(Stories for Children)
“Hold that steady, partner. Don’t want me to lop a finger off do ya? I need you to concentrate. Pay attention to what you’re doin’, son.”
Charlie knitted his brow and stared at the board as though he was scolding it with his glare. He leaned on it hard to anchor it down.
He wanted Uncle Bob to understand just how seriously he was taking his instructions. There was no one in the world that he admired as much as Uncle Bob, and he so wanted to please him.
The power saw screeched on with a twang and then a roar. Uncle Bob carefully guided the board through the blade to make a perfect cut along a faint line he had sketched across it earlier with his pencil. The saw clunked to an instant stop when Uncle Bob cut the power. It’s blade rang out a final, soulful tone that lingered in the air for several moments.
Charlie savored every sound and smell, and every minute that rolled by when he was with his Uncle Bob.
“Yep! That’ll do. Good job, Charlie. You held ‘er real steady for me, bud.”
He knew that Uncle Bob didn’t really need his help. Uncle Bob cut wood for his carpentry projects all the time without anyone to hold the other end of anything for him. But Charlie was so glad to be a part, it didn’t matter.
‘Uncle’ Bob was not really his uncle. He was just an old friend of the family, so cherished by all that he was affectionately promoted to ‘Uncle’ by tribal consensus.
As they were clearing up the mess from their work, Charlie blurted out something that had been pushing on his heart for some time.
“Uncle Bob, I wish you were my dad.”
Uncle Bob’s busy hands stopped suddenly, and he turned to Charlie, almost as if startled.
After a pause, Uncle Bob walked over to him, and put his big hand behind his head and neck and pulled him into his side. Then he slid down to sit on one of his work stools so his face was closer to Charlie’s.
It was one of those flat, square wooden step stools that doubled as a tool box of sorts. So it was fairly close to ground. Still, he remained a head taller than Charlie.
“Well, I love you too, buddy, but why would you say that? You have a great daddy.”
Charlie swallowed hard, and looked at the dirt floor of Uncle Bob’s wood workin’ shed.
“He doesn’t have any time for me. He’s always too busy, and he get’s mad at me whenever I go in his office.” Charlie started to choke on his own words. “He never wants me around.”
Charlie’s eyes were suddenly red hot, and his own tears took him by surprise. He had convinced himself that he didn’t care, but now the hurt was about to bust out of him. He was embarrassed for a moment, then crumpled into Uncle Bob’s arms and sobbed.
For several minutes, Uncle Bob didn’t say a word. He just held him snug. When the energy of Charlie’s sobs diminished into stuttering whimpers, Uncle Bob began to console him in a low gentle tone.
“You know, Charlie. Your daddy loves you a ton, and …”
Charlie shot back, “No, he doesn’t!”
Uncle Bob waited for a moment.
Uncle Bob lifted him up so they were looking eye to eye. Charlie’s eyes were still so wet that he had to wipe each one with the heals of his wrists to be able to keep looking Uncle Bob in the eye.
“Say, buddy. Do you remember that terrible accident that happened near your school last month, when that sand truck hit that bus?”
He sniffled out a “Yes.”
“They had all them counselors and all talk with ya about how you kids felt about it. ‘Member that?”
“Awful thing. Awful, wasn’t it?”
“Well, I hate to bring it up again, but I want you to understand the difference between how your dad loves you and how I love you, and I want to use that bad event to make my point.”
“You feel your dad has no time for ya, and I know he’s very busy. He works hard to make sure you and your mama have food, and electricity, and clothes, and a bunch of stuff, maybe even a present or two at Christmas. He has to work hard when other people may want to get his job if he doesn’t work hard enough to keep it for himself.”
“Now, I imagine when someone feels a whole lot of pressure like that, it can make ‘em a little grouchy sometimes, don’t you figure?”
This time the answer came slower, as he thought about Uncle Bob’s words.
“Yeah. I guess so.”
“Well, it sure can make a person cross. Now, here I am, retired. I don’t have to fight to just keep a job and feed my family. We don’t have a lot of money, but we have enough to get by on, and I’d guess that my stress is pretty low compared to your papa’s.”
