Tuesday, August 28, 2012

House of Dreams

Some things have to be believed to be seen.   
 ~ Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine’s advice is worthwhile.  “It might be a good idea if, like the White Queen, we practiced believing six impossible things every morning before breakfast, for we are called upon to believe, what to many people, is impossible. Instead of rejoicing in this glorious ‘impossible’ which gives meaning and dignity to our lives, we try to domesticate God, to make his might actions comprehensible to our finite minds."

When I was growing up my parents took a strange child into our home, a boy with round blue eyes of wonder and blond curls soft as lily petals. One whose vocabulary did not contain the word ‘impossible.’

First of all, he’d flown 3,000 miles all by himself from Riverside California to Fremont North Carolina. Had left the city and brown smog to come live with  us on a farm with tall stalks of corn, green pastures stretching toward the horizon, pigs you can pet, wild huckleberries for the grabbing, haystacks to rest upon and, best of all, a red tractor.

And what boy doesn’t dream of riding a big red tractor every day with his “Grandpa.” That was his first dream come true, living on Green Acres. Imagine that reality coming to life for a child.   

When he turned five my parents enrolled him in school. That’s when we discovered that he had a little shadow that went in and out with him. We saw tell-tale signs of a hard-knock life from days gone by. Bed wetting became the norm.

One day the principal called my mother in for a conference. “The boy seems to have emotional problems,” he said. “He has a foul mouth.” News to us.

After delving into the matter at home my parents soon discovered abandonment issues. We learned that his mother had left him in the dark car while she worked in an after-hours nightclub (shade city). Of course he was emotionally disturbed…all those endless evenings left alone. And if someone tried to steal him, well…

Then one day his mother showed up at our home to cart Simeon away. I’ll never forget that scene. The boy clinging to my dad for dear life, sobbing his eyes out. Both my parents weeping, loud wails filling the kitchen. Sim’s mom dragging him away by force, the child who’d lived with us for the past couple of years. 

Months passed. Then one day the mail man, Buck, delivered a letter scribbled in orange pencil – clearly a child’s handwriting – addressed to:

            Fremont NC

That’s it. No first name, no rural route, no zip code, no return address, just, “Grandpa, Fremont, NC.” We sat and wondered how a letter from one side of the country clear to the other could have possibly been delivered without the pertinent information. Miracle?  I’d like to think so.

Ever since then, I’ve taken Madeleine L’Engle’s advice to heart in naming six impossible things before my feel hit the hardwood floor every day. If you haven’t done so, try it. Impossible dreams don’t just have to be personal. I dream on behalf of others as well as myself.

What impossible dreams might you have?  Be bold! 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

After the Storm

At midnight trees grow wild.  Lights flicker and you close our eyes to darkness. By morning your skin is beaded like dew on the lawn; by noon it’s slicker than butter.

Still you crave those magic beans that wake the dead and make the blood flow smoother. These addictions, how hard they die! Funny, but you don’t feel that blessed to be alive.

Imagine making do with cowboy brew all the days of your life. Things could come to that… firing up the grill daily just for a cup of coffee. 

You know you should be counting your blessings. But the flooding, the sweltering heat with no sign of relief, breeding ground for mosquitoes and disease…

Gratitude gives way to post-apocalyptic musings.

Chickadees, oblivious to power outages, flock gleefully around the feeder; these no more territorial than you keeping watch over the priceless stash of ice in the cooler.

A relentless knock at the door. It’s your brother with the heart condition and your failing mother staring back with hopeful eyes. They’ve come to you seeking air and ice…

In the living room – the coolest spot in the house at 85 degrees – the light of day cannot be seen. Folded blinds, opaque drapes see to that. You sit in semidarkness and commiserate.

Think of those less fortunate: your cousin swept away by the storm last night.  And others who didn’t survive.  You just thank the Lord you’re still alive to suffer and agonize together.

After Floyd, we were out of power for a week. Many lost their homes, their farms, their lives, their loved ones.  The everyday comforts they’d known before eastern NC’s Katrina.

A friend named Barbara, who had her lights restored days before us, was thoughtful enough to remember me when she made her morning coffee.

The carafe full she delivered to my front door seemed like a miracle.

Since that time Barbara has moved to New York. I lost my brother to a mysterious death (not a heart attack), my mother to a massive stroke.  Yes, how blessed I was after the storm.       

What does it mean to you to be blessed?

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