Monday, July 26, 2010

The Game, Part 2 his beloved children, our Father works a most kind good through our most grievous losses...In the testing ground of evils, your faith becomes deep and real, and your love becomes purposeful and wise.” David Powlison

The Game

Part 2 of 3

You hold my right hand, you guide me with your counsel

Psalm 73:23-24

I was fourteen years old when mother told me that she had been adopted. Rumor always had it, she said, that her father was an attorney in the small midwest town where she grew up. Many years later and shortly after she died, I petitioned the court to have her adoption file unsealed. It was empty. Or that’s what I was told. The Mystery of the Emptied Case File.

I lost my father when I was three; my parents were divorced and he was gone. Raised by a loving mother but cared for by an unloving aunt, there was never a day in my young life that I didn’t long for “daddy” to find us. I would spend hours hiding under my aunt’s fig tree hopeful that wishes would work magic and he would come back. But he didn’t. The Mystery of the Absent Father.

Knowing one’s begetter and tribe can be profoundly compelling so after I turned 49 I finished with mystery, or at least the acceptance of it. Mother had died; my kind stepfather had remarried. It was time to find what answers I could to the secrets of my own history. Above all I wanted to find him, the “daddy” I still wanted to know. I wanted to discover for myself if ugly family whispers and hints were true. But here is what I learned along the way:

Caution One: Finding “daddy” can be a dangerous business and one I do not necessarily recommend. Before setting out, it is important to have grown beyond a child’s vulnerability - an emotional neediness of an absent parent.

Caution Two: Growing beyond an emotional neediness of an absent parent can be difficult. As long as I carried in my adult being a hurting child’s heart, I was more vulnerable that I wanted to admit. No matter what I told myself that I wanted to know, no matter how I intellectualized my pursuit with thoughts about wanting health history and truth, what I really wanted to discover was that “daddy” would have come back if he could and, in spite of what anyone said or thought, he had loved his child more than himself.

Caution Three: It was important that I did not do this alone. “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14) I was profoundly helped by the prayers, counsel and protection of my husband and another very wise friend.

Rather than continuing to call him “daddy,” I will pitch the annoying quotation marks and call him Evan. Evan Thomas. It’s a name I have made up, pulled clean out of the air. If it is the name of someone you know, it’s a coincidence. Courtesy, if nothing else, requires that names be changed.

Finding Evan Thomas was surprisingly easy. Living with what I found proved more difficult. Several times that Monday morning I called upon the power and wisdom of God to direct my steps. Sometimes we pray that way while fully intending to run headlong into whatever it is we want and inviting God, like a cosmic Father Christmas, to come along for the ride and bless our determinations. But while I do not doubt that a large part of my motive grew out of a life-long yearning to know the absent Evan, I also believe that God was leading me that day.

I had been putting freshly laundered towels away in our linen closet, reviewing the few facts that I did have and wondering how I was going to get this done. I had made other small forays into hopeful discovery years before with no success. Other than a formal picture of a handsome young sailor in his uniform, all I knew about Evan Thomas was what mother felt she could tell me:

they had been high school sweethearts;

they graduated and were married just before America’s entry into WW II;

he had a gentle mother with a flower name.

Later I would remember that he also had an older brother, Gene. I did not know how important that information would prove to be.

As I put the last towel away in its place, I suddenly had a plan. So simple. After checking that their high school still existed, I called the school office and asked for help. “Try contacting our city newspaper,” the school secretary said. “There are lots of readers from that generation who have moved all over the country and still have our hometown paper delivered to them. If you run a personal ad, someone might recognize him.” A long shot. But long shots are not closed doors. I called the paper.

A beat reporter answered the phone and after hearing what I was looking for began to piece together what he called “A Personal.” Reviewing what he had written he said,“It would be better if you had more information - like the name of some other relative, anything - you know, to help readers remember.”

I had almost forgotten. “Oh, hey, I do remember someone else. I think he had a brother named Gene who may have played a trumpet and taught school."

“OK. That might help. We’ll get this going and...wait a minute, did you say ‘Gene?’ Would that be Gene Thomas? Judge Gene Thomas?” his voice rising with new interest. The upbeat change in his tone travelled through the telephone receiver, up my arm, into my brain pan and deep into my soul.

“No, it couldn’t be,” I said hoping I was wrong. “This Gene Thomas was a school teacher. He may have taught orchestra or something.”

