One Sunday night twenty years ago, my mother and I were talking on the phone when she said, “Your father wants to talk to you. Says it’s important.”
“Sure,” I said, wondering what to expect. While many of my friends had chatty, talkative, and interactive dads, I did not. Mine was quiet, detached, and observant—very observant. He had his finger on the pulse, so to speak, of every member of the family and knew their idiosyncrasies, needs, fears, proclivities, and favorite foods. BUT, he wasn’t much of a talker.
During our Sunday night chats, always at 6:00 sharp, my mother would say, “Your father this or your father that,” when filling me in on the details of their lives, and after our conversation ended, she would convey the news from my corner of the world to him. To have him ask to speak to me that evening was rare. Nonetheless, in a couple of seconds I heard his voice saying, “Hello Honey.” My sister Ann and I were always Honey, and both of my brothers were Son.
We didn’t talk long, but the gist of the conversation was that he was concerned that I didn’t know enough about that complicated thing called life. And the closer he approached three score and ten, he thought it was well-nigh time to correct matters. Although I don’t recall him listing specific worries, I think they could all probably fit under:
- Do you know where to go to find peace?
- Do you know how to navigate the waters of contention, betrayal, and disillusionment?
- Are you brave enough for whatever’s ahead for you?
It was a strange but amazing conversation, strange because we’d never talked so directly and openly about these topics and amazing because although I was caught off guard, I felt perfectly at ease. I loved responding with these words (paraphrase): “You don’t have to worry about me, Daddy. You and Mama have given all of us enough love and confidence and know-how to tackle whatever’s ahead. And no, I don’t know the answers to everything (who does, right?), but I’ve always known the importance of asking, looking, pondering, and praying.”
I don’t know whether my mini-speech satisfied him, but he handed the phone back to Mama, hopefully secure that I’d be just fine. And most of the time I am. Whenever I have doubts, experience the doldrums, or feel darkness, I know how to find the light.
A few weeks ago, I read and reviewed Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet. While there are so many positive things I could say about it, this evening I’m sharing something she wrote about children being afraid of the dark. If only it were simple enough to get them a nightlight! But it isn’t. She even admitted that she was afraid of the dark, especially when one thinks about the things darkness connotes, things like evil, cruelty, and uncertainty. She’s afraid of “the shadows of another kind of dark, the darkness of nothingness, of hate, of evil.” Are you?
How can we help children get over their fear of darkness? L’Engle asks. How can we help adults? Books can serve as candles; so can music and friendship. And although she doesn’t specially spell it out for her readers, so can love. Whether spoken in those three little words or expressed by acts of kindness, queries about health and well-being, or questions from a usually reticent father, love brings light.
How do you deal with darkness, your own or that of others? A friend who feels special compassion for children says, “You know, all little children want someone to hold their hand.” I agree. And I think adults want the same thing.