The Porch

The house stood at the dead end of Grand Avenue. “For Sale,” It said. I didn’t want the house necessarily. I wanted the memories of the childhood more than the malformed nuances of adulthood. Ignorance was bliss and that bliss faded into the backdrop of life away from home. My driveling reminiscence stood hoping for a sensory flashback. Scuffed Red Ball Jets shoes and ham-burg gravy I suppose.

My daughters climbed the stairs with me and we became momentary voyeurs of the place where I learned to walk, ride, and drive. We cased it like burglars. We peered over the window sills. We walked its perimeter. I started pouring out stories like a coffee pot.

I told them how I used to ride and ride my stingray around the house until the roots of the maple trees rose like varicose veins. The path allowed only the hardiest dandelions to survive. Now there was actually green grass circling this “used to be” home. How my mother would have liked to have something to mow back then.

I got on a knee to peer under the wooden overlay of the cement stoop in front. It was under there, crumbling still. Instead of five smooth stones there were five rough steps with bookend brick walls. Those walls held, for a while, the stories of our lives.

In the spring ten children fell out of our winter barracks and sat at ease on those steps. The porch was the place to hang out and watch the world go by…even on a dead end street. It was never dead; more like a holding yard for the neighborhood kids.

My sister Mary sat on the wall and wander around guitar chords. I remember her playing the intro to the Beatle’s Blackbird. Now I hear my son playing it and his fingers pick and point me back to front porch days…

Back when it was a safe zone for tag or home base for hide and seek. Back when my mom blew the police whistle from that porch to call us home for dinner or baths or a head count. Back, when in early August, it was an excellent place to watch lightning bugs and listen to the cicadas sing. Back when neighborhood kids showed up for senseless banter and storytelling from its podium. Back when cigarette butts were flicked into the sidewalk cracks. Back when the porch served as a barricade from water balloons and squirt gun fire and pitches of the little pearly berries from the shrubs out back. Back when it was the backdrop for graduation pictures. Back when tears of sadness, frustration, anger, and happiness had freckled its grainy mortar. Back where hellos and goodbyes were handed out.

It reminded me of my mom. Actually, it was for her I wrote these words down. That porch was like the house’s lap. We crawled up on it to relax and be ourselves. There was a comfort of simply sitting there. Sit and be. Let the wind blow our hair back like she did when she checked for fevers. First the back of her hand against our cheek, then a cool palm on our forehead, then the brushing back of our hair and her pursed lips just above our eyebrows.

Then to climb up on her lap…the best easy chair ever there was. It supported our weighty little bodies. We sat and waited for her strength to be transferred to us. A short visit there lent us security. I know now that her strength and security was often waning. Only God and she knew how many times her cup was empty and yet a little drop of love managed to fall on us… and that was all we needed.

Now that porch is laminated in painted wood, make-up that covers its inner beauty and foundational strength. I feel like I need to go back in cover of darkness to pry up the cover up. Then I could sit on the pitted remembrance of who I was becoming. I imagined all my siblings stuffed on that porch sharing the steps and the one lap we all had in common.

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Caption: Pay Attention

I was reminded to pay attention. Why? Am I indebted to it? If so, do I have enough time to spend on it? Should I get a mind equity loan and pay it in installments? It would most likely be a balloon loan hanging over my head with captions in it. Like the one yesterday suspended above me; “put the wheel barrel down, back away slowly, and go get your son”.

Bash told me he wanted to gather wood with me. He was engaged with helping someone else when I finally found my beat up boots. Then I did what comes naturally, I set out alone. The grove across the street was stuffed with fallen branches of all sizes. I dragged a few larger ones across to our driveway and fetched a wheel barrow for the kindling. One tire was flat and I injected it with a sealant that resuscitated it. That’s when the bubble appeared like a cotton ball just off my left temple. “Go get your son.” I had just said no to have friends over after church since I had been away for three days. Family time I said. There I stood like a big fat liar with a caption hanging, waiting for a response.

So, I fetched him. Maybe one of his tires needed airing up. He dropped what he was doing, threw some shoes on and walked and talked a few feet away. The cotton ball captions between us cast little fluffy puddles of moving shadows on the ground.

He started seeing things in the branches we carried, like one does when looking at cumulus clouds. Creatures and feet dragging and dinosaurs and letters were infused into severed dead things. He walked on the wall and was taller than me for a moment and he let me know. He asked questions about what kind of sticks to pick. He commented on how big the “forest” was and I remembered the little grove of trees on the other side of the Stump’s house when I was a kid, how big it was and the bravery it took to enter into it.

