Tale of 2 Men and a little Lady

Meet Caroline, Jerry and John.

She is 8.

2 men are in their 80’s.

Gray-haired war veterans.

Fiercely loyal to country and family.

Couldn’t be more different.

Jerry & Caroline.

Jerry staggered into the dental office about 3:01.  He was right on time.  He hated being late to anything especially doctor visits.  But today, he knew he had to keep a lid on his temper.  Caroline would tell her mother if he blew up and he didn’t want her to worry that he couldn’t get this simple job done.  Caroline was slow to get out of school, so he ended up rushing to get her to her dental appointment on time.  If he had his way, they would have been here 20 minutes ago…  Sigh.  Caroline was his youngest daughter’s child.  He was her taxi-ride today.  Secretly, it felt good to be needed even if he had to put up with Caroline’s incessant chatter and scrutiny of his “big pink nose”.  She was just like her momma.  Eight years old and already full of opinions and flare.  Her tiny frame wasn’t enough for her big personality.  And at eight, she was already scolding him for drinking too much and not eating well.  He sighed and smiled at her as she greeted the office secretary.  At least she had some manners- Good kid.

He liked this office.  It wasn’t uppity.  He especially liked the cute blonde that worked the front desk.  Tina was her name.  She was always nice to him even when he growled.  He had been in twice before and while most were quick to dismiss his conversations, Tina was always cheerful, forgiving and quick to laugh at his sarcasm.  Of course this made him feel young and engaging.  He was always eager for a nice conversation…or debate.

Today, Caroline was seeing the dental hygienist for her cleaning and check up.  Why kids need to spend 80 dollars every six months was beyond him, but he kept that to himself…this time.

Much to his dismay, Tina was busy answering a phone call and He was watching the latest on HLNews.  Stupid war.  Oh good.  She was finally off the phone.  He approached the front desk slowly so that he could think of something interesting to talk about by the time he got there.  Damn.  The phone rang again.  He was stuck waiting for Tina to get off the phone.  Didn’t she know that he had stuff to talk about?  The last time he was here, she got all religious on him.  Not that it wasn’t an interesting conversation, but he’d rather talk about anything but God.  Good, she’s done.  “Well, Mr. Ford, you are looking mighty fine today.  How are you doing?”, she asked.   Shuffling a bit he responded, “Fine. And you?”  “I’m great.”, she countered.  He was losing hope.  “So……”, she said, “how’s your little Caroline doing?”  He began to chit-chat about Caroline’s scholastic progress and her strong opinions about everything.  Tina responded with a typical volley in the conversation.  Then she asked, “Have you thought anymore about what we talked about the last time you were in here?”

He knew she meant religion.  Well hell.  He was desperate for a good debate anyways.  The kids and grand-kids had been on his back about “God” this and “God” that.  They didn’t know what the hell they were talking about.  But since Tina was so cute, he figured he would continue to entertain the conversation.

She started talking about her story:  how her mother had died when she was a girl and then her grandmother had taken over.  Her grandmother was a good Christian woman who took her to church and taught her to say her prayers.  Then her grandmother died.  Tina was left to raise herself, little brother, and to care for her drunk father.  Sad life story, but Tina wasn’t sad.  She was explaining that she ran to many things before realizing that God had a plan and loved her.

Hogwash.

I started to give her a piece of my mind.  Science. Fact. War. Devastation.  If she only knew the things I’d seen and experienced, she would understand that the possibility of a loving God was impossible.

She was so gentle and it made me want to swear but I didn’t.  I am calm.  I started getting thirsty too but mainly because I was still standing and we were both talking pretty loud.  She had NO idea-  living with what I had done and what I had seen was too much.  She was still talking about God.. Must stop…

So I went straight for her sense of intellect.  “Do you even know what language Jesus spoke?” I asked.  She stopped talking for a minute and said, “Hebrew, I think.”  “Ha! You don’t even know the language of your ‘precious’ Savior.”  I knew I was being a bit harsh, but something had to get her attention.  Didn’t she know how much she was being manipulated by religion?

