Tag Archives: forgiveness

Doll – Part IX

Thump, thump, thump, thump.

With Margie just behind him, Chalmers paused at the front door. He flexed his hand a couple of times as he slowly reached out for the knob. The approach was hesitant, as if he almost expected it to burn him the second he touched it.

He looked to Margie. She put her hand on his shoulder, first with a light squeeze and then with a slight rub back and forth. She offered a slight smile of encouragement. The gestures poured a flood of familiarity into him. It was a signature move for her and one he remembered finding great comfort in. They were never overly expressive back in the day, but the subtleties of their actions always spoke volumes. It was the shot of courage he needed.

Chalmers grabbed the now less than intimidating door handle, turned it and opened the door wide enough to include Margie in whatever awaited them.

“Sir. Ma’am.”

Officer Telly Granger filled the doorway in full uniform. With a clipboard and pen at the ready, he greeted the man and woman inside with a serious demeanor, but he hoped not without an essence of compassion. In his six years, he never had this duty before.

“Officer,” Chalmers said.

“Sir, I’m looking for a Chalmers Elk.”

“That’s me.”

“Sir, might I come in? I have some information I need to share with you.”

“What sort of information?”

“Sir, as you are probably aware, the recent flooding has caused a level of damage not common in this area.”

“My house was checked out. I was told I could return.”

“Yes, sir,” Granger said. “There is no known problem with either your house or your being back in the area sir.”

“Then I don’t understand.”

“Uh, the problem sir, is with the Cardington cemetery.”

Chalmers stiffened at the sound of the words. His breath hitched and his heart began to beat a little harder in response. Once again, a slight squeeze on his shoulder from Margie, triggered a greater calm in him that worked to quell the uprising of anxiety.

“Please,” Chalmers managed. “Come in.”

Margie offered coffee as they moved into the kitchen and toward the table. Granger declined. She couldn’t miss his eyes catching sight of the doll that sat perched at the far end of the small table.

Once seated, Granger first apologized, for as he understood it, this duty would not normally fall to him, but since recovery efforts were still underway and some parts of the area were still underwater, this task was his as part of the community relations effort.

With Granger on one side of the table, Chalmers and Margie sat on the other. Instinctively, their hands entwined.

“Sir,” Granger said. “The extraordinary flooding we’ve seen from recent storms has caused a substantial amount of damage to homes, businesses and other properties.”

Chalmers and Margie sat still and quiet.

“As the waters continue to recede, we’re finding unprecedented instances of disruption and destruction.”

“I’m sorry,” Chalmers said, interrupting. He had become more of a “pull the bandage off quickly kind of guy” over the years and grew weary of the build up. “What does this have to do with the cemetery? With us?”

“Yes, sir,” Granger said. “The cemetery saw water flow and activity that created a level of damage that might create certain health and safety concerns. You see … several of the burial plots were washed out or severely damaged. I understand you have a relative buried there.”

Chalmers bit down, his lips tightened. His hand tightened around Margie’s.

“Our daughter,” Margie managed softly.

“Yes, ma’am,” said Granger. “I’m terribly sorry to bring you this news, but if at all possible, we would like you to come down and help us identify the remains so that they can be returned to their proper resting place.”

Doll – Part VII

The one-time lovers, long-time strangers cried together on the floor in the hallway until they were done. Time had no meaning here. They sobbed together as if they were tearing through every wall and barrier their lives had placed between them. They cried themselves clean. After the tears, they lay in silence, wrapped in each other’s arms, physically exhausted, emotionally drained, and well beyond words.

At some point, one stirred. They quietly helped each other up and lightly stepped into some semblance of an ancient routine. When Margie left long ago, Chalmers barely had the heart to change anything. She stepped into the kitchen to make some fresh coffee and felt her movements become oddly familiar. She watched her hands as she worked. If they had not looked clearly older, she would have thought herself transported back in time, a better time.

Chalmers followed her into the kitchen holding the doll to his chest as he walked as if it were stuck there. He set it gently on the table, but away from where he planned to sit. Margie placed a warm cup of coffee down in front of him, as she used to do, as if she still did it. He took a cautious sip.

“Thank you.”

The corner of Margie’s mouth turned up slightly in an effort to smile, but she looked down, cautiously stirring some milk into her cup.

“How did you get it,” he asked.

“We had a hell of a storm,” she said, slowly shaking her head. “The wind was blowing. Lights were flashing. There was a tremendous thud against my door. When I opened it to make sure everything was O.K. there it was. Originally, it was wrapped in paper and twine. Wrapped poorly, but wrapped just the same.”

