Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Reading One More Chapter

I called Comer at the Senior Home in the morning yesterday to tell him I would drop by to return the photos I had borrowed. I had finished scanning them into my computer for the book I am writing about him.
"I'm enjoying reading the rough draft," he said, "But I can't read for more than a minute or two and my eyes give out. It gets all fuzzy. My daughter read to me for a little bit yesterday."
"Oh! Well I have time. Would you like me to stay and read to you?"
"I surely would!" he said.
When I arrived, his daughter was getting up to leave. She had been visiting every day since he had fallen and become so weak and ill. She told him, "I'll leave you to visit with Vicky now." He gazed at her with such love that I could not believe so much tenderness could be held inside a single body. They hugged each other, and she promised to be back soon.

They had not gotten very far in the book. My book is about many different things. Comer is a big part of the book, but not the only part.
"How about if I mark the chapters that are your war stories? That way, if you want to later, you can read the rest, but I imagine what you really want to hear are your stories."
"That would be grand!" he said.
He sat stone still in his recliner, huddled under his blanket as I began reading. He watched me with rapt attention. He would often nod his head in agreement at parts, and still shook his head in anger over the ineptitude of some of his officers in WWII. He laughed at the funny parts, and sometimes wiped away a tear. I read to him for two straight hours until my voice was nearly gone. I just couldn't talk anymore, especially at a volume he could hear.
"Do you like it?" I asked. Writing a book about someone is a lot like painting their portrait. Neither is easy and the artist opens herself up to the potential of scathing criticism, even animosity if her portrait is inaccurate in the eyes of the subject.
"I cannot believe how exact you got what happened," he said, "I am thoroughly enjoying it."
"Well I took careful notes, and recorded you, remember?" I asked, "I wanted it to be as perfect as possible of your memories of the war. I thought of writing it as though I were there, rather than as an interview...but I couldn't Comer. I wasn't there. I have never been anywhere remotely like that. I couldn't have made it seem real. I think your words will be the best way to tell your story."
"I agree!" he said.
"Would you like me to come back tomorrow and read some more?"
"I would be so grateful!" he said.

Reading to Comer reminded me of when my children were young and they would curl themselves around me while I read to them. All my kids were very early readers, teaching themselves to read at age 2 and 3. They could've read the books themselves, but they didn't want to. They wanted to cuddle against the mother that loved them with all her heart, hear her words, her inflections, and watch her expressions as she played out the drama before them. Some of my fondest memories are reading books to my little ones. Their attention never wavered, they never wanted me to stop reading. When they were little, they would have clung to me forever if only I would not stop reading.

I glanced up at Comer as I was gathering my purse, his face so longingly looking at the book on his lap, a book his old, tired eyes would no longer allow him to read no matter how desperately he desired it.
"Maybe I could read one more chapter," I offered, "Would you like that, or are you too tired out?"
"I would LOVE that," he said, and looked at me with rapt attention as I opened the book to the next chapter.

It was a beautiful day outside, and as I walked out in the late afternoon, I felt a stab of sorrow that I had missed most of it being inside, in the overwarm room of my aged friend. But I thought about what we are called to do as people who claim to love God, and I think it is often those little things that add up to make the most impact. I thought again of my children, now grown, and found myself wishing that I had taken the time more often to read them one more chapter.

Romans 12:9-18 (NIV)
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. [10] Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. [11] Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. [12] Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. [13] Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. [14] Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. [15] Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. [16] Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. [17] Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. [18] If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

-save a dog-

1 comment:

  1. Each day when I start to read I dread that I might hear of Comers passing. I am praying for him, to truly trust Jesus and not to be taken till you finish the book with him. I am also praying that his wife will somehow, even in her condition trust Jesus also. He must have a plan for those whose minds are no longer with us. Thank you for being such a good friend to them and being an inspiration to me.