It made for a good fight anyways.

About that time, the hygienist came up to tell me the report on Caroline.  Tina stopped her and said, “Laura, this is Mr. Ford, Caroline’s pawpaw.”  “He would like to know what language Jesus spoke.”  Laura looked at me with a questioning look.  “And why are we talking about this?”  she asked.  “Aramaic”, Laura says under her breath.  I was a little shocked this girl knew her trivia.  I continued my argument with both ladies that due to the horror in the world, there is no room to support a loving God.

They both listened and finally Laura responded to me and said, “You are so focused on the bad, let me share with you some of the good things that may prove there is room to support an argument for God”

She went on to tell me of educated, talented young people “forsaking” the comforts of home to go to Africa, Asia, and other lands to teach HIV education, provide water, and care for orphans. They were motivated out of love and passion and social justice from their “God”.

That was her argument?

The dentist came out and we all shut up.  Caroline got a good report so she was happy. No cavities.  We headed out the door and I quickly made my goodbyes and final glances at Tina.

In the car, Caroline confessed that she had told Miss Laura all about my “drinking” problem and then my Caroline asked her to pray for me.  Especially since I was gonna die soon cause I drank too much.  I wanted to laugh, swear and cry at her absurdity.  Not to mention I was definitely embarrassed beyond belief.  What was it with this generation of over-sharers?   This little eight year old spending time worrying about her pawpaw….

Riding home took forever.  I guess I have some things to think about…

John.

John and his wife had come to the same dental office for 20 years.  Like clockwork, they always showed up in March and September.  Today, John was surprised to meet what he assumed to be a new girl, Laura.  She marched in and extended her hand, “Hi, I’m Laura.  It’s great to finally meet you.  I’ve been here several years, but only work one day and we’ve always missed each other.”  It was a relief to know that she had been working awhile.  She looked 20.  I hobbled over to the dental chair and plopped down explaining to Laura about my motorcycle accident.  She listened, wide-eyed as I told her that I was in a coma for 3 months and that the doctors called my recovery a “miracle”.  I never get tired of telling the story of how God saved my life.

I was a punk in my twenties.  I was prideful and dumb.  My parents had tried to get me to be good.  I tried too.  I went to war, came home and enrolled in college.  I worked.  I just couldn’t be a “church person”  Little did I know that wasn’t what God wanted either. He wanted a relationship not my worthless religion.

Some of my friends had also bought motorcycles and we were going to Glen Rose for the weekend.  I remember it was raining and then I woke up months later to find myself girl-friend less and job less.

It was true:  God used that accident to get my attention.  Strangely I’m thankful for it.  Laura comments on my story and I can’t help but notice that she acknowledges my thankfulness to God.  She asks me what I’m doing the rest of the day and I happily tell her about the container-gardening class I’m taking.

We settle into position and she cleans my teeth.  After I sit up, I ask her about her family.  She doesn’t really want to tell me that her husband works for a church, so I ask her “why?”  She explains that sometimes it makes people uncomfortable to talk about God and then I assure her that I am not one of those people.  Come to think of it, I ask her about seminary because that keeps sounding more and more interesting.  She laughs, “But you’re 80! Why would you even want to go to seminary?”  Taking joy in the honest conversation, I reply, “Because every night, my wife and I read the scriptures.  I have even more time to listen now that I’m retired.  I love to hear the stories of God.  I want to know more.  I could tell that Laura was not expecting to hear that mainly because she told me.

She teared up and said, “Do you know how precious it is to hear a man in his 80’s confess that he wants to know God more? I don’t think I’ve ever heard an old person say that and I can’t get over how beautiful and genuine it is.”

Turned out to be a very good visit.  I left with some seminary information scribbled on a post-it note and no cavities.

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