wood's and Bandaid was with him. He'll be okay. Still...that vision wouldn't leave me. I spent the next hour zig-zagging my way back and forth across the hill's and gulley's. There was no moon and the night quickly became black. As I worked my way down the mountain my flashlight decided go dim so I mostly felt my way; saving the light in the case I would have a desperate need for it later. I would turn it on long enough to plot a path down into the gulley's and then back off. I could feel my way back up.

I finally quit calling out to Sam and focused on Bandaid as I now knew something was wrong, and of the two of them, the dog would be the one to hear me first.

After a good spell I found myself on a clear hilltop and seeing shadow's all around I hit the light and find myself in the middle of a herd of cattle. It then hit me. My effort was futile and the wood's were too big. It was too dark and getting colder by the minute. I have never felt so little in all my life.

Right there in the middle of a herd of cattle I stopped and knew I was done. I prayed, but this time I didn't try to bargain or make any deals. I just wept and asked God to save my little boy. All I could see was him as he scared Daddy so many times. How they would laugh and laugh after Daddy recovered from the fright. I just sit and wept for a short spell.

I then got up and started walking. Not really knowing exactly where I was going I just walked silently until I remembered to call out to Bandaid. It was then that I heard a distant bark. I called out more and he barked back. I left the field and ran into the woods in the direction I thought he was. I would call and his reply would get stronger as I tripped and bounced off trees. When I knew he was close I hit the flashlight and he was standing on the edge of the woods waiting and barking. He wouldn't come to me and I knew something was wrong. I looked around and couldn't find Sam. I told bandaid to find Sam and he would run ahead about fifty feet and start barking so I could catch up. That dog led me through another field, across a gulley and more wood until we came to the farthest clearing behind our house and stopped. I told him to find Sam and he would run and return to me. He wasn't sure where Sam was I start yelling out for Sam as I made my way across the field. Finally I heard a faint, "Dad." At that, Bandaid knew where he was and took me directly to him. I found him trying to make his way back to the house. I asked him if he was okay and he said, "yeah." I then grabbed him and stood there and wept. I wept for joy. My boy was alive and I have never been so grateful in all my life. I just held him for a spell until he said," Dad...I'm kinda cold. Can we go home?"

When we finally got back to the house he found a family that was all weeping for joy that he was alive. It was an experience that I hope he never forgets. He saw that night that he is of much value to his family and took a step in the direction of being a man.

What had happened was that instead of just going to the edge of the gulley and sitting like he normally does, he just walked until he found a far gulley and decided to sit there and think. Due to no moon, the dark fell faster than he expected and he found himself in an unfamiliar place with no reference point. Our rule is that if you get lost in the woods, just stay put and I will find you. The problem he found was that he knew I wouldn't think he would be that far out. Then it started getting cold and he didn't have his warm coat on, so he decided that it would be better to look for a way out than just sit there and freeze.

While wondering around he heard the train, which runs due east of our house and he then knew that he needed to walk away from it in order to find his way home. He was on his way home when I found him and would have made it even if I hadn't found him first.
That's Sam & Bandaid in the picture at the top..

I'll gladly shed tears of Joy for my children any day of the week!

3 comments:

Skip said...

and then I wept too! Tears of joy at reading this wonderful true story that had the kind of ending that I was hoping for. God is watching over your family, but Darrell, your Father set a wonderful example for you when you were growing up, and you, Sir, are following it. I pray that you all will continue to do well and please continue to tell us about your lives.

Gimped Redneck said...

As hard as life is sometimes, I can't imagine the loss I would have suffered had God not allowed safe passage for us so many times, as he seems to do on a regular basis.

I appreciate the kind words directed toward me, but my father...well, you would have like him much. A fine man indeed, but much the better servant.

Carol L. said...

Wow...