Leaning Close to Speak of Betrayal

Night falls in blue twilight and my neighbor’s white blossoms glimmer green in the dusk.

My son’s small feet patter back to his room, and a distant car whirs.

The pointer finger on my right hand rubs across a smooth right thumb, but it’s all wrong.

I’ve been betrayed by my body.

Photo Credit: Flickr user Melusina Parkin, Creative Commons cc license

Late last autumn as frost carved up night windows, I had hurried to disconnect hoses and black tubing from the water fountain pump. Sprawled across cold grass in deepening twilight last October, my hands had plunged into icy water. I had swiveled slimy connectors and prayed I was doing it right.

“Which one had Dad said to leave in and which one unscrewed and came out for the winter?” I had mused aloud. Tears fell, and my voice cracked as I had wrestled with the dual truth that he had survived cancer until this cold night, but that it was unlikely he would be there next spring when I re-installed the pump.

That’s when it happened! Smashing cold numb fingers in the shed door, my right thumbnail had throbbed and turned red, then plum, and then a bruised purple.

I had raced in to call Dad, proud of myself for remembering how to detangle his subpump from my water fountain, thankful he was still alive after last spring’s diagnosis of fast-acting terminal cancer.

Then the gash, the swollen thumb, and the bruise that followed me for months.

That night I had called Dad — him still alive then– and we had talked of pumps, and winterizing yards and fountains, and he had stopped because the cancer pain and nausea had crept higher. But his voice was soft and he had told me he loved me, and we ended each conversation that way.

Several weeks later, Dad died.

My blackened bruised thumb throbbed along with my heart. Right forefinger rubbed sore thumb, and the pain felt appropriate. The thumb was a link to my dad and the night I had taken the pump out, the night he was still here when we didn’t think he would have been. The thumb was a link to my dad.

Snow fell the night he died, and winter piled on white.

Months passed. My bruised nail lost its hue of mourning, and I resented that. Right forefinger rubbed rugged nail, though, and the invisible gash indicated the gape in me, in all of us, as we moved into life without my dad.

A gouged nail moved up my thumb, marking time, and we counted months without him.

April 27th marked six months without my Dad, and my thumb quit playing. The gouge was gone.

A perfect half moon cuticle and unblemished thumb nail stared back at me. Right forefinger rubs smooth, amnesic nail, and my heart resents it.

And most of the time, my life looks normal too: silly banter around a kitchen table, homework that piles high, college kids, and married kids, and a third grader yank open the fridge and I grin and realize I need to go grocery-shopping again.

But in the moments in between, in the silence that slips in, my finger rubs the thumb nail. My body has betrayed me, and I know that grief stands ready beside me. My God stands there too, though, and his heart can be trusted.

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  1. Ed on May 9, 2018 at 7:06 am

    You have probably realized already that grief doesn't just pass away like our loved ones. But hold on in there Jennifer, it does get better. A bit lonely without him, but better.

  2. Bill (cycleguy) on May 9, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Thanks for your brutal honesty Jennifer. As a pastor, I see so much of this "I'm grieving but I'll fake it so no one will know" posturing. Grieving is important. Life continues on. Memories linger but even they give a nod to the pain and something better on the horizon. (For the Christ-follower that something better is already realized). May the God of all comfort do exactly that to your sometimes raw and aching heart.

  3. Michelle Barringer on May 10, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    Jennifer, I feel your pain. I lost my Mom on February 24. Not a day goes by I don't think of her. I'm rather dreading Sunday, Mother's Day. I'm sure the tears will well up in me. They always seem to hide just behind my eyes, ready to expose themselves. Not sure I'll even really be able to enjoy my own Mother's Day this year, but I'll try. Some things will always remind me of my Mom. And for you this year your Dad will be ever present on your mind. That's normal. I still have a dried tiny rose from Mom's funeral sitting snugly on my car dashboard. I can't seem to get myself to throw it out. I'm guessing that's pretty normal too. So, as we continue journeying in this world without them, we can choose to remember them, smile, cry, and even let the bruises expose themselves because they are real.

  4. Cheryl Barker on May 29, 2018 at 4:57 am

    Jennifer, I'm so sorry you have to walk this road of grief. I'm familiar with the ache of it. My heart goes out to you. May God continue to comfort you!

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