Courage at Twilight: The Very Walls of My House

We had planned the celebration for months, and on the day of, I awoke too sick to attend.  My sisters handled all the preparation and hosting.  At the top of stair case, I listened to bursts of laughter amid the general soft murmuring of many friendly voices in catching up and conversation, like the gentle babbling of a booklet tripping down a mossy cascade, and in that gentleness I detected elements of acceptance and respect and affection, and of a love that could turn fierce in mutual defense.  I enjoyed my chicken salad croissant and chips, watching through the railing as Dad, 86, launched into his stories, with occasional intervening from Mom.  They had met at a church dance, at the end of which he asked for her phone number (“and she gave it to me!”).  He called her the next day, and drove her to the university and dated for the next three years, and they married—60 years ago.  “I know her much better now than I did then!”  Law school over, they moved to New York City, living in Greenwich Village.  While Dad was at school, Mom rode the subways just to see where they went.  She played violin in a Washington Square orchestra, and during one concert the conductor’s baton hit the music stand and flew out of his hand into the audience.  After three days of descending to the street at 5:00 a.m. to move the car the opposite side of the street, Dad sold the car to the bellboy for $50.   Then off to São Paulo, Brazil, where I was born, to live in a tiny studio.  Mom passed the time by walking me to the embassy library and taking me on every bus route (in the city of then 16 million people) to the “fim da linha”—the end of the line.  “I can’t do this,” was not part of Mom’s vocabulary, Jeanette enthused.  Dad befriended the city comptroller at school, and invited him to their studio, where they sat at a card table on folding chairs, their only furniture, for homemade pizza, which the millionaire graciously enjoyed.  “I loved your mother when we got married,” Dad said, “but I love her more, and differently, today.  I never look at her without thinking, ‘I love her.’”  (“Even when I’m bossy!” Mom chimed in.)  David told how Mom and Dad sacrificed several days to help clean and paint his house, and how their love is literally worked into the very walls of the house.  “I want to tell you something,” Dad began, warming up to his life’s witness.  “This is important to me.”  And he quoted Jesus: “’Be faithful, and I will protect you from every fiery dart of the adversary.  I will encircle you in the arms of my love.’  That is how our Savior feels about us.”  When I was an infant in Brazil, Dad was assigned to visit ten families who no longer attended church.  He had no car or phone, just bus schedules and maps.  But he found them, and visited them every month of that school year.  Walking home from his final bus ride in Brazil, Dad contemplated his ministering effort.  That is when a voice in his mind affirmed, “I accept your offering,” and he felt an overwhelming loving presence embrace him.  As I listened and watched through the bars of my separating sickness, I contemplated how close Dad is to walking home from his life’s final bus ride, and of my certainly that he will again hear the words, “I accept your life’s offering,” and will again enjoy that sublime embrace.

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