Margie sipped her coffee using two hands hoping that would calm her shaking.

“I recognized it the moment I saw it, and I…” Margie’s voice trailed off.

“You were pissed.”

“Enraged,” she said, using what little energy she a left to emphasize her outrage.

“I got it to,” he said. “During this last bitch of a storm, but I didn’t have it long. The doctor’s said I blacked out from all the excitement. When I woke up in the hospital, nobody remembers anything of an old doll.”

He paused. “I didn’t do it. You know that don’t you? I would never…”

“I know,” she said with a slight frustration. “I just. I was just so mad, and hurt. The moment the rain stopped I threw that doll in the car and drove up here.”

Storm or no storm the drive from Millard, where Margie lived in a small apartment, to Cardington was at least an hour.

“Sorry you wasted the trip,” Chalmers said, smiling ever so subtly. Margie reached over and took his hand.

They sat there together drinking coffee and saying very little as old friends might do.

Thump.  Thump. Thump. Thump.

They both froze for a moment and slowly turned to look at the doll. Two dark eyes, one at half-mast, stared back.

They looked at each other.

Together they stood and slowly stepped to the front door.

Doll – Part VI

“I’m sorry, what?” Chalmers stood at the door. Margie Elk stood before him, glaring at him from the stoop. Despite the curled expression of anger and her heavy breaths, he couldn’t help but feel relief that one, it was a human being at the door and two … it was her. A wave of nostalgia and memory, sadness and joy hit him all at once and he grasped the doorknob extra tight for balance. “What are you doing here?”

It had been years since he had seen or spoken to Margie, who was the true love of his life, at least until Paisley came and stole his heart. The vague memory of their last real conversation, which was really him lying on the floor in a drunken stupor and not a conversation at all, brought the heat of embarrassment to his face.

She was four years younger than him and the years had been kind to her. Far kinder to her than he felt for himself and despite the anger, she still held the light in her eyes that he fell in love with the moment they met.

“Is this some kind of a joke?” Margie choked a bit on the last word as she fought between killing him and crying.

She shot her arm out at him and in her hand was a plastic head and body swaddled in a dirty gingham cloth.

As his eyes dropped, Chalmers recoiled a step. Two dark eyes, one at half-mast, stared him over delicate smile. The doll.

Margie surged ahead and pushed the doll hard into his chest, holding it there. “Do you think this is funny?” she said, the anger making her voice rough.

Chalmers felt like a small child being taunted by a schoolyard bully. Margie kept pushing the doll into him, releasing a pent up aggression years in the making. He wanted to turn and run.  The foreign body against him almost felt like it was burning.

“Margie, stop!”

Another step back and the delicate knee, which had served him fairly well throughout a day of cleaning and clearing, whimpered and gave way forcing him to stumble backwards to the floor. Margie moved with a surprising agility as she kept the doll plastered firmly to his chest.

“Why would you do this?” she said, screaming now. “Where did you get this?”

She fell to her knees as her tears began to flow. She lifted the doll from Chalmer’s chest then slammed it back into to him once, then again, then again. Propping himself up on his elbows, he was unable to block the blows, not that it mattered. Margie’s rage lessened with each swing. Each strike came softer and softer until she fell on him exhausted and sobbing.

Chalmers dropped down to his back as the two of them lay in a pile on the floor in the front hall. With a hesitance he had not felt since their second date, he slowly moved his arms to embrace her. She gave a half-hearted shrugged intended to stop him, but for the first time in a long time, this felt good and right. He tightened his arms around her and pulled her as close to him as he could. A tear formed in the corner of his eye and when full and ready, it dripped free releasing a lifetime of tears and regret.

Eulogy

Calvert Jennings gripped the edge of the lectern. He looked up into the moderate crowd of mostly strangers, strangers to him anyway. He supposed that, while still on the younger side, in his mind, this sort of thing would start happening more often, but he hoped the opportunity to play this role would be rare.

“Friends and family of Cranston Bink, thank you for being here today and thank you for this opportunity to speak on Cranston’s behalf.”

He paused, needing a deeper breath due to the weight of the moment.

“I’ve known Bink most of my life. Although our paths moved us near and far and near again, we kept in touch loosely over the years and when we were able to get together, we usually picked right up where we left off, as if I had just seen him the day before.”

A slight smile came to him.

