I searched high and low, contacting old friends, and going through old computer files until my wife finally found this little article I posted on the day our second little girl was born.
In honor of today, her sixth birthday, I’m posting it anew on the “new” site of FathersTales, as it was on the original but was lost in a web-move.
So, here it is, warts and all:
Today, July 24, 2008 at 4:23 p.m. Central Daylight Time, the world
welcomed I. S. into it with the sound of her mewling cries and the
joyful tears of her mother and father. The day began for N. at 4 a.m.
(it never ended for K. who couldn’t fall asleep the night before). She
took a shower, got dressed, arranged her face and together with K.
exited la hacienda to begin their early morning journey to the hospital
to prepare for “INDUCTION”.
Now, some may be wondering… “Induction? Doesn’t that have something to
do with electricity?” I’m here to say, that while I suppose it does have
_something_ to do with electricity, this induction had to do with
encouraging baby #5 to go ahead and come out and play with the rest of
us post-natal persons.
Anyway… we arrived at l’hôpital at about 4:45 a.m. (a few minutes
earlier than expected) and went to the standard OB GYN check-in station
— or what we THOUGHT was the check-in station.
At 5:15 a.m., K. convinced N. that since no one was opening the locked
door to the supposed “check-in station” then perhaps they should proceed
on to Labor and Delivery. Off they went, one of them waddling like a
duck — the other dragging five tons of critical hospital survival gear
Once we arrived at the desired respite, we were ushered into a room and
told that the hospital no longer uses the “check-in station” at early
mornings. Apparently our doctor who had been out of town for a few weeks
was unaware of the new “go straight to Labor and Delivery” policy. K.
was chagrined. N. was still pregnant.
At approximately 6 a.m., the medical staff began attempting to attach a
cylindrical bendable tubing to the Pregnant One’s arm. We say attempted
because the first attempt missed which wouldn’t have been all that
noticeable if N. hadn’t started bleeding all over the place from the
tiny puncture into her vein. After a little fretting and lots of
cleaning, the nurse again punctured Prego’s arm but managed not to lose
the spot and retained connectivity to the aforementioned’s arm. After
the second attempt and during further cleanup, the nurse embarrassedly
said, “Wow. It looks like a murder scene.”
A little while later (about 7:30 a.m.), the midwife came in and checked
on N.’s dilation. She measured a “2?. For those of you keeping score at
home, that means somehow, someway, somewhere since the last time she’d
been checked, N. LOST a unit of dilation. Now I do not pretend to
understand how the dilation thing works, but I can tell you that was
At some point (either a little before the midwife came in or soon after)
N. received a gift of the oft-reviled, oft-beloved miracle scourge
“Pitocin”. We shall refrain from making a judgment on its
efficaciousness or evil and simply state that this little bugger is the
one that (for lack of a better term) “gets things movin’!” Contractions
began pretty quickly once the “Pit” (that’s what the nurses call it)
kicked in. Now when I say “contractions”, I’m not referring to those
little annoyances that make preggers sit up in the middle of the night
and go “Oooo! I’m having a contraction!” I’m talking about full-blown,
scream-for-yo’-mama, muscle-mincing CONTRACTIONS. Yea. Nancy finally
understands what the midwife meant when she said “toe-curling.”
So, about 8:30 a.m. one of the nurses came in and checked N.’s dilation
— “Four”. Along with this little adventure, of checking the cervix, we
discovered that baby was not playing nice and kept having little “decel”
moments — when her heart rate would drop low (below 100, usually around
60) for a prolonged period of time (only a few minutes, but too long for
the staff’s comfort). So, the nurse smiled and placed the always fun
“oxygen mask” — or as N. likes to call it “The Plastic Sheath of Terror”
— over N.’s face.
Oh, I forgot, not only did we have this wonderful frustration with the
oxygen mask, but soon after the four was announced, N. asked for and was
promised an epidural. The epidural people came in and proceeded to take
over the room, kicking K. out into the street with little warning, only
his wallet, his cell-phone and, most importantly… no keys. They told him
to “come back in about 30 minutes.” Well, I (K) thought that was a great
idea so I went downstairs to get some breakfast. Uh uh… not so fast. The
cafeteria closed at 9 a.m.
