Narcissus Dies Again

Narcissus. Pronounced: nar-SIS-əs. Latinized form of Greek Narkissos, possibly derived from narke meaning “sleep, numbness.” Narkissos was a beautiful youth in Greek mythology who stared at his own reflection for so long that he eventually died and was turned into the narcissus flower.

“But Father, we want this so much!” The children leapt from their beds and stretched. “The sun is warm, the robins are singing, the earth is calling, please let us perform today.”

“I’m telling you, the time is not yet right.” Father gathered them in his loving arms and set them resolutely back in bed, pulling the soft brown cover up over their heads. “Just a little while longer, I promise.”

“Not fair,” they wailed. “You never let us do what we want to do! We’re ready.”

Father smiled. “My little ones, it’s not about just you, and it’s not just about what seems good. It’s about what’s best. Trust me. You may think you’re ready, but I’m not. I’ve seen ahead. I have great plans for you and for those who will be blessed by your performance. Again, I say trust me. Something else must happen first.”

To Narco, the most brash among them, Father’s words were insufficient. “I don’t see why you can’t just tell us what’s going to happen.”

“Because, my dear Narco, I shouldn’t have to prove myself to you.” Father’s gentle voice had already soothed some of the younger ones to sleep. “I’m inviting you to trust me, not because of what you think you know, but because I’ve never let you down before.”

Ignoring the whines and protests of those still awake, he kissed the row of budding children and closed the door, resuming his business.

In the darkness, they stewed with a sullen awareness of the warmth radiating above them. Narco pulled back the covers.

daffodil1

Take THAT!

“I don’t care what he says. We’re missing everything. Life is too short to spend it in the dark. I’m ready NOW. I’m going up!”

With that, he sprang from the bed and shot upward. His glorious mane unfurling as his arms stretched for the sky. He lifted his face toward the sun and beamed, drinking in its bourbon-like rays from head to toe.

“Take that, Father! I told you so!”

One-by-one, his siblings followed, peeking shyly out from their covers and then, gaining courage, unfurling to greet the sun. A collective, joyful sigh filled the air.

Settling down after a sweet opening-day performance, the children felt a slight chill in the air. As night fell, the winds began to howl. The little children cried and searched desperately for the way home, but the doors had all closed.

“Just a minor set-back,” shouted Narco over the din. “Stay together. The sun will be back in the morning.”

daffodil2And so, they huddled together in the cold, sobbing through the night, as layer upon layer of snow settled over them, each heavier than the last. At some point in the night, Narco felt a sharp pain in his waist, which caused him to bend nearly double.

When morning came, they could no longer stand. Their frozen hearts could no longer sing. Their beautiful manes had shriveled and hung limp.

Narco shed a single tear, which dripped from the cup of his face onto the snow-covered ground and froze on contact, merging his lovely petal to the earth.

“Oh, Father, why didn’t you stop me?”


Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. — Proverbs 19:2

Grandpa’s Laugh

I met Jerry L. Fitzsimmons, Sr. under unusual circumstances. I’d been engaged to his son for less than a week and we’d been driving through Kansas on our way to McCook, Nebraska in our ’66 Mustang to meet his grandparents. From there, we planned to drive to Denver to meet his parents.

We never made it to McCook.

Instead, we hit black ice in Hayes, Kansas and my fiancé was hospitalized in a tiny clinic in nearby Colby. His parents arrived in Colby the next morning, just as young Jerry was being loaded into a plane for emergency transport . . . back to Denver.

So, I got to know my future in-laws by myself, on the drive to Denver. I ended up staying with them at their house for the remainder of my 30-day leave, visiting my fiancé at the hospital every day and bringing home reports for them at night. They visited their son when they could, but the day-to-day pressures of life and raising two small children at the time seemed to tug at their time.

I hit it off with Jerry, Sr. right away, not knowing the extent of his brokenness. His son had never expounded on the depths of the chasm between the two of them, only telling me they’d had a “rough time” in his teens. I called him Grandpa and Old Man from the start, long before we even knew if his son would survive, or if we would, indeed, marry and actually make him a grandpa.

During those 30 days, Grandpa and I bonded. I could make him laugh, and I enjoyed doing so, because his laugh was deep and booming. He never said “yes,” but instead said, “that’s exactly right,” which tickled my ear for some reason. We spent hours each night chatting and laughing. During those 30 days, I never saw him drink to excess. Nor did I see evidence of the bridges he’d burned between himself and his children, or the extent to which they’d continue to burn.

The choices Grandpa made over the next 10-15 years would pull him even further from his “first” family, as he and Grandma divorced. Over those years, my by-then husband still didn’t discuss the chasm, and we rarely seemed to have time to visit. Only recently have the wounds between them begun to heal.

Granpa and the boys3

An old and rare photo of all my boys

In the years to follow, there were a few visits, stops during cross-country treks, “as long as we’re in the area,” but never specific trips to see him. And he came to see us in Virginia at least twice that I recall. All those visits were way too short. From those few moments spread out over 35 years, I must now draw all my memories of him. I already regret that I haven’t more, but we each chose, first through stubbornness and then through inaction, not to be closer. Because of that, his grandsons missed out on what could have been a sweet relationship. So did we.

Now, Grandpa’s laugh has been silenced. I’ll miss it tremendously, and will do everything in my power to remember the way it sounds, because it’s all I have.

Grudges and hurt feelings are tools that the world uses to keep us from enjoying love in its purest form, particularly among family. I think the greatest sadness to that truth is that restored relationships are often even more sweet than those with people we’ve loved freely all along, and so often we miss that. However, it takes tremendous courage to take that first step. While I’m glad, for my husband’s sake that he took that step, I will always mourn the years they lost.

I truly hope Grandpa left this world knowing that we do love him, that although we only understand a small bit of the battle he fought, we hold no grudge, and that, in our hearts, his booming laugh lives on.

Peace to you, Old Man. I pray you’ve found what you were searching for.

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 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. — Ephesians 4:32