“Bink would probably hate this. Those of you who knew him well, knew that he didn’t stand on ceremony. He liked things to happen organically. He thought if people really wanted to celebrate, or react to something, they should be able to drop everything and do so. He would say that celebrations rarely happen organically because there is always someone somewhere who feels the need to organize. They would want to make it an event and it would be something bigger than it needed to be. Organization takes time and planning, and time and planning tend to kill genuine impulse, genuine joy. Celebrations should not be events, he would say. Events become more about the planner than the occurrence.

While tragic for us, Bink is probably happy that his passing came at a time where people who really knew him could gather and reflect upon the joys of his existence. He told me once that he feared getting too old, because when you’re too old and you die, there is nobody left to speak for you…the real you. Rather, if you get someone to stand up for you, it’s generally a canned speech from someone who sees you as an assignment, something on a to-do list before they wash their hands and go home for dinner, or get a drink, or to take their kid to soccer practice.

Being properly represented was important to him. You know that in talking to him, he worked to make himself clear and that there was a rationale that drove him, and a sense of self-image he felt comfortable working with.

As I look at you, I sense some of you may still be a little tender about some of the things he said about God, about religion. One of the last things he said to me was that he hoped you understood where he was coming from. It’s not an apology. It’s just more reflective of who he was. However, since he was likely going away, he didn’t want to leave on ill terms. His words.

You see, not being religious himself, an offer of prayer, while heartfelt and genuine for you, was for him a failure in his ability to communicate with you his feelings and needs without trampling on yours.

He knew that a sense of faith is something deep inside people. He knew he could no more ask someone, or expect someone, to turn off his or her prayer mindset, than he could not tell a joke. But he felt that if you really knew him and respected who he was as a person, there would never be a prayer between you. For him, that was OK. While he would take all the good energy and good thoughts you might throw his way, he had very little use for someone’s prayers.

It might be semantics. Maybe prayers are just another way of sharing good energy, but he liked to say that reaching out to some far great beyond for assistance is like bringing a mediator into your negotiations for buying a new car. Why do you need the middleman? You’ll get to where you need to be eventually, and you’ll be stronger for the journey. He thought it diminished the direct link between you and I know he got a lot from you all directly in those last few weeks. It was your being there, your energy that helped him through to the end.

Bink was a moral man. He was a smart man. He had a nearly unshakable faith in himself, a confidence that many of us might envy.

I don’t know where you go after this. Bink and I had many long discussions on the matter. We got no closer to a final resolution than we are today. We thought once the best heaven was where you got to go be your favorite character from your favorite movie, so it’s quite possible that there is a new Han Solo galloping around the galaxy, fighting the good fight.

To close, one of the last things Bink and I talked about before he faded into sleep was how much he enjoyed the ride. That even the dull, drudgery of the day-to-day, held within it glorious sunsets and magical full moons, flowers and laughter and snow and handshakes, fresh fruit and hugs. The world is magic if you know where to look. And it can be depressing and hard, but it can also be made easier just by saying so.

He does not want you to leave here in tears. He wants you to leave here with hope and a smile. And when we’re done here, he wanted me to tell you to all go out and get a sandwich and enjoy being together.”

Forgiveness

He stood there on the doorstep, soaking wet as if he conjured the storm just to appear more pathetic when she opened the door.

She stood in the crack she created by pulling the door open just enough to cover the distance of her shoulders, a gesture to signal an intent to listen, but not an invitation.

He stood in silence. He had a lot to say. Most of it he already said and his intent was to say it again and if there was a way to say it with greater meaning, with a greater sense of promise, he would do it. Still, when the door opened, the practiced words seemed to evaporate.

She looked at him with cautious and hesitant eyes. She bit ever so softly on the inside of her lip. It became a habit over the years that she apparently developed when she was deep in concentration or trying to figure things out. She first noticed it when frosting a cake some time ago.

“I…,” he started.

“Don’t,” she said. “I know.”

He forced his hands deeper into his pockets. “I’m sorry.”

She wasn’t sure how this all landed on her, but the ball, as they say, was clearly in her court. He did some really stupid things. Even now, there was a part of her who wanted to punch him in the face, and she wasn’t taking that off the table, but it was decision time. She was culpable in this too.

She stood in the doorway filling the space between the jam and the door thinking, considering, hoping, debating, cursing, resisting, deciding, redeciding and redeciding again. She took in a very deep breath and looked around him blinking away a tear before slowly opening the door to create an invitation.

As he moved to step inside and out of the rain, he stopped, turned to her and pulled her close.

She hugged him back. Even soaking wet, the greater apology came through.

Maybe she would punch him later.