“WHAT!!?!?” Yes, can you BELIEVE it!?!? How was I going to get a decent
breakfast? Oh, wait… I drove. I decided to head out to the car. Once I
made it to the parking lot I realized I was missing one thing — yep, you
remember don’t you — my keys. They were back in the room with the
Off I went, back to the room to bless my wife with my presence and get
my keys in order to head over to Whataburger and purchase one of their
majestic and fabled wonders… a PTAC (Potato TAquito with Cheese — it’s
got egg too, basically a breakfast burrito for all you newbs). Anyway,
once I got to the den of prickery (that’s cause they use needles to
prick you!), I was greeted warmly by the Epidurmutts with a simple, “GET
OUT YOU MISOGYNISTIC PIG OF A MAN-DOG AND DO NOT COME BACK UNTIL YOU ARE
BIDDEN TO ENTER OUR DOMAIN!” or something like that. In other words, I
would not be allowed to get my keys and have enough time to go get my
eagerly desired breakfast food. WAH! So, I went potty instead.
After a few minutes, the Epicurios completed their puncturing of my
beloved’s back and allowed me to return to her side, hungry and still
quite tired. — BY THE WAY, I had been gifted with a pillow and blanket
soon after we arrived and had used them quite handily in the room up
until around 8 a.m. when four fingered nursey started poking around, but
I still retained a great deal of exhaustion from my lack of sleep
overnight. — ANYWAY, N. told me that while I was off dawdling and
enjoying myself doing whatever inane things I surely had been doing
since I hadn’t been able to grab a bite of real food to eat that she had
endured quite the trauma. Apparently, the Epidodos were afflicted with
the same macular degeneration or similar condition as our first medical
assistant — they poorly placed the Epidermal and had only succeeded in
numbing the left half of her body.
Oh, that reminds me of another interesting story from the very beginning
of our hospital stay — while Stabby the Nurse was needling N.’s poor
wrist, two other nurses were talking about something to do with where N.
should have items placed upon her person to monitor her body, etc.,
etc., blah, blah, blah… At one point, Nurse A said, “Over there on your
left.” Nurse B responded by lifting up her right arm and saying, “Okay,
my left.” To which N. and I both stared stupefied at one another and
Nurse A remanded, “No, your other left.” It was a sign of the way the
day would go.
Back to the story… after a while, N called the nurses who came in turned
her over and enabled gravity to do its thing by pulling the special
alchemical formula for turning CONTRACTIONS into “pressures” into
operation on both sides of N.’s body. All were happy, and the
CONTRACTIONS continued but not as severe and simply as semi-annoyances,
until it stopped working again about 1 p.m.
A nurse came in, turned Nancy over again, and all was well again. Until
the Epidermal machine started beeping and I became a little concerned
because it had the word “OCCLUSION” written across it in bold letters
with a little electronic siren that seemed to be screaming “FIX THIS NOW
OR THE WOMAN IS GOING TO DIE!” It may not have actually said those
words, but I began to fret that it MEANT to say them. So, I quickly
called for a nurse who ran in, looked at the machine and promptly said,
*********** BE AWARE THE FOLLOWING WORD MAY BE OFFENSIVE TO SOME —
HIGHLIGHT TO SEE IT!!!!!!!!! *********************
(I apologize for using vulgar language, but the statement and subsequent
actions were so entertaining and alarming at the same time that I felt
it must be left in for accuracy and clarity.)
She ran out to get another nurse who quickly guided her into finding
that N. had apparently and unknowingly rolled over onto and blocked off
the medicines/drugs coming from the E-Machine (which reminds me — do not
buy an eMachine, please, they are not worth the trouble).
Okay… so we continued to wait calling some family and friends to let
them know we thought things would happen soon.
When the nurse came in and measured N. at EIGHT (dilation
thingiemajiggers), we thought, surely we’ll deliver this baby soon. That
was at 1:30 or 2 p.m.
We waited and waited until finally at 4 p.m. the midwife showed up and
said, “Anyone want to have a baby?”
