Easter weekend—I met someone I’ll call Rebecca. She is mid-forties, smart, has a good job, and is newly engaged. She’s in town visiting her mother.
Rebecca’s biological parents died when she was two. Her grandmother started raising her, but died when Rebecca was five. Then, her uncle took her in. He overdosed and died the next year.
Talk about a string of tragedies. Rebecca would’ve gone into a foster care system, but she didn’t. The neighbors across the street adopted her. An elderly couple.
Rebecca says: “I remember riding on my dad’s lap when he was mowing the lawn. I was little, we were still getting to know each other…”
Seven-year-old Rebecca shouted above the noise of the lawnmower, “Thanks for being my dad!”
Her father turned the tractor off and said, “I don’t ever wanna hear you thank me again. A daughter doesn’t have to thank her dad for being her dad.”
Rebecca smiled at me. “I miss him every day.”
Earlier today, I was at the grocery store. There were three men in line with tattoos on their forearms and necks. One man had a tattoo of a snake on his bald head.
The snake’s eyes seemed to follow me when I moved—sort of like the creepy painting my aunt Eulah has of Dale Earnhardt Jr., hanging in her den.
These men are former inmates. They are buying cartfuls of spare ribs for a cookout with other former-inmate friends.
“We’re not an organized group,” one man said. “We just try to have fun and be there for each other.”
This weekend, they’ll celebrate Easter, play guitars, play games, and talk. Then they’ll have a short class on how to operate cellphones.
“You wouldn’t believe how hard these @#$%ing phones are, man. Lot of us were still in when they got so popular. Some of us don’t know how to use’em.”
Before we parted ways, I asked if I could write about this group of friends.
“Sure,” he said. “But don’t call us ‘friends’, gotta call us ‘brothers’ because that’s what we are.”
Last Monday, I met an older couple at an outdoor concert. Their son, Isak, was with them. Isak sat in a motorized wheelchair.
“Isak is non-verbal,” said his mother. “And he might be blind, we don’t know for sure.”
Isak is twenty-seven, he has a form of Batten disease. Signs of his condition began showing when he was twelve.
Once, Isak was like any red-blooded boy. He liked to run, play hard, and use water skis. Then, the seizures started, followed by loss of motor skills.
His parents made a promise not to let Isak’s illness get in the way of his life.
“We coulda let ourselves be worried,” said Isak’s dad. “But we don’t wanna waste time. So, when Isak was little, we came up with a motto…”
The motto: “It’s all about Isak.”
And it certainly is. They’ve carried Isak’s wheelchair all over the cotton-picking world. Chances are, if you point to a spot on a map, Isak has been there. His parents have fit two lifetimes of fun into a five-pound bag.
I shook Isak’s hand, I hugged his father’s neck. I watched his mother roll Isak away. If there’s anything more lovely than Isak, I’ve yet to see it.
Anyway, there are several folks out there who think our world is falling apart at the seams. You know these people. So do I. These poor souls think mankind is barely hanging on by a spaghetti noodle, and they believe the planet is getting worse with each passing moment.
Well. I don’t.
And neither does Rebecca.