I enjoy being very active...working out, waterskiing, etc. But I also love to read. Over the last two weeks I have spent a lot of time reading. Some history, a silly detective/mystery novel by a Floridian, a wonderful account of the Beatles and their music...the culture of the 60's and 70's.
One book I savored was Will Allison's "What You Have Left." Never heard of Will, before, but he has some ties to Indiana and Ohio. The book is about a young girl in South Carolina whose mother is killed in a water skiing accident. Her father feels overwhelmed, and so he drops his daughter off at her Grandfather's. Says he'll come back for her in a day or two...and then disappears.
Her Grandpa loves her and cares for her (the cover of the book has a child falling out of the sky into the arms of a surprised looking middle-aged man). He hangs in there when she runs away...keeps loving her.
The girl, Holly, does okay. She says she has no expectation -or need- for her father, but there is this persistent desire to find him... re-connect with him...punish him for his abandonment. There are times when Holly is a mess. She drinks too much. She is loved by a young man who wants to marry her, but she has this way of taking the engagement ring off and throwing it when she is frustrated. Holly gambles thousands of dollars of their savings away, years after they are married.
Finally, near the end of the book, she finds her father. He is a mechanic in another town. Struggling with some health issues. And racing stock cars at a local track.
I finished the book as Sharon drove us towards home from the Indianapolis airport. When I closed the book I just sat and looked at the fields... the trees with their bright, green, new leaves...the redbuds in blossom back in the Hoosier woods. And I thought about how love is rarely simple...or easy. Love doesn't move in a straight line, but it takes off in a zag here and a zig there.
One of the life patterns I've bumped into, time and time again, is the life story of women being abandoned by their dads or grandpas. It's more common than you might think, and -tragically- more and more frequent. For some reason men step out of the lives of their daughters early on, and there is -despite the best efforts of the young women to heal and even fill their broken hearts with the love of God- always this aching, sad place in the women's lives. I'm not sure why men leave...I don't understand it. I'd like to ask men who have jumped ship, but perhaps they would all have a different story...different reasons.
So I thought about that, and I also thought about the way my Mom died just over eight years ago this Spring. She was an incredible woman. Amazing faith in God despite fearsome losses...a husband early on, multiple miscarriages, the death of two sons (one by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and the other in a car accident), losing her home in Africa, and spending 4 1/2 years blessing and giving and surviving in northwest Alaska. My mom, Anita, spoke all over America to church groups. She was an eloquent spokeswoman for the Christian faith, and led weekend retreats from her to both coasts.
When she was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer (I remember the night...Notre Dame had played a home game in the NIT basketball tournament the day she received the test results...my Dad called late at night...and I knew that wasn't good), she pulled back. She pulled in. She pulled away from me...my siblings...and into a private world that none of us were allowed to visit.
So we never had "closure," as some experts call it. We never had a chance to say what we wanted to say...needed to say...to one another. Her funeral was a gathering of lay people and church leaders from across the state of Indiana. It was a big deal...but for those of us closest to her it felt like she had slipped out the side door just ahead of us. Without saying "goodbye."
Why do I say all of this? Well, I figure when you love people you love them on their terms. Each and every one of us is a work in progress. Each and every one of us has flaws...fears...and there are some dents in our psychic "bumper" that no soul "body man" is going to knock out and smooth off.
Holly meets up with her absent father, who has failed in all sorts of ways, but there is grace in the reunion. My Mom left this world in a way that just puzzled the heck out of those of us most close to her, but she was an amazing woman. A real case. Could put words together that would fill your heart with faith, and she was always late...ate Hostess Cupcakes while drinking Diet Tab...and had a "thing" for jewelery.
When you love someone, you love them.
Even when there are ragged places. I think that may be what Paul was trying to help us see in 1st Corinthians 13: "love is patient and kind... love bears all things."