Just Faith

Faith is a gift from God. Faith can move mountains, even the mountain of addiction. Ending a life of self abuse caused by addiction will happen when you trust God to lead the way over, around and even through the mountain. God's "Twelve Step Program" begins with one easy step-believe in Him.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Snuffed Out

In the beginning the destruction is undisguised. Everything you touched is damaged. Like a tornado traveling across the plains your carnage cares not what stands in its path. Homes fall in upon themselves leaving just a shadow of what once was. The people, the families left behind walk thru the rubble with stunned looks cast upon their faces. They hope to find any evidence of the life that once was.
Young saplings are pulled from the ground unaware that their future has been destroyed—all evidence of their youth scarred, unrecognizable forever more.

So much of the suffering you caused now on display for all to see. It is ironical that your incredibly catastrophic strength was born out of your pitiful weakness.

But it is not this mournful display that defines your crippling performance; that was just the beginning. The aftermath that you snuffed out as if it were a gullible burning candle, is the most damning. You don’t even know about it. You moved on your merry way. Your path took you where most would dare not go. But you disguised your ugliness, ascending not like a tornado but as a wispy cloud. Admirers claiming “See how she has changed!” You fooled them. You fooled all of them. Now you are fooling yourself.

How I wish you could see this, dear Addict.

I wish you could see the struggles made to repair the destruction you caused. You would witness the strife and see that restoration will never be complete. If you could see dear Addict, you would see the dreams that were snuffed out, never to be hoped for again. You would see the lost years of children forced to grow up too fast.

Dear Addict, you would see that years later, all that you snuffed out with your ill-gotten power still wears the pain. Maybe you would see, maybe you would feel the ache that even today causes my hands to cradle my children. You would see my tears falling because I cannot help them, for I have not recovered. Their lives, my life, forever misshaped by your lethal winds.

And dear Addict, just maybe you would begin to understand my own pain. Pain born not out of your actions, but pain that comes from knowing God, my higher power, is not pleased with how I feel about you. God taught me to forgive. He taught me to tolerate. He taught me to love.

And you dear Addict have snuffed out all of it. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Empty Nest

I heard the sound again.
But this time I am sitting up; sitting on the edge of my bed. Wide awake. The first time I heard it I had been sleeping. It woke me. I wasn’t sure if the sound had maybe been part of a dream (or a nightmare). But now I am awake. I am not dreaming.

Thud! It comes again.
It is dark. I don’t know what time it is. I think it must be around 3 AM. I don’t know why I think it is 3, I just do. I cannot see the time that is on my phone. That is the only clock in my room…maybe in my whole house. Who uses clocks anymore? We have our smart phones to tell us everything we need to know.

But I can’t see it. My phone is resting on the tiny black tray that sits on the small wooden hand of the little wooden butler who stands in the corner of my room. He has stood there since Christmas day; a gift from my children. He is a Smart-Butler.  He stands about four feet tall, impeccably dressed in his black- carved out of wood-tuxedo. His bent elbows are tucked tightly against his sleek torso, each forearm stretched at a slight angle, reaching out as if the lifeless servant had a desire to be hugged. A large nose, proportionally out of scale, rises from the middle of his wooden face. He has no mouth; smiling or frowning. Small beady eyes contradict the bulbous nose. Above his beady eyes, the brows his creator gave this Smart-Butler are comical in their length and thickness. They remind me of two over-sized woolly-bullies inching across a hot summer sidewalk.

In addition to holding a silver coated tray in one hand, where I can throw my loose change each night, he has in his other hand a black leathery tray which now holds my phone. But this one is not just a tray, you see. All you have to do is place your smart phone on the smart tray held by Smart-Butler and it will recharge your phone for you! You don’t even need to plug it in, just lay it there! I don’t understand these things, and I am too old to worry about how things work anymore. I just let them…work.

Thud!

But if he was really a Smart…Butler then he would lift my damn phone so I can see the time.
Not that it matters. Sounds born in the night are no respecter of time. But if it’s not three o’clock, if it is, say… five o’clock…then I would just lie back down. The alarm on my smart phone would wake me at five-fifteen just as it does every day. I could forget about the sounds coming from down the hall if it was 5 AM. But it’s not, I know that. I have woken every morning for the past forty-five years at the same time; I know it’s not five. Just as I know the sounds I heard are not from some dream.

Thud!

Someone is in my house.

I close my eyes as if the blindness will improve my hearing. I listen carefully. Where are the sounds coming from? The living room?  The kitchen. Maybe from bedroom that once belonged to my son. Or was it from my daughter’s room. No. It doesn’t sound that close.

Thud-thud.

I look through the darkness at my bedroom door. It is closed. An old habit. I live by myself now (not counting my Smart-Butler companion). Hell, I still close the bathroom door too. Don’t know why, no one here to offend except myself.

 I am an empty-nester.

