“Good morning, Mother Earth. You’re all aglow in beautiful autumn colors. Where are you going dressed up in such finery?”
“What? You’re off to see the King of Yesterday? Isn’t it too late to see him? He’s already let opportunities slip by, got caught up in moments when he couldn’t even cry, and now he’s frustrated because he didn’t want to try,” I blurted out. “If the King of Yesterday had paid attention to time and people around him, the world wouldn’t be in such a mess,
“Surely,” said I, “The King of Tomorrow is not that kind of guy. He can see yesterday with a discerning eye. If Yesterday and Tomorrow both pass through Now, Wouldn’t Tomorrow be better somehow?”
Mother Earth looked at me sadly before she spoke. “The King of Tomorrow blames Yesterday and Now, rather than improving himself somehow. And the King of Now is also to blame. He doesn’t want to be pinned down and be true to his name. If Now meant Now and he tried to do good, there’s no way Tomorrow would be misunderstood.”
I thought about this for days and even for nights, I could improve myself if I reset my sights,
It wouldn’t take much to lighten my load, one or two shifts and I’d be back on the right road.
I’d glance at Yesterday from time to time, then urge Tomorrow to keep in his prime.
I am in charge of training Now, and I’ll get the job done some way, somehow,
The three kings will follow my lead, I’ll help others and lessen my needs,
I’m determined for once to keep doing good, for I don’t want Tomorrow to be misunderstood.
Two men rushed past me, their words gushing out in torrents. Their conversation was entirely about something that was going on outside the store. My curiosity piqued, I watched as they hurried through the grocery store’s front doors and joined others who seemed to be staring into the sky. What was so interesting? Was a plane in trouble? Did they see a UFO? Was a major storm heading our way?
“I’ll be right back,” I said to my lady friend. “I’ve got to see what the excitement is all about.” I scampered outside, leaving her and two kids.
Stacey, her three kids, and I had traveled to the mountains for a picnic. It was a beautiful hot day and we mostly stayed in the shade. Her oldest son, Fabian, was hyperactive and constantly on the move. He just couldn’t sit still during our picnic.
Fabian was too distracted by the world around him. He wandered off several times and we had to search for him each time. Out of frustration Stacey told him he was grounded and would have to stay next to her. After an angry exchange of words between Stacey and Fabian, we decided to leave. There was no point in staying with relations already strained between them and still going downhill.
On the way down the mountain Stacey decided to reward her other two children for being good. She spotted a mini mall with a small store and asked me to stop. I pulled in. I noted that the space was on an incline so I set the parking brake.
“Let’s go inside and get out of the heat,” I said.
“Fabian has to stay in the car. He’s grounded,” Stacey replied.
“I don’t want to leave him in the car. I don’t want anything to happen to him.”
“He’ll be fine. I don’t want to reward him for bad behavior.”
Reluctantly I went inside. I picked up some potato chips, various kinds of candy, fruit drinks, and some ice cream. I didn’t tell Stacey but I intended to give some to Fabian later after he showed good behavior. However, that was before I saw the men rushing out the door.
Once I was outside a strange sight greeted me. A white Toyota Corolla, looking a lot like mine, was across the street, high in the air, surrounded by a gathering crowd. I stared in amazement. “It looks like my car but it can’t be.” I turned and looked for my parking space. It was empty.
The Toyota looked kind of odd resting in a tree. Yes, it was my car, and no, it didn’t have magical powers. How did it get there?
Stacey had rejoined me by then, two kids at her side. She clutched my arm tightly. “Where’s Fabian?” she asked hysterically.
At that moment Fabian’s head popped up at the driver’s side window. His face was pale and he looked terrified. I couldn’t understand his words or his gestures. “Don’t move!” I shouted.
Traffic was blocked at the main entrance as emergency vehicles arrived. Fabian was rescued first. With no one else in danger everything went faster. A helicopter lifted my car and then lowered it to the ground.
I was worried that this would be terribly expensive. Then two representatives of the mall management team thrust a paper in front of me. They were concerned the mall would be sued because a child had been in danger. They were happy that I didn’t want to sue anyone. Fabian was safe and that was all that really mattered.
I came to the conclusion that Fabian had released the parking brake, put the car in neutral and attempted to steer it. Instead the car jumped over a small railing and sailed onto a tree which was between two lanes, one for entering and one for leaving. Amazingly no one was hurt and my car received only a few small scratches.
Our relationship suffered because of the incident and shortly thereafter we broke up. But that’s another story.
Sometimes letters to two are two too many. I’d like to say I didn’t make mistakes in relationships, but if I did I would be lying. I’ve made a multitude of mistakes. When I was a rambunctious teenager I tried dating two girls from different towns. “They would never find out,” I reasoned. For awhile I was careful and the girls did not know about each other.