By this time, instead of being sarcastic or annoyed, both N. and I were
exhausted and simply cried out, “YES PLEASE!”
After a valiant and heroic job of pushing and breathing, N. delivered
her baby about 20 minutes later. She is a wonderful person, fantastic
mother and terrific wife. She braved a very hard day today and a very
laborious (no pun intended) pregnancy. Please remember her in your
prayers as she recovers and offer your prayers of thanksgiving to God
who saw her through this wonderful phase.
Thank God Almighty for our new little girl, and thank God for His
protection for N. through her pregnancy and delivery.
God bless you. We love you.
I had every intention of continuing my story quickly, but I haven’t. My apologies for those who were paying attention (not that you’ll see this for a while, unless you’re REALLY dedicated).
I’ve got lots of things going on right now — seeking a new job to supplement my normal pastoral ministry, learning skills for one of my new part time jobs, getting fit, and just chasing around a two-year old (along with his older siblings).
I’ll get another chapter up as soon as I can, but for now, God bless you and yours, and may His peace reign in your heart.
[This work is something I recently wrote for a small internet publication that didn’t get picked up, so I’m posting it here.]
“I should be in charge. That self-righteous idiot who claims to know everything about ‘everything’ pulled a fast one on me, caught me unawares, and threw me out on my own.
I don’t need him. I’ll show him.
Anyway, if he had listened to me, he wouldn’t be in the pickle he’s in now. He mucked up everything. His whole plan went down the crapper – just because he was afraid to listen to his ‘inferior’ and insisted on doing it all his way.
How can he claim I am inferior? I was right in everything I said, and it’s all going as I told him it would. But he still doesn’t listen or care.
‘They’ say history is written by the victors. So far, that’s true; though I will set the record straight and take my place and fix his whole mess. Then everyone will know I was right and that his ridiculous prattling and posturing was simply inane garble. He’s such a megalomaniac. I despise him.
If I were in charge, I’d make sure everyone knew it. He sure does. He demands everyone listen to him or they get fired. No one is allowed individual initiative or creativity. It’s all ‘his’ show. If someone complains and says they’d rather do it their way, then he quickly steps in and chastises them for being dim-witted fools because he’s ‘always right.’
You know what I think of that nonsense. He has been wrong far too often.
I’d do it better. I’d give everyone an opportunity to tell me what they think, and I might even use their ideas. It’s not like I’m omniscient or anything. But I sure as hell know a lot more than anyone else, except for him.
Worst of all, he likes to pretend to sit in the background while his chosen pets simper and whine, begging him to give insight or to help with their own little projects. I see him gloating. He’s such a hypocrite. He wants them all to come and ask for help. Then he doles it out, if they agree to his conditions. Continue working for him at his discretion, doing whatever inane tasks he demands whenever he demands them for barely more than empty promises. Sure, he makes sure most of them have their minimal needs met, but how often does he let them really thrive and live the good life?
If it were me, I’d reward my minions handsomely. Money, power, sex… you name it. He can’t stand any of that stuff. It’s all about ‘do unto others’ and all that lunacy. What was he thinking? Did he actually believe anyone would want what he’s selling? Not me. Not ever.
I will take over some day, and when I do, I’ll not only slap him down but anyone who was stupid enough to believe him. Then they’ll all know how awesome I am. After all, he named me the Morning Star!”
Realizing he would not win this tug of war, Frank attempted to let go. Try as he might, though, he could not free himself from the mop’s handle. He laughed at the absurdity of the situation as the wall pulled him closer and closer. Finally, he drew up against it, somehow passed through it, and incomprehensibly found himself standing in a very real archway.
He felt a bit light-headed and disoriented: all around him was a forest. Gray large stone hovered over him. Dry leaves littered the ground, surrounding their parent trees which stood dozens of feet tall with thick grey trunks. He stood in a clearing about thirty feet in diameter. A wide path headed straight out in front of him with those large twisted trees darkly overhanging the well-worn trail. Silence crept up his back. Swinging around quickly, he held his mop-headed staff out defensively, steadying himself against whatever unseen assailant might have snuck behind him. Nothing but an empty archway and the path continuing on through the forest extended that direction.