“Well, he doesn’t EVER want me to be around.” The tears started to well up again.
“Now. Now. I’m sure that isn’t true, but I’m am also sure that it really does feel that way to you. So, I understand.”
He thought for a minute and asked, “Uncle Bob, what about the bus that got hit? Why did you say somethin’ about that?”
“Ah yes! Thanks. About that …
So, imagine for a minute that you, your dad, and I were all standing on the side walk right where that bus was. You followin’ me?”
“OK. Now, do you remember how the sand truck came blazin’ through the intersection and T-Boned that bus, knockin’ it over on that unfortunate young man?”
“Awful sad. Awful sad. That young fella lost his life at too young of an age, but I know he’s with God now, and in a better place. Let’s imagine an even more horrible thought for a second, that the bus fell over, and, God forbid, it fell on top of you. OK? I don’t want to scare ya, but I need you to just imagine if that happened for just a minute, OK?”
“Now, if your dad and I were both there, do you know what we’d do?”
“You wanna know?”
He nodded, and wiped his eyes again. He was listening with great interest now.
“Well, let’s start with me, and what I’d do.
I’d run, ruuuuunnnn over to where you were. I’d start rubbin’ your hair and kissin’ ya on the forehead, and tellin’ ya that you were going to be OK, and tellin’ ya to hang in there, and to not give up. I’d tell you all that even though secretly I was terrified that I was about to lose you, even though I knew you were about to go be with Jesus, even though I knew there was nothing I could really do to save you. I’d still frantically show you all the love I could while you were still alive to give you at least some small amount of comfort, to help you to not be afraid.”
He sat quietly and thought about Uncle Bob’s story.
Then he said, “What would my daddy do?”
“Ah, that’s the difference, right there, Charlie. That’s the difference.
You see, your daddy wouldn’t do the exact same thing I would. Do you know what he’d do?”
“What?” He sat up and looked up at Uncle Bob with intense interest. “What would daddy do?”
“Charlie.” Uncle Bob paused for a long time, then said, “Little buddy, your daddy would try to lift the bus.”
They sat silently for a moment.
“Not everyone shows love the same way. Some folks are all hugs and fun, it seems, but that doesn’t really mean they love you more than someone who’s quieter. Your daddy shows you how much he loves you as he works hard, day in and day out.”
“I get to be the ‘fun’ Uncle, but even though I might have kissed you on the head as the rest of you lay pinned under that bus, your daddy would have tried with all of his strength to lift that bus – a bus that weighed several tons, and even after all was lost and you had already gone to be with Jesus, people would have to pull him away because he’d never stop trying to lift it, because his Charlie was under that bus, and he loves that Charlie with all of his heart.
That’s the difference in how I show my love and how your daddy would and does show his love for you. It’s just different. Mine might feel better sometimes, but his is even more intense inside than mine could ever be, because you are his sweet boy. Understand me?”
He thought about Uncle Bob’s words for quite awhile. Finally, he stood up, and said, “I better get home, Uncle Bob.”
“OK, buddy. Thanks, for helping me with that board. I could’ve lopped my finger off if you hadn’t held it so straight for me.”
“See ya!” He bolted towards the old wooden door to Uncle Bob’s wood workin’ shed.
“See ya later, Charlie!”
He ran all the way home, blew in the front door, and went straight to his dad’s office.
He stood in the door way out of breath, staring at his dad who was lost in thought at his computer. He only half noticed his son huffing and puffing at his door. Finally, as Charlie’s presence became inescapable, he turned with a half grin and said, “Why are you so out of breath rooster?”
He ran over to his daddy threw his arms around him, and tucked his head down tightly against his dad’s shoulder. “I love you, daddy.”
His dad was a little taken aback by the sudden, mysterious display, but he pulled his arm out of Charlie’s hold and put it around Charlie. Pulling him into his chest, he gave him a squeeze, and said, “I love you, too, rooster. Now, git so I can get this report done. Your mom has supper ready for ya. Go wash up.”
Charlie let go. “Yes, sir.” He, turned and headed out as he had many times when dismissed from his dad’s office, but this time, it felt different. It felt very, very different.