Tag Archives: Community

Courage at Twilight: The Gaping Jaws of Hell (or That Damned Window Well): Act 3

I had served Mom and Dad their plates of chicken strips sauteed with red bell pepper and onion, and their bowls of refried and black beans, cumin-taco seasoned, with cucumber slices and crenshaw cubes on the side, and was preparing my own dinner plate, when Mom shrieked, “Roger!  Terry just fell into the window well!  One moment he was standing there, and the next he was gone!”  Spurred by the memory of Window Well Horrors Act 1 and Act 2, I spurred out the back door in my red socks, wrapped in my baking apron, to where Terry’s head poked up from the window well, blood streaming into his eye and down his face from a head gash.  Hooking an arm under his, I heaved while he stepped up the ladder (thank goodness there was a ladder), his legs trembling, his face ash gray, and sat him in a chair, triaging: How do you feel? (fine) Where do you hurt? (my chest) Are you dizzy? (no) Can you walk? (I think so).  With him stable, I barged into his house to blurt the situation to his wife, grab wet towels, and shove ice cubes into a grocery bag.  First on his head went the wet towel, second the bag of ice.  Then I begged his patience as I wiped blood from his eye, nose, mouth, cheeks, chin, and neck, and removed his blood smeared glasses.  “How are you feeling now?” I asked for the second of a dozen times.  “Stupid!” he spat.  Like with Gabe and Dad, a perfectly placed step on the window well cover had cause Terry’s to flip from its seat and drop him into the deep hole, gashing his scalp as he fell.  And the blood had flowed.  Off Pat rushed him to the hospital, emerging four hours later with stitches and a bandage and Percocet for the pain of his upper body being suddenly spread and stretched by his arms hitting the well on the way down.  But no broken bones or torn muscles or ligaments.  “How are you feeling now?” I asked at midnight.  “Sore,” he signed.  “And stupid!”  A loaf of chocolate chip banana bread the day after, and fresh corn on the cob from Dad the next, and we had become “the best neighbors ever.”  Neighborliness aside, had Mom not glanced out her window at precisely the moment Terry fell into the well, no one would have known, perhaps for a long time, and the list of possible horribles is too long.  But Mom did look out her window at that precise moment, and Mom did see him fall, and Mom did send me bolting with a scream, and I was there when I was needed.  And Terry (82) is alright, asleep, Percocet prone in his recliner.  He is safe.  In one short year, window wells at our two houses have gobbled up three people.  If we were a statistical cohort, the country would be in a serious window well epidemic.  At some point in the late night, I realized I had been privileged to enact the rescue in all three scenes, and with my presence being the common denominator, I hereby decree that, from henceforth, stepping by any person on a window well cover of any type, shape, or material, for any reason, is hereinafter strictly prohibited.

Courage at Twilight: Crêpes Frangipane

They did not know what to say, so they said nothing, and I suffered alone.  When I separated and divorced almost seven years ago, not one neighbor, not one congregation member, not one ministerial leader approached me with friendship or compassion or support.  They did not know what to say, apparently, so they stayed away and said nothing at all, and I anguished utterly alone.  (Thank God, Mom and Dad and Sarah and Jeanette and Carl and Paul and Megan and Don and Carolyn and Steven—parents, siblings, and three friends—they loved me through.)  I think that “I don’t know what to say” is a hideous excuse for pretending not to see, and for withdrawing and withholding, and for saying nothing.  I reject it.  How easy it would have been for anyone to say, “I am so sorry!” or “What can I do to support you?” or “You will get through this, and I want to be there with you as you do.”  I reject it: actually, we do know what to say, but we are reluctant to feel another’s pain, afraid to do the emotional work of empathy.  Just: say anything kind.  That ought to be easy.  When our neighbor’s infant grandson died in his crib in their house this week, constricted by a blanket laid there to warm and comfort the baby boy, dozens of men and women rushed to the house and kept coming every day for weeks, with meals, with hugs, with encouragement, with loving silence, with tears, and with other assurances of love and hope.  I did not know what to say, and I did not go, right away.  But I had rejected that justification, and I had determined never to stay away for the lack of the right words.  Instead of words, I took over a plate of hot crêpes stuffed with chocolate almond frangipane (French pudding) and handed the goodie plate over with a smile and said the words “You might want to use a fork—they are a bit messy” and “This is an authentic French dessert” and “I don’t know what words to say” and “So many people love you and care for you and mourn with you and have hope for your healing and happiness.”  And he embraced me and said, “Thank you.  I can’t wait to give them a try.”  After church today, a group of women surrounded the grieving grandmother and talked and cried and hugged and counseled—they loved.  Dad observed to me, “That is more than just a group of women talking.  Christ is there with them, healing.”  And I knew Dad spoke truth.