“So did Judge Thomas! Many years ago. Oh yeah, if it’s the same Gene Thomas, you’ll like knowing he was a great guy. Everyone loved him.”

“He was a great guy? As in past tense?” How could I even speak with my heart in my throat.

“Yeah, well, if this isn’t a coincidence. You’re lucky I answered the phone today - I’m usually not here at lunch time. I wrote the Judge’s obituary. They buried him just a few months ago. ” My stunned silence followed by the tiniest “oh” caught his attention.

“Sorry,” he said. “But his widow still lives in their home in the next county over. I can’t give you their phone number, but I’m pretty sure you could get it through information. If not, call me back - I’ll see what I can do. In the meantime, shall I run the ad anyway?”

“Yes. And thanks.” I gave him my billing information and quickly hung up.

My hands had suddenly developed a mind of their own and were unwilling to obey my “stop shaking” directive. I had to dial long distance information twice.

“Yes, hello,” I managed to say. “ I need the number of a Judge Gene Thomas, please.” I half expected the operator to scold and ask me just what I thought I would be wanting with that number but she didn’t. She simply read it to me. I repeated it back and hung up. I sat staring at my tablet. Ten digits. Ten numbers which together formed a connection that after nearly 50 years was the only thing between me and someone who might know Evan Thomas and if he was alive or where he lived. It had all taken less than an hour.

Photo attribution

To be continued...

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Game, Part 1 his beloved children, our Father works a most kind good through our most grievous losses...In the testing ground of evils, your faith becomes deep and real, and your love becomes purposeful and wise.” David Powlison

The Game

Part 1 of 3

The late morning Bakersfield sun is so hot you can smell it. Air, heavy with its heat, is impossible to breathe and feels like something one has to bite, chew and swallow to make passage through.

She hangs on the picket fence in her usual place under the fig tree. The five year old loves this spot for she can see before being seen while she is looking and waiting. Some days she has to wait a long time and so tires of her game and goes away. Other days, like today, it happens quickly but only, it seems, if she is very, very quiet. A man is coming. As he follows the dirt path hugging the canal, he doesn’t know that he is moving closer to her secret hiding place. Then, just at that spot where the path turns the man in her direction, the five year old stops looking and begins watching.

It‘s the face that she watches. It mustn’t look sad or angry and so few qualify. But this one does. Excited, she crouches low for safety and with palms sweaty, squeezes the pickets extra tight. “Hi!” she calls out.

Without fail the man jumps for she is so hard to see under that fig tree. Most of them become angry or act like they didn’t hear her so she knows they weren’t nice after all and she has been tricked again. But not all of them. Not all. This one looks in her direction and raising his hand to shade his eyes, smiles and says “Hi!” back. Heart racing with dreams and possibilities, she climbs onto the bottom slat of the picket fence, stretches as tall as her five year old legs will allow and asks, “Are you my daddy?”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Guest Post at Peace for the Journey

Dear Friends,

Elaine Olsen has generously invited me to write a guest post for her blog, Peace for the Journey. Please find my story, "The Goody Bag," there under her 2010 Archives.

Rich in Biblical teaching and helpful applications, Elaine's love of God's Word along with her creative writing style have made her blogsite a favorite of many.

I am working on my next post for this site and sure do hope to have it up by this weekend! Thank you for reading along with me when you can. I'm deeply grateful.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Keep Shining

It was a gift from the heart and the hand of Elizabeth Claire, my granddaughter. She was eight years old when she made it. Intended to bring me pleasure, it also evokes joy. A fragile treasure made of child-dreamed pearls, it’s iridescence is beginning to wear. So I’m selective when I wear it and careful how I store it.

“Keep Shining.” I would have thought a little girl would have wanted to leave a more familiar message like “keep smiling.” But she wanted more. She wanted shine. And how I love that. I love it because it prompts me to think that while I can always paint a smile on my face when needed, shine comes from within.

Shine comes from enduring. It comes from refining. It comes at great cost but always with promise. It whispers of glory traded for pain that will one day be known as light and fleeting when understood through the mind and the heart of God.

So I wear my little bracelet when receiving chemotherapy or visiting Oncology. It’s the only piece of jewelry I own that can go with me through the myriad scanning machines that search for cruel and errant cells. I continually read it’s message and take comfort in the knowledge that what is seen doesn’t last while what is not seen is eternal and I remember the words of C.S. Lewis

“This is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into glory.”