Courage at Twilight: Recharged

Dad has tired of ham-onion-Swiss sandwiches, and Mom has had to get creative with his lunches. A plate of mixed nuts, applesauce, a slice of cheddar, carrot sticks, celery and cream cheese, and a peach cup—do not forget the diet Coke, on the rocks—have been this week’s fare.  And the bag of kettle-fried potato chips on the floor by his recliner.  Mom assembles Dad’s lunches simply because Dad cannot.  He seems to enjoy ordering her around a bit, e.g., “Lucille, get me some crackers.”  While they munched, I dug out the Subaru owner’s manual and read the jumper cable instructions carefully, three times, connected the jumper cables, carefully, to Mom’s Legacy and the Mighty V8, rechecked the instructions twice, started the Mighty V8’s engine, then turned the key to Mom’s Legacy.  Dad’s faithful Suburban soon began to falter, then died, and smoke curled up from both batteries.  Mom’s car never started.  The red and black plastic on each end of the cables had melted to the copper jaws.  “You must have connected the cables wrong,” Dad announced.  Smoke of my own began to curl, and I articulated stiffly my exceeding care in doings things exactly right.  Mom’s battery appearing damaged and unchargeable, I removed it (after discarding the ruined jumper cables), drove to Auto Zone with Mom (she wanted an outing), paid an obscene amount for a new lead-acid battery, and installed in within fifteen minutes.  Her car started right up.  “You’re a miracle worker!” she crowed.  Though I had felt anxious about taking Dad to the three-hour ordeal of the viewing and funeral, he did well and I did well helping him do well, including the restroom break between gatherings.  The three of us sat in a corner of the viewing room, Uncle Craig’s complexion a bit too green, watching and listening to the crowd.  The room brimmed with the noisy sounds of celebration and reunion.  Craig lay all but unnoticed as the extended family embraced and inquired and reminisced, renewing friendships and love.  “Listen to that,” Dad mused.  He commented that this viewing was a happy occasion because of our abounding love and our knowledge of Craig’s goodness and our confidence in our Church doctrines about continuing life after death and eternal family bonds, and our hope and faith in a loving, redeeming, sanctifying Savior.  Each of Craig’s six sons spoke at the funeral, each sharing a few memories of their father, some sweet, some funny, many involving years of effort restoring classic cars, with not much talk, but being together, the father helping the son fix a car and become a man.  I sat in the back with Mom and Dad, pondering the nature of life and death and family, asking myself somewhat rhetorically, “How can one hear about so much goodness and feel so much love and not hope for ongoing elevated life?”  In the evening I lounged under an enormous long-needled Austrian pine, listening to the evening sounds of suburban life, lingering in the day’s afterglow, when a bird landed in the close-by blue spruce, a bird with a black head and bib, white breast, long gray tail, and rust-red shoulder patches.  “Hello little friend,” I whispered, and he glanced at me and bobbed his tail and flitted around among the prickly twigs.  For decades I have watched the local birds, studying their features, learning their calls and songs, noting them in my National Geographic bird guide, but had never before seen this bird, a Spotted Towhee.  How could I have expected to sit in my yard and see a new bird?  Well, I did, and he came to me with his trilled greeting.


(Internet photo of Spotted Towhee used pursuant to the fair use doctrine.)

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