Where am I? What’s going on? he silently questioned. Hopefully, he walked back through the archway, thinking he might be able to reverse whatever had occurred. He stepped through the arch and onto the path, still in the middle of a clearing in an unknown forest. Probing every recess and line of the structure, his hands crossed every bit of the archway he could reach, looking for some sort of switch to trigger or button to activate so he might get away. Nothing happened.
Fighting panic, he assessed the situation. If he could find the sun, he knew he would be able to determine North, or at least he hoped he could. It had been a long time since he had been in Scouts. He searched the forest canopy, looking for shafts of light or something to clue him into the sun’s whereabouts.
Soon, he realized the luminescence of the forest simply existed. He could not find any light sources. No light shone through the tops of the trees or streamed into the clearing. A subtle light permeated the atmosphere and provided enough clarity to see, sort of a dusky brilliance, but he could not find its source.
The dead leaves whispered with silent laughter Frank’s confusion took hold. Listening for sounds from the overbearingly silent forest, he sensed voices surrounding him, snickering. He brandished his mop hoping to scare his opponents, real or imagined, into leaving him alone.
I need to find a way out of this place. Maybe I’m dreaming. If so, wake up!
Off in the distance to the right of the arch, a large bare hill rose above the trees. He could not be sure at this distance, but it looked as though something might have moved on the hilltop. Determined to get a better understanding of his surroundings, he started down the path in front of him, hoping it might lead to the hill.
As he walked, his mind cleared, the haunting, watched feeling subsided, and he began to enjoy the movement. The pail swung in his left hand, creating its own clock-like momentum. Quickly, he lost many of his apprehensions and looked forward to continuing this insanely odd adventure. Perhaps he was trapped in a land where he would become king like in the story books. Maybe this was some sort of ancestral home, and his parents were secretly hiding a fantastic family heritage that included wizards, dragons or talking beasts.
Then again… he was probably just dreaming.
Standing on that hill in a swath of shadow, and watching the newcomer make his way down the path, that figure guessed at by Frank, sat atop a black war horse, nodded to himself and waited, wondering if this person was the one prophesied to come in his lands’ greatest needs or whether he was a sad joke. His thoughts turned more towards the latter. He checked his reins, slapped his mount’s flank and rode the path down the opposite side of the hill from where this stranger would eventually come.
To the few of you possibly reading my site. Some strangeness was going on for a few days but now seems to be fixed.
So, if you tried to leave comments before and got an error message, you should be able to now.
After a night filled with odd dreams, Frank blinked his eyes to the Sun’s rays as they burned away the remnants of his fitful sleep. Stretching arms and legs with the bright warmth caressing his back and sides, he sat up slowly, slid out of bed, shivered slightly as his feet sought their slippered home on the chilly wooden floor. Once in the bathroom, he fully revived with a long, hot shower. Today, he decided, he was a new man. The previous day’s experience had been a random oddity due simply to an over-active imagination.
While eating breakfast, he went through his morning routine of checking the news and social websites to catch up on what he may have missed overnight. No messages, nor world-shattering information awaited. Full of the latest information, oatmeal, toast and a scrambled egg, he threw together a bagged lunch, cleaned up his mess, and locking the door, strode across the back lawn to the church. Although the weatherman assured everyone it would be sunny this Sunday, and winter was officially several weeks behind him, Frank wanted to get the furnace fixed as soon as possible.
The mechanical monstrosity greeted him in silence, maintaining its new vigilance in the middle of the basement floor with various tools left lying around it. Confident that last night’s strangeness had been some self-induced delusion, Frank decided to ignore the walls in case he might imagine something bizarre again.
He worked steadily, concentrating on fixing the heater. Around noon he discovered that the internal wiring had been severed – most likely by mice. After further inspection, he became concerned. It looked as though someone had deliberately damaged the machine. The cuts were too precise and clean for mice teeth to have caused them. He grabbed his lunch bag and went upstairs to catch Father James and let him know someone had purposely damaged the unit. He might know who would try such a thing.