We laid the twigs like a pile of pick-up-sticks on the bonfire circle and I wondered what Abraham thought as he paid attention to his son. God didn’t caption me with a “Go get your son, your only son…” and yet I wonder if in some odd way, as I pay better attention, that someday, as I send him out into the world with a few of our memories in his backpack, I will feel a sting of separation because of the installment payments of attentiveness. He is my son, and I long to fetch him again and again.

>Our Fathers, Who Art in Heaven

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Our Fathers, Who Art in Heaven.
     It was a few days ago now that I made the delivery.  New York was the return address.  It was a funeral home in New York.  I knocked and waited.  No answer.  My niece lived on my route and in a strange coincidence I thought I was delivering the urn which held her father’s ashes.  I really didn’t want to leave it there all alone and in a corner on the doorstep.  Yet, a few days earlier she explained to me why there was to be no funeral.  “He was a loner,” she said.  So, as I set down the package I thought “he will simply be alone until she returns. He will be in his element.”   It turned out that it was the last of his things from the funeral home, not the urn itself.    I e-mailed her to make sure she got it.   I expressed my sadness and she hers. 
     Then I visited Splittergewitter and she posted a beautiful tribute to her father.  An honor expressed with depth and clarity.  It emoted strong and soft like an exchange that would take place between a father and daughter.  When she slipped behind his eyes to the dance beyond time, it was a bitter sweet connection that hung in the air and she harvested a poem some time later. (As Luci Shaw would say)
    Last night at dinner with some friends, he explained to me his disconnect when his father passed away.   Three days before his father died my friend said he was invited to pray with his dad and grandfather.   The thing was that both of them were obstinate toward God and any idea of God.  So when the grandfather said that it couldn’t hurt, hands were held and a passionate prayer for new birth was ensued.  The prayer itself sounded like labor pains to me.  In the end his father made peace with the God who exists.   The disconnect came when days later he was the one appointed to collect the urn.  One day he was praying and talking to his father and then a box was pushed toward him.  He explained to me how he felt that this situation was not resolved.  I understood that it would have been so different if he had seen the body laying still and at peace.  There was no funeral.
     We talked a while about the “father factor” everyone experiences.   How we as fathers wanted to be more present in our children’s lives.  How we wanted to break any unhealthy strings that were attached with our relationships with our fathers.  It reminded me of an old e-mail I sent to my sister years ago.
Saturday June 3rd 2000
Last weekend I realized I hadn’t been to see Dad’s marker since the graveside service.  So I called my three brothers and asked them to meet me there at sunrise on Memorial Day to remember Dad.  I got there early to have some time to reflect and lay some flowers down.  The funny thing was that it took me ten minutes to find his spot…to find him.  Then when I did tears came like a dike had just burst.  I hadn’t expected that.  “It was just like when he was alive…I had to go looking for him,” I whispered.  Then the translation to my spiritual life was more understandable.   Issues of my doubting God came to surface.  Lies were uttered, “You have to go looking for God all the time too.  He even tells you to do it like some cosmic game of hide and seek.  When does He ever come looking for you?  (Believe me, I’ve found some pretty good spots to hide.) It seems God’s still at the tree, arms crossed, counting to infinity as only He can.”  Then truth chimed in with Psalm 139 and other scant passages I stored for the Spirit to recall.  Not to mention the sun that was starting its daily journey.  The smell was fresh of the flowers and the colors that brushed my senses. Then my brothers showed up.  We talked, cried, and I read some journal entries from around the time of Dad’s death and then read “his” poem.  We prayed the Lord’s Prayer and then I thanked the boys for joining me in my therapy session.  
     There are some arms of Christendom today that are promoting a gender neutral Bible.  Technically God is gender neutral.  Maybe a better way of putting it is bi-gender.  God encompasses femininity and masculinity, He created us male and female after all and we are God’s image.   But for me personally, I need God to be my father.   I need to know that God can pursue and protect and be strong in a “man” way sometimes.  Forgive me please, ladies.  I need my Dad.  I need my Abba.   I figure I need a father maybe because of the absence of my own.  When I am in a swirl of dad deaths a father’s arm around my shoulder is what I long for. 
Visit Splittergewitter on my blog list(in profile) to read her poem White Spaces