The difference between two and seventeen is either fifteen, if counting items, or two and three-quarters, if counting hours. And because it is now seventeen, I am even angrier at you than before.
I’m angry because today, I, like many of you, am asking the LORD why he isn’t granting his mercy to our children while they are in school. Nearly every day I pray, “LORD have mercy on us and protect our children while they’re at school.” Once again, the LORD has not responded in kind. About this, I’ll have a talk with him later.
But there’s more. I’m angry at you, fellow parents, because you are obviously not teaching your children forgiveness. What is your problem? Why don’t you teach this to the little ones? Do you not know about forgiveness? Do you not believe in it? Do you think forgiveness is some kind of joke? Do you think forgiveness is intuitive, natural, or some logical deduction? Well, you are wrong. The price of forgiveness is blood. It cost the LORD his only son’s blood, it is costing us our children’s blood.
So help me God, if your negligence in teaching your child forgiveness ends up costing me my child in some future shooting, I will be more than angry. But I go too far. Do you see? To receive forgiveness from our heavenly father, we must–that means it’s not optional–forgive each other. I’m calmer now. Contemplating forgiveness will do that. And the old rugged cross carries incomprehensible peace, too.
But now you have a Son-of-God-given mission: By all means, take a moment to teach your child forgiveness. Do this soon. I’m begging you.
Now, back to talking to the LORD.
She was off in her corner, by her dollhouse and playing some such game of make believe. He figured there was a monster involved. There was always a monster.
“Ahhhh! A monster!” she said, running to where he was in the kitchen. “A monster daddy! Help! Help Strawberry Shortcake and Lemon Meringue! Help daddy!”
“You know I’m cooking H-. Can I help later?” he asked her.
“Okay,” she said, her shoulders slumping. “Can I look? Can I see what you’re cooking?”
“Sure- watch it, watch it! You’ll knock the utensil off the counter if you’re not careful,” he warned.
“Me tensil?” she asked.
“No, utensil,” he replied.
“Me tensil?” she pressed harder.
“Yoo-tensil,” he answered in kind.
“Me tensil?” she said with uncommon determination.
“No. Yoo-ten,” he stopped.
“Yoo-,” he stopped again.
“Yoo-,” he was embarrased.
Victory at last.
My father loved my mother. My mother loved my father. They knew each other. Get it? Knew, like the biblical know. Or so I thought. You gotta remember this was the 50s and 60s. Fairy tale America. Leave it to Beaver. That kind of life. No one talked about their problems. No one admitted depression. Men went to work; women raised the kids.
One night, my dad got home late from work. I could tell that my mom wasn’t happy, but she didn’t say anything. Everyone ate dinner quietly, and then I went out in the back yard. I don’t quite remember why. Next thing I know my dad comes out with two beers. I was 14, so I didn’t understand why he had two. Sure, he’d drink a beer or two every once in a while, but not two at once. When my dad offered me a beer, I couldn’t believe it.
“Ever had one?” I remember him asking.
I hadn’t and told him so. Unable to believe that my dad was letting me drink a beer with him, I was ready to tell him anything he wanted to know if it meant keeping the moment alive. Where his missing Playboys where, that I saw him use binoculars to look at the neighbor lady in her bedroom as she changed, or that I overheard him and my mother argue about her hiding her smoking from him.
And it was all I could do to not think about telling my friends at school the next day that my dad let me drink a beer.
I picked up the bottle and the bottle opener. Seeing me hesitate, he placed his hand on my hand and together we opened my bottle. Next he opened his bottle. He clinked his against mine, and as I saw him bring the bottle to his mouth smoothly, I rushed mine to my lips as if there was a prize for drinking at precisely the same moment. I remember he had a smirk on his face as we enjoyed those first gulps together.
My father then looked off into the night sky. I could tell he was thinking about how to bring up something very important. Recently he had begun talking to me like it was finally time to impart his learned wisdom before it was too late. I was the oldest, so I made sense of this change in his demeanor by telling myself that once he shared his wisdom with me, I’d be able to pass it to my brothers and sisters–your aunts and uncles.
Right when he was about to begin, my mother opened the back door.
“You gave him a beer? What’s wrong with you?” she said angrily. She grabbed the beer from my hand and he immediately took hold of her wrist with one hand as he took back my beer with the other. He told her to mind her business and go back inside.
Handing me back my beer he said, “Good lord, what has gotten into her tonight?”
After a pause, as if there was a time-limit for what he wanted to say, he frantically told me, “You want to know the secret to women? They don’t make sense. That’s it. You’ll never figure them out, not even one of them. So don’t even try.”
Next thing I knew, my mother came back out with her own bottle.
“The kids are all in bed. All but this one,” I remember her saying as she indulged.
I’ll never forget the pride in my dad’s eyes as he knowingly looked at me.
Then in the morning, the two of them began their weekend day as usual.
She pleaded “Daaaddy” while prone and unmoving. He went to collect her. As it was the weekend, he convinced her it was to be a lazy day, so more sleep was necessary and allowable. Now in his bed, she seemed to try to sleep. That lasted all of three minutes. After thirty minutes of unsuccessful attempts to quell her, he finally agreed to wake up.
“You forgot my chair,” she reminded him, standing and pointing to the table and chairs.
“That’s right I did,” he groggily responded. “How can you help me make chocolate chip pancakes if you don’t have your chair?”