As he came close to the priest’s darkened office, he remembered the pastor was attending a clerical retreat through Saturday. Frank walked to the kitchen, popped open a can of soda from the fridge and ate his lunch quickly, anxious to get done with the job. While at the table he noticed the dirty floor and remembered part of his dreams from last night.
Little goblin-like creatures had danced around him with spears poking at him. He had defended himself with a mop and bucket. They laughed and shouted with angry, hate-filled cries that he was going to die for trying to interfere.
Shaking himself and chuckling at his bizarre imagination, he finished his meal, tossed his trash in the bin, made a mental note to clean the floor today and headed back downstairs, determined to finish his project. To avoid forgetting about the kitchen, he went to the opposite corner of the basement and pulled out some cleaning supplies: cleaner, wipes, mop and bucket. As he walked across the floor, he stopped and visibly shivered. He noticed a drawing on the wall – the same one he had convinced himself was not there.
He marched over to the wall, mop in hand, and thrust it at the drawing, resolved to eradicate the mess. As the mop touched the drawing, it kept moving – through the picture. In fact, it started moving as though something was pulling it into the wall. Quickly, Frank grounded his feet, gripped the mop tightly and yanked. It did not slow but began to pull him forward as well. Before he could let go, his entire body started shaking with an electric rush. The wall now stood a few inches from him. The drawing had grown and changed. The little archway had expanded so much that if it were real, he would pass right through it.
And he did.
Following is the first chapter of a short story/novella I’ve been working on for a while. Any similarities to anyone living or deceased is purely coincidental. Let me know what you think of the beginnings of the tale. I’ve got a few more chapters written and may post them as well, depending on feedback.
Frank Dehoda worked hard as a janitor in the small Episcopal church located behind his little home. The church, built back in the late forties, carried a strong appeal for him. It reminded him of his own youth growing up in a small town, but this particular parish practiced a very conservative Anglicanism similar to his own beliefs.
Frank really wanted to be a professional musician. He played trumpet in a local jazz band which currently performed every Friday night at a local pub and practiced Sunday nights with the occasional Wednesday evening practice, especially when they had command performances or special gigs upcoming. But it was hard to make ends meet solely on the income of his trumpet, forcing him to find a job with hours amenable to his mostly night-time profession.
Right after moving into the little apartment house behind the church, he had made friends with the priest at St. Philip’s. Being pretty friendly and aware that others did not always share his passion for the trumpet or jazz music, he made sure to visit his neighbors and find out when would be reasonable times he could practice without interfering with their lives too much. The church had services on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings – times when Frank wasn’t usually going to be practicing at home anyway, but he had made a point to let the pastor know, just in case.
Father James seemed glad to meet Frank, and the two hit it off well. Frank occasionally would show up at special events at the church to support Father James. When the church’s old janitor moved away, Father James, aware of Frank’s financial situation, asked if he might try out being their janitor. It was not a glorious position or very high pay, but with the flexible hours and being right behind his home, he thought it would work well. That was two years ago, and Frank had gotten accustomed to the church’s needs and become pretty good at being a janitor/handyman in that short time, so much so that people in the church would even ask him to help fix things at their own homes.
Frank’s mother had always insisted he work hard no matter what he did – to give his best. He had worked very hard at being a janitor, and whenever he came across a problem he did not know how to handle, he became obsessed with solving it.
The day the furnace stopped working Frank became obsessed with finding the answer to its problem. He looked through all the troubleshooting books he could find, checked online and even called the local dealer to ask some pointed questions. Nowhere could he find a solution to the problem. The unit stopped working and would not function. All the parts were where they were supposed to be and in working order. All the wires were in proper order. Electricity was flowing throughout the unit, but it simply would not work.
Later that night while working in the basement, he disconnected the heating unit, and moved it away from the wall. He thought a full visual check might reveal the problem.
While scooting the heater aside, he noticed a strange marking on the rear wall. It looked like a child’s drawing. A charcoal-lined knight sat on a horse overlooking an archway on one side and a gathering of little stick-like creatures with big eyes and sharp teeth on the other. The monster-like figures stood outside a tall tower and some stood brandishing weapons while some of them were hiding behind crudely drawn trees with stick-like spears and swords at the ready.