My children, a son and a daughter, have grown and moved on with their own lives. My wife died more than fifteen years ago. She was the first one to leave the nest. Then my son. He joined the Navy six years ago. I’ve only seen him a few times since; last month he came for Christmas.
Then finally my daughter left my nest.
She stayed around after graduating from college because I got sick. Cancer. Stupid cancer, if you’re curious about what kind. I am better now. The doctor called it “In remission”. It is good to be “In remission”. There was no reason for her to keep staying around after I stopped the chemo treatments and such. I returned to work part-time in order to keep the insurance, you know just in case. So it was time for her to move on with her life too.

Now they are all gone. My nest is empty.

So who is in my house?

I close my eyes tighter. I listen closer. I can hear the beating of my heart. I can hear myself breathing. I try to stop—I don’t want him to hear.

Thud-thud-mumble.

There is more than one! I can’t understand what they are saying, it comes in whispers. But I know there is more than one. How many? Two…three…a whole gang?

We never had gangs in this little town of mine. Until lately. The world is going to hell in a picnic basket and has no intention of leaving this little community behind. But what can you do? Pray? Run? Hide?

Something crashed to the floor. They must be in the kitchen. It sounded like a coffee mug meeting the tile floor unexpectedly. Someone laughs. On dear God, they don’t care if I hear them.

I am afraid. Like a little child in the darkness of night…but I can’t cry out. Who would hear me?

They would.

Maybe they don’t know I am here. Maybe they think no one is home; a family gone for the holidays. The tree and all the decorations have been taken down and stored away for another year. No smattering evidence of a family celebration.

 And my truck? My truck!

It’s gone. The driveway is empty. All the lights are off. My house looks vacated. My house looks like an easy target for a would-be thief. My nephew borrowed the truck. He is moving into a different apartment this week. He asked to borrow it, I said yes. Hell I wasn’t going anywhere.
Stupid! If they had seen my truck parked in the driveway—my truck with a gun rack in the back window, my truck with the NRA stickers on the bumper and the window—then maybe this gang, (how many, five or six?) would have just moved right on past my property. They would have carried their pants-sagging little…

My gun. Where’s my gun?

Think old man! This is why you bought it; for something just like this.

I open my eyes and look into the darkness. The gun is in the closet on the top shelf behind all the board games that collected there over the years. We use to play a lot of games. Me and my two kids. Every Saturday night was game night. Until they got too old to want to do such things with Dad. That’s alright, they’re good kids. I wish they were here now.

I think about getting the gun. But I don’t. I am too afraid. I can hear them moving around. Moving around in my house! What the hell do they want? There ain’t nothing worth taking. I was a single parent for most of my children’s life. I worked hard to keep this roof over their head and food in their little bellies. There wasn’t much left to buy things worth stealing.

The board games. Those were our luxuries. But you can’t have those either. Their mine! And behind them is a gun. I need to get that gun. That’s what I need to do.

A bump. A thump. How many are there? Eight, nine? I don’t know. I’m afraid to know so I quit counting. There might be too many to count anyway.

I think they are everywhere. Except in here. In here, in my bedroom it is only me and the Smart-Butler. A lot of help he is; he couldn’t even reach the top shelf to get the damn gun.
If I can get the gun…the magazine holds seventeen rounds and one in the chamber. That would be enough to shoot most of them. The others would probably run. I think they would. Yeah, they would run. I hope.

More mumbling. I heard a door open.

Quiet. They might hear. If they hear they might come in.

I am so afraid.

I can’t get the gun. I know from where I am sitting, if I stand up, the floor is going to screech louder than a night owl. It always has, always will. They will hear. They will come.

 “Walk lightly” the Smart-Butler suggests.

What the heck does he know? He hasn’t lived here long enough to know that I can’t step lightly. My feet hurt so bad that I can’t tell half the time if I’m walking heavy or walking on clouds. It ain’t from the cancer. That took up residence a long way away from my feet. It’s the chemo. Chemo destroys everything in its path— good stuff, bad stuff. It doesn’t care.

Something else hits the floor. Someone laughs. It was a girl! A girl laughing.

I can’t shoot a girl!

“You can’t shoot anybody. You can’t get your gun, old man.” Smart-Butler reminds me.

Somewhere far off I hear thunder. Just perfect.

I don’t think there was rain in the forecast. I watch the ten o’clock news every night. Well, that’s not true. I fall asleep during the news every night.

More thunder. More thumps.
A new sound.

What the hell is that? It sounds like gurgling. A low gurgling sound you might expect to hear coming up from some dark sewage pit. It’s not a sound you should ever hear in your home.

 In the middle of the night.
 In your home.
 When you are all alone.

I am scared.

I try to remember how to pray.
I use to pray all the time. I could talk to God just like he was an old army buddy. I’d tell him whatever was on my mind and he would listen. There were times when I would ask him for help. And then there were times when I just gave him praise.

