RIPPLES

gettingthroughthis.com

Once upon a time, there lived a boy with eyes as brown as cocoa powder sprinkled with bright bits of sunset orange.  Everyone in his family had eyes of blue!  But there was an uncle – quick, agile, and playful as a child – whose eyes were the same, handsome brown.

Mother told how, upon first seeing the boy as an infant, Uncle had said, “There is something special about this child.  I believe he will do great things.”  This story had entered family lore and lifted the boy to believe in himself if ever he felt down.

There were problems between Uncle and some of his relatives, including Mother; but the boy was always happy to see him.  At a Thanksgiving Day party in his 13th year of life, he was excited when everyone in Mother’s family – from 3-year-old cousins to Uncle and even dear old Great-Grandpa –enjoyed the rowdiest-ever game of basketball. It was exhilarating.

Uncle might be in trouble with others, but he was alright by the boy.

***

That same evening, during a visit with another family, someone asked about Uncle.  Mother, with judgment and frustration in her voice, sighed and said, “Oh, he’s still the same.”  Then she looked across the room and caught the brief, pained look which clouded her son’s normally-cheerful face.  Later, when they were alone, she asked him what he had been feeling.

Trustingly, he replied, “Mom, I had fun with Uncle today.  It makes me sad when people say bad things about any of my family.”

He loved his uncle, and knew that Mother did, too; yet because Uncle had disappointed her, hardness had shown itself in her voice.  Of course he was confident of his place in his mother’s heart, but what if.. what if on some unimaginable day, he disappointed Mother, too?  How then might she speak of him?

The boy’s mother looked through her son’s cocoa-brown eyes to see her earlier, careless words skipped like stones upon a pond only to sink, heavy and dark, into its depths.  It was done, and the ripples would expand forever; but she could stop them from bruising his tender heart.

***

So it was that the mother put her arm around her son and apologized.  Together, they promised to speak of loved ones and friends with kindness and loyalty, no matter what.  They planned signals with which to silently prompt a return to kindness, should either of them slip.  And that is what they did, so that both – and most of all, the mother – learned, and grew.

POSTLOGUE

“It is sometimes the young who are wise, while the old shrivel, deaf in their condescension.”

The brown-eyed boy came to be a thoughtful and courageous man.  Over the years, he and his siblings developed empathy for their first father, who is gay. They began to publicly share their support for the gay rights movement.

Uncle, approaching 60 years of age, read such a blog post without sensing the depth of pain and honesty from which it was born.  Because he disagreed with his nephew’s belief that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” rightfully extends to homosexuals, he chastised him, publicly calling his nephew “the darkened testator of the homosexual cause.”

These new stones, heavy with anger, did not skip at all.  They sank deep into the pond, and their ripples may expand forever.

A Hitch in My Thinking

The man’s voice, melodious and still bearing the lilt of his Scottish upbringing, drew me in.  He was devastatingly witty and intelligent, but his appearance was slovenly, and I knew he smoked and was a committed “anti-theist.”  He was old enough to know better on all counts, I thought.  With a click of my keyboard, I dismissed him from my world.

Then, later, I caught a story about his death.  Some mourned him as a friend lost to mankind.  Intrigued, I returned to the internet and found him there, being interviewed in 2003 and again a few weeks prior to the end of his life. This time I perceived the gentleness in him, a gracious humility in his interactions with others, and deep concern for the future of humanity.  There seemed to be beauty lying just under the surface of a face showing signs of too much drink.  I wondered if, in a life that encouraged critical thinking and discouraged “jumping to judgment” on my part, he and I might have been friends.

A Google image search produced a photo of this man during his college years as a political activist with long, dark, unkempt hair and, even then, a look of brilliant determination in the set of his handsome, chiseled jaw.  I repented of my earlier judgment.  Unwilling and uninformed, I had not respected the man or his motives while he lived, and now he’s gone.  I know where to find him, though, for he hangs on the airwaves forever.  I am appreciative of his life’s work, to which he was true, and I mourn him as a friend lost to mankind.