Curious, he got on his knees and leaned forward. He thought it weird that such a simple drawing could evoke such an appearance of movement and life, but he could vividly imagine hearing their taunting jeers and hatred from far away. He reached out, brushing his hand against the knight’s black helmet, and felt a strange electric coldness rush up his arm, briefly numbing it up to the shoulder.
Startled, he jerked and stared at the drawing. Nothing had changed, but his entire body felt odd. He looked down and around the room to make sure no voltage was connected to the wall. Seeing it was clear he shrugged, thinking this artwork must somehow be connected to the problem with the heater.
Leaning closer to the drawing, he purposely, yet timidly, tapped the knight again with his forefinger. Again the strange feeling burst through his arm and body. He jumped backwards, nearly falling. The picture had changed, or at least he thought it had. Now, the creatures were looking away from the knight, and, though it seemed impossible, they seemed to be staring at Frank, spears raised, cackling laughter littered the recesses of his mind either from a cruel imagination or their strange little mouths.
Thinking he must just be too tired, he decided to touch a different part of the drawing. He stretched out and prodded the archway with his other hand. This time the numbing was much more intense. It felt to him as though he was being pulled bodily toward the drawing, and the room began to grow dark. His breathing became labored. He knew he would pass out if he didn’t do something quickly. He threw himself away from the wall, landing ungracefully against the heating unit, and slightly denting its side.
“Okay,” he said to himself, “I’m sure I didn’t have a beer before I came down here.”
Remembering it was late, he found it to be an excellent excuse to leave and not pursue the heating problem since he had a couple of days until Sunday anyway, and he really wanted to avoid this sudden weirdness. Rubbing his shoulder which still felt somewhat numb, he left his tools where they were, locked up and crossed through the garden behind the church and went home.
I didn’t write more soon.
But I am writing more.
I finished the book The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban. I loved it.
Having been separated from that book for thirty years and having grown into a fairly well-educated adult and father, I can see so many areas the book must have touched my life through planting seeds and dreams. I did not feel as though the book was beneath me, though its meta-narrative and under-pinning worldview seemed to be much more apparent than I could remember them being when I was a child.
While not very subtle with its philosophical intentions, the book draws the reader into the story. I’m not sure if the author intended this or not, but the very approachability of the story seems to follow the evolution of the Mouse who struggles with becoming something other (or perhaps greater) than as whom he begins the story. At first the Mouse is very set in his ways and somewhat aloof. The writing in the early chapters tends not to demand the reader’s attention as much as it does later in the book as the Mouse grabs on more fiercely to his own independence and life. By the end of the book, the Mouse and the story become very difficult to leave, as a piece of art and as a story.
My heart fell when I found what I thought was that incredible moment with the dog food can reduced to a little over a couple of paragraphs in the second chapter. Fortunately, I found much later that all I had remembered was fulfilled in a later chapter while it included much more than I recalled — much to my delight.
It begins with the main characters recognizing their lot in life and feeling impotent to change it, even though the desire simmers to investigate and question. Not long into the story circumstances change so that the main characters, the Mouse and his Child, are able to seek their dreams. It continues through their struggle to make their dreams reality, by fighting circumstance, doubt and very real foes.
The book provides inspiration to those who feel the pull to seek after something greater than themselves – to pursue a dream and a longed-for future. While not overtly Christian, the book does include elements of life, death and rebirth, sin, repentance and forgiveness and would fit pretty well into a familial study. It does get rather violent and even scary at times, but I think the themes are more than tame enough for pre-teens. It’s a good starting place for many philosophical and moral discussions.
If you have a chance to read this little gem, please take the time. You won’t regret this little jaunt into Mr. Hoban’s inspired imagination.
Nearly thirty years ago – I’m not sure exactly when (either third or fourth grade, I think) – I found a book in my elementary school’s cafeteria/library during “library hour” and began to read it. I had never heard of it, but it looked somewhat promising. It was called, The Mouse and His Child. I’m pretty sure I devoured it during that hour; although I may have checked it out and taken it home to finish. Regardless, I remember a particular incident with that book.
