Keep Watch

wpid-20150801_173331.jpgAnd you blink and your strong, beautiful daughter steals your baseball cap for work and, later, serves you a beer when you swear, just a minute ago, she was a blond sleepy four year old in a long orange shirt down to her shins, creeping out of her room after bedtime, holding a ratty, blue stuffed bunny and saying, “You can have my bunny if you want,” because she knew you were having a hard night and wanted to help, somehow.  And the young workers who takes your money declines to look at your ID even though you know it’s policy to check everyone’s ID but she says: “Yea, I don’t need an ID when there’s grey hair.”

Right. So you finish pizza with your two yammering blonde cutenesses, boys 7 and 5, all energy and opinion and noise, who convince you to buy them frozen yogurt, which you must do, of course, because it is a glorious Saturday evening in Sammamish, WA,  and at that moment nothing is more important than pausing in the push to accomplish and complete, a push that middle age seems to weave into your every moment except, blessedly, this moment.
So you walk to the frozen yogurt shop and, on the way, return a wayward grocery cart to its rightful place, and you ask them to do the same, and they are young enoughwpid-20150731_201314.jpg still that this is a fun thing, a thing to do with daddy, and you know pretty soon they will be too big, too busy differentiating, to call you daddy, but now they do it gladly, which is a gift.

A gift, because two states away someone very dear to you is dying of cancer, and you think you know the right words to say, but you don’t know what to do. There is nothing to do, really, to make this thing different than it is, better than it is, and that’s your job. You are a dad and husband and employee. You do. You fix. You get stuff done. But you can’t fix cancer. And so you try to do the right things and use the right words and they are good, honest words: “Thank you” and “I love you,”

You say this prayer sometimes too:

Keep watch, dear Lord with those who work, or watch or weep this night and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted . . .

You hope that these too are true words and you act as if they are. And you think maybe that’s faith. But you don’t know. It sure seems mustard-seedy, which perhaps is the point.

And while you’re praying, there are little needs to be met, so you take the boys home and give showers and read Lord of the Rings to little bodies wrapped in blankets that roll around on the floor. They listen to the tale and become enchanted until, thankfully, there is the last glass of milk. Then you tuck them in and clean the final pan, pick up toys and socks and books, trying to bring some order out the chaos that always seems to creep into life, so you do what you can, and shut off lights, except the the one by your bed, where you read, sinking into the still and quiet and calm, and wait for Idaho gal to come home so you can watch Friday Night Lights, her presence a calming balm, and you let the day slip by, end, remembering the prayer now, if only faintly, “Keep watch.”

6 thoughts on “Keep Watch

  1. Steve, I am so sorry to hear about your mom and Dave. I feel . . . out of place, perhaps, when we discuss your mom and Dave because your mom has always been a fierce presence in your life and the lives of Stacey, and Jeremy; but only a vague presence in my life. Your mother was the person who stole JerJer away from me when I was Aila’s age; the person who turned one of our blessed family gatherings into a small and sometimes somber holiday when Allison and I were your boys’ ages.

    As an adult, I recognize the losses she also suffered in sharing you with us and I am sorry we have not been closer. Your mother and Dave were always very kind individuals and clearly did a remarkable job raising you, Stacey, and Jeremy. I remember laughing with your mother and talking about books with Dave at Allison’s wedding many years ago and thinking it would be nice to get to know these people better. I remember writing out the invitation to your mom and Dave when Jaime and I were planning our wedding because you, Stacey, and Jeremy were such an important part of my life.

    I am so sorry that Dave is struggling. I am so very sorry that your mom can’t be there for him like she would like to and needs (for her sake) to be. The prayer above is beautiful but hollow somehow, if you do not believe that you, yourself, are not doing all that you can. I know you, Stacey, and Jeremy are doing all that you can to help your mom and Dave through this time. I hope your mom can find strength in your words and actions so that she can be there for Dave in the best way she is able. I cannot offer much support to your mom or Dave but I do offer them my prayers. To you, Stacey, and Jeremy; Allison, Jaime, and I will offer anything we can; a house, a room, babysitting services, late night chats, prayers, and means.

    • Thank you Clay. I know how crazy busy you are being a great father and husband. I know because I saw it in action a few weeks back. What I’d really like is to share a beer (or more) with you to just . . . share a beer and talk about life and parenting and such. For now, your kind and thoughtful words are gonna have to be enough. And I appreciate them a lot.

  2. “It sure seems mustard-seedy” … I like that. You’ve captured this so well for us. Even with the heartache, it all feels curiously beautiful. Thanks for sharing, Steve.

  3. This was so sweet. Made me cry.


    Stacey Kamm Smith
    Associate Vice President Institutional Advancement
    Whitworth University
    Ph: 509.777.4388
    Cell: 509.869.6855

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