Because of my carelessness that changed and my carefully constructed world exploded. After a full day at college, football practice, and homework, I stumbled through my front door tired and hungry. After a quick meal, I decided to write a letter to Lucy before I went to work as an usher at the local theater. My words were beautiful and efficient and I finished ahead of schedule. “Why not write a letter to Brenda as well?” I asked myself. “For once I’ll be ahead.” That letter was finished quickly but I rushed, afraid I’d be late to work. I wasn’t paying attention when I stuffed the letters into envelopes.
A few days later I received a phone call. Lucy’s angry voice greeted me. I listened while she explained how much she was hurt when she received a letter meant for someone else. It was an awkward conversation because I had no defense for my callous behavior. Switching the letters was a mistake, but even worse I was cheating by having another girlfriend. I shriveled up inside and said I was sorry. We closed our conversation with instructions never to see or speak to each other again.
I’m no genius but my math was telling me one girl was unaccounted for. I was dreading a second phone call, a letter, or lightning to strike me, something big and punishing. Brenda called a few days later. She was willing to forgive me. That shocked me more than Lucy’s angry call. We talked and talked. Finally I admitted my guilt was overwhelming and I needed to get my act together before I could be in a relationship. I told her I was deeply sorry I had hurt her. Although we parted on friendly terms I never had contact with her again.
In my mind I can still see the fishhook dangling from his lip, his face pale, his eyes wide with terror. A few minutes before we had been peacefully fishing, the small boat gliding into shallow coves and out of the deeper currents of the Feather River. My partner, Tom, continued to get strike after strike while I watched, impatiently waiting for a fish to grab my lure.
I knew his technique. He would guide the boat in at an angle, allowing him to cast across a wide area. His lure was always the first to shoot out across relatively virgin areas.
I was determined that just once my lure would go first. He turned into a small cove and got ready to cast. I realized I was going to be further away so I brought my pole back a few more inches. I snapped my pole forward but I didn’t see the lure fly by. I turned around. Tom was silent for a reason. My lure had caught him, one barb hooked securely in his lower lip, and my slightest motion drew his lip forward.
I couldn’t leave the boat and equipment so I called his wife. She took him to the emergency room while I took the fishing gear to his house. I joined them later at the emergency room. He still had the lure dangling from his lip and by now interns and nurses were posing for pictures with him. If there had been cell phones the incident would have gone viral.
Although he was getting lots of attention he still didn’t look happy. At that moment I was glad we had been fishing rather than hunting. He didn’t need a gun right then.
Finally a doctor came out with a pair of pliers and clipped the hook. Nurses dabbed the area with antiseptic and the doctor told him he was free to go. His lip healed quickly but he still had trouble speaking to me.
I’ve traveled through a lifetime discovering moments that were challenging, or to put it in simpler terms, I discovered those awkward, embarrassing moments when time seemed to stand still with the spotlight focused on me. I didn’t mind attention occasionally but how could I divert it when I preferred privacy?
What did I learn from the embarrassment and awkward moments? I learned that life goes on, day after day, and those moments are remembered more kindly after time has smoothed the harshness and gave me a chance to look at them objectively.
I did not have awkward moments of Biblical proportions like those of Jacob. Jacob had moments that were extremely awkward. First, he stole the birthright and blessing that rightfully belonged to his twin, Esau. Jacob fled to save his life. Esau wanted to kill him. His troubles were not over. He met Rachael and worked seven years to win Rachael’s hand, but after the wedding feast and a night of revelry Jacob woke up beside a new wife. He had been tricked! Instead of Rachael, he was married to her sister, Leah. Jacob’s problems were much worse than mine.
The following four scenarios display moments when I was uncomfortable. There are countless others that disturb my dreams and make me avoid people until sufficient time has passed.
Consider the job interview when my prospective boss and his wife were driving me around, showing me off, discovering my likes and dislikes, my strengths and weaknesses. It was a time when I should have been listening or politely answering questions. Instead, I did the unthinkable and inexcusable. I assumed his wife was pregnant and asked when she was due. The interior of the car became icy cold and all conversation stopped. She was not pregnant, just fluffy.
Perhaps as father of the bride I should have taken special pains with my appearance. After all, i did escort the bride up to the altar in view of the guests. I was in the reception line when the bride asked, “How long has your fly been open?” It was too late to worry about being awkward. My only choice was to greet each guest warmly and thank them for coming, after of course, discreetly zipping up my pants.
My six year old son and I were in a supermarket buying supplies for dinner. The store was crowded but that was of little concern. I only had one child with me. What could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, in the aisle we were in a large well fed man in coveralls was filling his cart. My son looked him over and shouted, “Hey, hey, hey! It’s Fat Albert!” There was no place to hide. No place to run. We deserted our shopping cart and just left quietly.
In Spanish classes I scraped by, never becoming fluent. I could read and write in Spanish but because of a minor tongue tie conversational Spanish was not my forte. In the language section of the college library were tapes to review. I went in thinking I could brush up my conversational skills. While reviewing, I heard my professor saying, “Be careful to pronounce your words. Listen to this gentleman. It’s the worst case I’ve ever heard.” I listened closely as my own voice stumbled through the language. There was nothing I could do. It was true. My pronunciation was terrible.