 Then he took my wife, and I quit talking to him.
Oh I still went to church. My kids needed to learn about God and Jesus and all that important kind of stuff. I took them, I just didn’t talk to God. My daughter sang in the choir. She had a voice like an angel. She still does. I would give everything I own just to hear her sing right now. Maybe she would sing me a lullaby. Put me right back to sleep like a little baby. Then I wouldn’t have to hear them. I wouldn’t have to hear that gurgling sound.

Another door opens. It sounded like the front door. Maybe there leaving.
I began praying. I asked God to make them leave.
The door shuts. I hear them talking. Mumbling.
God didn’t hear me.

That gurgling sound get louder. It sounds like someone doing the jitterbug over the backs of a thousand frogs. Squish—gurgle—squish—gurgle. What the hell is that sound?
I am scared to death. I need to do something. I need a plan. Yes, that’s it! A plan.

I look at the Smart-Butler as if he may have a plan of his own that he might like to share with this scared old man. He doesn’t say anything.

A light comes on. It’s the hallway light. The awakened energy of the 60-watt bulb tries to crawl under my bedroom door. Eighteen feet. That’s how far away they are. I know this because I carpeted that hallway all by myself. I bought the new carpet, I cut the new carpet and I laid it down…all by myself. Eighteen feet of carpet.

And now they were walking on it.
I need a plan!

Maybe if I can scoot myself across the bed. I could stand up over there. The floor doesn’t creak there. Well not loudly anyway. Then I would be within arm’s reach of the little wooden butler. I could get my phone. I could call 911. The sheriff’s office is less than ten minutes from my front door. They could get here pretty quick if I can get that phone. They could get here and shoot the little…

I look down at my hands. Between the darkness and cataracts, I can barely see them. But I know they are there. And I know they are trembling. Shaking like leaves on a tree.

I remember the first time I took my son hunting; he was just ten years old. His mom wouldn’t have approved, but she had died that summer, so I just asked her to trust me. I don’t know if the dead hear us or not, but it made me feel better to ask. Anyway, we were sitting in the blind; it was colder than frozen peas that day. A nice buck walked right into the clearing and just stood there looking out into space. He didn’t look like he had care in the world or like he had any other place to be. I tapped my boy on the shoulder and pointed at the buck. I reached over and picked up my rifle and then silently offered it to my son. He was scared. I saw it in his eyes. I looked down at his hands and they were just a shaking like crazy. Like leaves on a tree. He took the rifle from me. I looked at that old buck and knew he didn’t have much to worry about at all.
I put my hand on my boy’s shoulder and that hand shaking eased up. Not all the way, but it was mostly gone. That old buck still got away with all its parts in tack, but later that morning my son dropped his first doe.
On the way home that afternoon, my ten-year-old son looked me right in the eyes and said, “I owe you one Dad.”
I wish he was here right now. I would redeem that promise. Maybe then my own hands would be still.

I closed my eyes and tried to get an image of my plan. I saw myself quietly scooting across the bed. Then I saw myself standing up. The floor was quiet as a church mouse. I stand still, like a statue, for about two minutes. Just listening. No new sounds. I take one step closer to the little butler. I reach out and touch my phone. My hand is still shaking but I manage to pick it up. Just dial 9-1-1. Easy as pie.

The image blurs. Then it turns snow white. It reminds of the old RCA television we had when I was a child. Snow would fill the screen every time the rabbit ears lost the signal. My image clears. I see my hands pick up the cell phone. I see one crooked finger press the “9”. My hands start to shake again. They are shaking worse than ever. I drop the smart phone. It hits the floor. The sound fills the house. It fills my mind. I hear footsteps running down the hall. Then my door opens…

I open my eyes. I haven’t moved.
“Time for a new plan.” Smart-Butler is a smart ass.

Thump. Gurgle. Mumble, mumble.

Only the mumbling isn’t all mumbled. I can hear someone say “Check over there.” Someone else, the girl, says “Okay.”

They are so close. I am so afraid.

I begin to cry. I am like a little baby. So afraid. Almost sixty years old, sitting on the edge of the bed my wife and I shared before God took her home. The old undershirt I sleep in is soaked through with sweat. I don’t know what to do. I feel the hot tears rolling down my wrinkled cheeks. I can taste their saltiness on my lips.

Silent crying. Thank God for silent crying.

“What are you going to do?” Silent-Butler whispers.

“I don’t know.”

My chest tightens. I realize I just spoke aloud. I broke the silence. My heart thumps, thumps, thumps in my chest. But I know it is not my heart I hear. It is them. They are running. Running down the hallway. Not running away. Running towards my bedroom. Thump, thump, thump. They are coming to get me.

“God help me!” I cry. I don’t care if they hear me. I want God to hear me!

The door knob turns.
For one moment the world is silent. I stare at the door.

The door begins to open. I turn my gaze away. I am so afraid.
The door is open.
“Hey!” someone yells.
“Oh God!”
“I am so afraid.”