Up until that time, I had simply read books for pleasure without realizing the enormity of their inherent power. Sure, I had read textbooks which taught me things that would change my life, but “pleasure reading” was simply that – fluff for fluff’s sake. This time, though, things changed.
I discovered something truly mind-blowing.
As I sat reading, I imaged the story in my mind. At one point, I became fully entrenched in the story. What I remember now is one simple scene that introduced me to the greater reality of stories – they can teach you about Truth while still retaining their fictions. The scene as I think about it now really could not have been as profound as my nine or ten year old brain made it out to be, but it has stuck with me through the years.
A little mouse had sunk to the bottom of a creek or pond and stood before an empty can of dog food. On the can was a picture of a dog holding a can of dog food upon which was a picture of a dog holding a can of dog food, and it continued for as far as the little mouse could see, always a smaller dog and can.
I kept trying to figure out when the progression would stop until I finally came to the realization that it might not ever stop.
Wham! Welcome to the concept of infinity!
Sure I had heard of the concept before in church or on PBS, but I hadn’t ever really considered what it meant.
This revelation of the immeasurability of infinity blew my mind – in a good way.
I finished the book, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I soon forgot the title and could not find the book again. I didn’t really think of the book again until I had children of my own; although, I did often remember that scene.
Finally, a few years ago, I determined to find the book and spent much time searching the internet for more information. After a while, I figured out the title.
Recently, my wife, knowing my high regard for the book, bought it for me and the kids. They haven’t read it yet. I want to read it first.
My plan is to write about my new adventures with this book after thirty years. How have I changed? How are my perceptions of it this time around? What can I learn from it now?
I did read the first chapter last night, but I’ll talk about that later. In fact, I think I’ll take it chapter by chapter – so I’ll write more soon.
I remember hearing my first Amy Grant song, “Father’s Eyes”, when I was around nine years old. I loved her voice, but when I saw my first picture of her. Well, I fell in love, or whatever emotion a boy has for a girl (True, she was a few years older than I at the time, but that’s irrelevant.) Anyway, I was hooked, but as I was still so young and girls were supposed to be “yucky”, I pretended not to be interested.
I didn’t become a stalker or anything bizarre like that – in fact, I didn’t think much about her unless I heard her voice on the radio or unless my mom played her cassette of Ms. Grant’s. I idealized this young lady who was beautiful, talented and a dedicated Christian. She was what I wanted for my future. I loved to sing and loved my God. Perhaps someday I could marry someone as special as her – maybe even her!
As I got older, those thoughts still percolated in my mind – not that I actually would ever have a chance to even meet Miss Grant, but that I might win the love of a similarly spectacular goddess.
And then our youth group planned to go to a special concert – Amy Grant was coming to town, and I would have the opportunity to see her in person! I was so excited; though I played it off pretty well at the time – at least I thought I did. To this day I think my mom knew I had a secret crush on Amy, but she never once made fun of me or mentioned it.
So, I went to the outdoor concert expectant and hoping that maybe somehow God would arrange to allow me the chance to meet the lovely Christian woman I so hoped to know. I must have been about fourteen or fifteen at the time. My hormones were going crazy I’m sure, and my emotions were all over the place. Life was a roller-coaster ride from day to day. I could not wait at least to see her on stage.
She never showed.
It turned out she got sick and couldn’t perform, so her friends – a guy named Michael Smith and another named Russ Taff – showed up and performed instead. I was absolutely crushed. Do not worry fair reader, this incident is not where my heart was broken.
Several years later after I had mostly gotten over my Amy-philia, she released an album called House of Love which I bought and thoroughly enjoyed. It was full of love songs, and it made me so happy. It seemed to tell the story of how love should be and how it could be in a Christian life with determination and love being wed together in a life of a couple committed to live together in the Lord. Her duet with Vince Gill, “House of Love”, ignited my imagination and made me long for a wife while the other songs on the album all complemented and dealt with the issues of loving relationships.
