we drive down two lane roads in these woods with snow banks on either side. they curve and hug frozen bodies of water; small neighborhood lakes and grand bays.
on each there are people dotting the ice with their fishing poles. solitary figures making the most of their time. i want to run out and be with them. i want to get away from it all and hole up in a tiny, freezing shack in the middle of your local lake.
from the back seat my son is telling us what to do.
he’s attempting to control each event we plan so that it pleases him and he’s relentless. he won’t pause long enough to hear our plans which are actually way more fun than what he’s talking about.
and i can’t take it.
“abe, you’re trying to manipulate me. you’re trying to make us do what you want because you don’t trust that we have good things to give you. you’re so busy controlling exactly what you get that you can’t even receive the really good thing that is right in front of you!”
as i say the words i know i’m talking to myself. and not just like – ‘hey, this slightly relating to my own current state of mind,’ – but rather like i am sitting knee to knee with me.
maybe it’s his eyes that are my eyes or his colors which are mine, too, but by the end of my little speech i feel uncomfortable.
sometimes the wide open lake of the human heart can freeze over.
i start shooting prayers like arrows.
“help me like my family.”
“pour your love for my son into my heart.”
because the thing that i can’t see is him.
it’s his dad and his sisters.
it’s the time we’ve been given.
i’m so busy trying to orchestrate busyness and solitude that i can’t receive a thing.
but god answers prayers this way.
he walks on water.
frozen water, that is.
he goes farther out than you think might be safe. he sets himself up right there on the unwelcome terrain of my heart. he uses truth like a small saw to cut through the thick ice that a harsh winter has built up.
and this is hard.
because truth when looked at squarely makes the heart ache. and lies – even small, white ones – are much easier to take.
but this ice fisherman i speak of has no room for lies.
because he knows that a steady fall of small, white snowflake lies will eventually cause the whole lake of the heart to freeze over.
he cuts a hole. he has faith in my heart. he’s heard my prayers.
the line goes down and the life swimming slow and unseen underneath stirs. no boat engine came up and scared them off, just the quiet steps of an ice fisherman coming to catch what seemed impossible hours before.
i take my son out on a date.
the hot chocolate arrives in front of him like a gift and he receives it.
every waitress sends me a glance of pure admiration.
they see me out with this boy child young man who is so handsome and polite and grateful. they smile our way with a tangible, sweet longing as if i’m out with a teen heart-throb.
and i am.
he can’t know his beauty or that these days are like papers windblown away once safe in my hands.
he can’t know how loved he is or how admired.
but i can.
and i tell him as much and together, aided by sugar, we both count the sweetness of this one, short life.
edited repost from the archives