I went walking on the greenway hoping to see the Great Heron tree. When the greenway was being built we used to stand at the unfinished end of it and watch the herons in the multiple nests of a single old tree not far off the path.
"Do you think the people walking on the greenway when it's finished will scare them away?" I asked Arvo then.
And it seems it had. I never saw the herons any more. They were being replaced by a pathway for people to look at nature. The only problem was nature decided to hightail it out of there. It isn't really the people I blame...it is just the circumstances. I miss the Herons.
Yesterday, I called Comer, my old friend in the assisted living center. I asked if I could take him and his wife Evelyn out for lunch.
"After lunch, I could interview you some more for the WW II book," I said.
"Oh we are not doing well," he said, "Evelyn fell and banged her head. They kept her in bed all day to watch for signs of concussion. She is up today, but very shaky. I can help feed her lunch and then I would love to interview."
"Oh my! Are you sure you are up to it?"
"Yes," he said firmly, "I'm just sitting here."
"How is your hip?" I asked, knowing a blood clot there had made walking painful the week before.
"Not good," he said.
When I got there, Comer was already seated in the little parlor of his room, the two "interview chairs" side by side, his notes neatly arranged on the small table in front of him. He was dressed impeccably, except for a pair of old shoes.
"Had to wear these old shoes," he said, "My feet are too swollen to put on my good ones."
"Evelyn's not doing well?" I asked.
"No, she's mighty unstable. I helped her walk to her chair, for lunch, and she walked like this. " He mimicked slow shuffling steps, arms out like a tightrope walker.
"...and my daughter is going to fuss with me over this...I did a bad thing."
"Well, my daughter always tells me get someone to help with Mother sitting down. I can't hold her up...she's too heavy. But no one came to help and she started to fall as I was helping her sit. I was struggling to hold her up and she was falling. They were looking right at me but no one came to help. So I'm afraid I cussed, G-- D---IT! SOMEONE HELP ME! I apologized afterwards. Told them it wasn't them I was cussing; it was the circumstances."
"Of course," I said.
I remembered our interview when he had said that he was always a gentleman during the war, except for when he was knocking heads.
"You were only trying to help your beloved wife," I said, "I hope they understood."
"They told me I should have asked for help, but why do I have to ask? They were looking right at me and saw it all. Wasn't it obvious I needed help?"
Comer's memories brought on many choked up moments of tears during this interview session. Memories of his twin brother, who manned the #3 antiaircraft guns, just down the runway from Comer's #1 position. For three years of the war, they had fought together. And then the day came for them to be reassigned.
Comer went in to the colonel and told me, "I could've been court-martialed for what I said when I heard they were separating us. I told him, 'Colonel, that's my twin brother you just spoke to about his assignment. I'm his twin. I want to tell you that the only way I will be separated from him is if you throw us in separate stockades.' And do you know, that Colonel issued a standing order that these two boys were never to be posted apart?"
Comer wiped his eyes, "Makes me a little emotional to think of that."
"Did they keep you together?"
"They sure did," he said.
I know his brother had died a few years ago, and Comer had said it was like a piece of himself falling away.
My hands had taken all the writing they could stand. I rose to leave.
"If Evelyn is feeling up to it later in the week, let me know. We could try lunch then," I offered.
"My daughter is going to fuss at me," mused Comer, remembering his moment of weakness before the Alzheimer Floor staff.
"It wasn't them you were screaming at," I reminded him, "It was the circumstances."
A piece of good news awaited me at home. The dear woman I had been counseling through 3 days of unbearable despair called. The impossible issue had been resolved.
"I can hardly believe this," I said to her, "It is a miracle."
"It was not me," she told me, that had caused all the angst and sadness in what seemed to be irreparable relationships just a few hours ago,"It was the circumstances. But yes, it is a miracle. I am so happy now."
I went for a walk down by our little lake in the adjoining neighborhood, and saw a heron fly overhead.
Psalm 51:1-12, 16, 17
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
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