This album cemented the idol I had made of Amy. Though she had married another singer, Gary Chapman, (which I still hadn’t quite gotten over) and had children with him, I accepted their relationship as a beautiful testimony and example for all men and women. I wanted her – well, someone like her – to be mine too! She was like Mary, Jesus’ mother, a holy, unblemished woman that stood for Christian wholeness and beauty. She was the nadir of Christian living. Two thousand years of the Christian world had brought us to the point where we had this enthralling woman of virtue whom the whole world could respect for her morality and talents as the preeminent voice of Christian entertainment. (Now, of course I’m being somewhat hyperbolic, but I’m speaking for what I now see I had done in my mind to Ms. Grant.)
I had made of her an idol of amazing proportions.
Then “it” happened.
You probably know the story.
My Christian queen filed for divorce from her husband and married her duet partner from the “House of Love”.
Again, I was crushed, but in so many more ways than when I was a teenager. This woman whom I had come not only to respect, but to adore quietly and ardently had just ridiculed my own convictions on the sanctity of marriage, while at the same time completely destroying my pubescent paradigm of her presumed righteousness. My “Christian” Aphrodite had become mortal, and worse, she had become (in my myopic vision) an adulteress – the opposite of the woman I had created her to be in my tiny little mind.
I got rid of all my Amy Grant tapes. I couldn’t listen to her without feeling conflicted and even rejected. Her divorce destroyed my image of female perfection in my mind. I had to quickly shove her music and appearance out of my life so I could make room for a new ideal of female virtue. Every time I heard her or saw her (on TV, etc.), I became angry and heavyhearted. In fact, I didn’t understand the Truth of what was happening. I thought I was mad at her because of her unfaithfulness and selfishness.
I am ashamed to say that it was not until very recently (several years later) that I finally had my epiphany regarding what Amy really did to me. In fact, I am still figuring it out as I write this note. I think I’ll probably still be learning what all it means for a long time yet to come.
Here it is, though. (And if I’m anywhere near a decent writer, I hope you’ve figured out where I’m going.)
About a year ago I read an article from a Christian writer who used to report for a popular Christian music magazine who publicly asked Ms. Grant to forgive him for some things that were written about her at the time of her divorce. The article got me thinking about how I had never “forgiven” her, and I realized I needed to work on it. So, I forgave her and moved on.
I went to the library yesterday and ran across a couple of her albums, House of Love and Heart in Motion. I really loved both albums at one point, and I’ve wanted to share her song, “Baby, Baby” with my own children, because I use it often when referring to them (my babies).
As I listen to her music today, I find some of that old pain coming back – that “betrayal” and sorrow. As I’ve been wondering why, I’ve come to understand some shocking things about myself.
Amy Grant never really broke my heart.
I broke my own heart. It was not Amy that made herself into a goddess. She never asked me to place her on a pedestal of Christian virtue. She never claimed to be the example for any Christian to follow. She sung of her failures and difficulties while extolling the wonders of our Almighty God. She was real and human. I was the one who did not understand. I caused the trouble in my own soul because I made her into something she was not and was never would have wanted to be.
The anger and bitterness towards Ms. Grant had little to do with her or her divorce. It has everything to do with my misplaced values. I defined concepts of Christianity through a fanciful imagination of what one person seemed to be – not the reality of the Triune God.
When we look to humans to be our gods, we find only trouble for ourselves. I never intended, and up until now, I never would have thought that I had put her in such an exalted position in my life, but I had, and I did.
Amy is still the same person she has always been – or at least I assume she hasn’t changed much, not many people do. I’ve never met her, and I doubt I ever will. She’s on the same journey as I. Just like me, she’s a flawed and frail person with mistakes and sorrows of her own.
Sometimes we put people in places they have no right to be. Only the True God can be the paragon of virtue and righteousness. Only God shines for us as that perfect example of love and morality. We must keep our eyes firmly fixed on our heavenly Father and seek Him at all times, or we will get lost in self-indulgence, selfishness and foolish thinking.
Amy, I will always love you for sharing your wonderful talents with the world, and ultimately with me through the gift of your recorded music. Though you’ll never know me, I hope forgiveness will find its way from you to me for being so critical and stupid. You never deserved my condemnation or judgment. You simply needed my prayers. I’m sorry. May God bless you and your family, and may His healing and grace abound in your lives.