Teasing Daddy’s Ear
I have been watching a man at church, sitting in his cushioned pew. His child sits belted in a wheelchair because she cannot use her legs at all and would flop to the floor if unrestrained. She is motion, her arms and hands fluttering around and her head wagging and her tight long ponytail swishing violently as if warding off some invisible and pestering thing. The first time I went to this church, while the emblems of the Lord’s flesh circulated silently to reverent congregants, I leapt and grimaced at an unexpected shriek and at hands clapping like rifleshots. But after these many months all of us supplicants are accustomed and accepting of the shouts and slap claps and remember to forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God, and if I want to find that kingdom within my own self maybe I ought to be more like her by doing my best with a limited body and a limited mind and by having an absolute absence of guile.
Today she sat sucking her thumb and rocking in all directions. She is an adolescent, perhaps 12 or 15, I can’t determine. And the man unbuckled the belt and pulled the fitful girl to him, and her legs dangled and draped as she full-body sank into him and nuzzled her head against his, in that soft space between bony head and bony shoulder that is welcoming and soothing and warm, her angled arms wrapped crookedly around his neck. And then this man, this brother, McBride, stroked her dark hair slowly and patted her gently and devotedly in a way that avowed to the watching world, You are mine, and I claim you and I love you in spite of this cruelty because I know you are in there somewhere struggling to see through that thick dark suffocating cloud and I know you are sweet and kind and generous. You are my first-born, the hope and joy of my anxious heart, and I know you are filled to bursting with magnanimity and magnificence that one day will incinerate the choking haze and you will Shine! and everyone will know then what I already know now, and in the long meantime I will hold you up and pull you in and stroke your soft hair just whenever you want.
I am certain this is what the man was caressing to his child and witnessing without bile to the world. And as I watched him sit quietly with his baby in his arms, she played perpetually with his long-lobed ear. And the man did not mind at all.
Roger is a municipal attorney, homebody poet and essayist, and amateur naturalist. Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road and A Time and A Season. Rabbit Lane tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit. A Time and A Season gathers Roger’s poems from 2015-2020, together with the stories of their births. The books are available in print and for Kindle at Amazon. See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.