“I want cocoa puffs,” she confessed.
“Really? That’s too bad. I want chocolate chip pancakes, so that’s what we’re having. It’s going to be a rough life kiddo.”
“What kind of cookies are we making?” she wanted to know.
“You’re not going to know them by name, but they’re called peanut butter blossoms. They’re special Christmas cookies.”
“Can I pour it? Can I pour it? Can I pour it?”
“Sure. Be careful, it’s heavy.”
“What’s that daddy?”
“It’s peanut butter.”
“You’re putting peanut butter with the muh-muh-margarine?” she asked, inquisitively seeking proper pronunciation affirmation.
“Yep, that’s what the recipe says to do.”
“Can I stir?”
“Uh, your bowl just has flower. But sure. Go ahead.”
“Look daddy, I’m stirring.”
“Yep, you’re doing a great job.”
“Why are you stirring so fast daddy?”
“Watch me stir fast!”
“Whoa, slow down. Try to keep the ingredients inside the bowl. You didn’t make the mess because you stirred fast, it’s that you didn’t watch what you were doing when you stirred fast. When I stir fast, I’m always watching the bowl. Understand?”
“Like this daddy?” she asked, beginning to speed up while looking him directly in the eye, again seeking approval.
“No silly, you’re still not looking at the bowl.”
“Why are you stirring so fast daddy?”
Luckily, for him, the war had acted as a preparation of sorts for relentless interrogations such as these.
“Just keep stirring your bowl H-.”
Sitting next to me at the table, her little body was shaking, arms bent at 90-degrees, fists clenched. “You know daddy, when I get frustrated, I smell a floor and blo ow a cannel,” she says so fast I couldn’t quite translate the three-year old speak into English.
“What?” I respond laughing. “You do what when you get frustrated? Why are you getting frustrated?”
“You know,” she begins to shake again, “when I get frustrated, at school, Miss Jen says when I get frustrated I smell a flower and blow out a candle,” she says, thinking she made her point clearly.
“You smell a flower and blow out a candle?” I ask slowly, enunciating.
“Yeah. At school when I get frustrated,” she reiterates, offering her wide open eyes and nodding head as evidence of her conviction.
“Who taught you this? Your mother or school?” I ask, more curious to discover if I’ll believe she is telling the truth when she answers than what her answer is.
“Miss Jen said at school,” her arms assume the position, but no shaking this time, “when I get frustrated, I should smell a flower and blow out a candle,” she says, not showing any signs of actually becoming frustrated during my uncalled for inquisition.
“Smell a flower and blow out a candle, eh?” I mutter to myself, this time widening my eyes as I take a deep breath through my nose and exhale through my mouth. “Ha,” I say, rolling my eyes, smirking. “What will they think up next?
The bell rang. “Alright everyone, we’ll pick up here on Monday. Be safe this weekend.”
“Finally,” he exhaled, “I have a moment to prepare for the rest of the day.”
After one last glance making sure the hallway was clear, he closed the classroom door. Inside, he sat alone. He cleared his throat.
“Do your work,” he said. But he wasn’t pleased. He tried again.
“Do your work.” He still thought something wasn’t right.
“Do your work.” Eek! Too much Batman. He chuckled to himself before continuing.
“Do your work.” Getting better, but still not perfect.
“Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work.” It was subtle, but he heard improvement. Looking up at the clock, he saw his prep period was almost over.
“One last time,” he said to himself.
“Do your work.” He smiled. “Perfect! And just in time.”
The bell rang. Getting up to go stand outside his classroom door, relieved, he said to himself, “Okay, I’m ready for the students.”
Waking up, he kept his eyes closed. He was uncomfortable for sure. Besides feeling like he was sleeping on uneven ground, he felt a disabling heat surround him. It was a stifling heat. He thought back to the last thing that he could remember. He knew he was not alone. He knew they had traveled to this place, their destination. But where were they? And where was she? And why was it so hot?
Sweating, he could feel his pants clinging to his legs as if he had just climbed fully clothed from a hot spring. A curiosity overtook his movements and he reached out with his hand blindly feeling for anything. He felt something hot. That’s all he knew for certain. Suddenly he felt, not cool air itself, but the memory of cool air–the memory that cooler temperatures existed somewhere not too far from where he was.
Time taking effect, he began to remember where they were. It was a campground. They had setup their tent, and she wanted to take a rest. He couldn’t believe his luck, and so they both crawled in the tent, sun blazing. He remembered that before dozing off into a restful slumber he reassured himself that she couldn’t get into too much trouble within the confines of a tent, especially not a four-season, dual-door, dual-vestibule beaut like his. Still, she did have a sleeping bag, a water bottle that emptied at a rate equivalent to a sippy cup, and Pingu, her pink penguin.
Finally, he heard her whispering. It was unintelligible, so he made the decision to open his eyes and see she was up to. Looking towards her whispers, he was immediately struck by a fear brought on by the inexplicable. Her hair was soaked. Her shorts just below her waistline were soaked. In a moment, realizing she had not ‘rested’ but stayed up playing for who knows how long in a hot tent with no vents open, her sweaty hair made sense. But why were her pants wet? She was a potty trained three and a half year old. Then he finally heard a full sentence as she guiltily turned, pouring water into her hand.
“Okay Pingu, we’re almost done with your shower.”