The Lesson I Learned from an Icee

I’ve often thought about how some memories are stuck in my mind, and others seem to have slipped away from me. For instance, I remember waking up when I was five years old from a nap on the floor of my room. I don’t know why I wasn’t in my bed; I assume I was playing and merely slept where I was. That said, I awoke to a puppy licking my face. I don’t remember anything after that, but I remember the first time Samson, my golden retriever pup, and I met. It’s adhered to my mind.

I remember walking down the hill to the neighbor’s house, having been invited to come over for a cap gun battle, only to be ambushed on my way down by the three neighbor girls wielding their cap guns and blasting me away after jumping out from behind the trees that lined the hill. I don’t remember anything else from that day, but I remember being surprised and happy.

Yesterday, I was brought back to another time in my memory. My wife and kids and I had gone to Sam’s Club to get a couple necessities. In particular, I needed a new pair of jeans. I tend to kill pants. I’ve tried $100 jeans and $45 jeans and everything in between. However, no matter the price or the claims of the brand, the pants tend to die on me after about six months. So, several cycles ago, after a recommendation from my dad, I purchased my first pair of $10 jeans (although they have increased in price now to $14). These jeans lasted me, surprise, six months before giving up the ghost. So now, I buy cheap $14 jeans and save myself some money.

Anyway, after shopping for jeans and all the other random stuff you pick up at Sam’s that you never intended to buy before walking in there, we paid for our items and my wife walked over to the snack center and got the kids some Icee Slurpies as a treat. She took their picture as they stood there enjoying the sweets. However, my mind was taken back. When I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of money. I don’t think we were poor, but there wasn’t a lot of money for things like Icee’s. My neighbor and her three girls and my mom and I often did things together during the day. They were home-schooled and I was an only child. So by default, we were all the best of friends.

One day though, my neighbor’s husband got a promotion at work. As such, when we went into the local K-Mart, all of us kids got an Icee as a rare treat. I know some of you reading this might think that it’s odd to believe that an Icee could stick out in my mind, but maybe the remainder of the story will clue you in as to why. Our neighbor, Chris, handed each of her kids an Icee.

Ashley got an Icee, and her response was, “Thank you!”

Courtney got an Icee, and her response was, “Thank you!”

Angie got an Icee, and her response was, “Thank you!”

And finally, Michl (me) gets an Icee, and his response is SLURP! SLURP! SLURP!

Suddenly, my Icee is gone, as if it has merely vanished from my hand. Looking up, I see my mom standing there, slurping on my Icee. She raises her eyebrows and glances down at me. I am shocked.

“Next time, you will remember to say thank you,” she says and walks away with my Icee.

She drank the entire thing. The saddest part is, she doesn’t even like cherry Icees. There was a similar lesson that happened earlier in my life with a Snickers bar, but that’s a story for another time. Some of you may think the lesson cruel, I’m sure. However, while I am sure I did cry, I don’t remember crying. What I remember was a lesson my mom taught me. To this day, I remember to be polite. It was ingrained into me to show respect and thankfulness to someone who is kind to me. It was a big deal for Mrs. Chris to buy us those Icee’s. At the time, the amount of money it took to buy all of us kids those Icee’s was a lot for her, and at that time, I didn’t show appreciation for that. True, I was just a little kid, but it was important for me to recognize the value of what I was getting. Just like a pair of jeans that obviously aren’t worth $100 to someone like me who is just going to kill them in six months, an Icee to a mom who is pinching pennies for the good of her family is a big deal. And it was a big deal to us, but I didn’t recognize it for what it was and my mom wanted to reinforce that value of thankfulness. She wanted to engrain that value into my head enough that I would remember it. I don’t remember crying, but I remember the lesson.

I was standing over to the side waiting for my wife to get the Icees for the kids and I didn’t hear if they said thank you to her when she handed them the treats. So, I can’t say if the direct lesson has been passed down to my own offspring. However, I can tell you that they are thankful for the blessings they have. True, like all kids, they must be reminded from time to time, but I think the value has been instilled. So, as I sit here sipping my coffee and thinking back, I must smile, I have a good momma, who taught me how to live life in gratitude and thankfulness; not just to her and my dad, but to God for all the blessings I have been given. I hope in the end I am able to give back some of that blessing to others.

D. Michl Lowe

Side Project: My Forgotten Youth

So I took a break from writing the fantasy book that I have been working on and wrote something different. I woke up last night at 3:00 a.m. and had a book idea ramming itself into my consciousness. The idea wouldn’t go away. I had to write down the general idea. Below, I have written out the rough introduction to the book. I don’t plan on stopping work on the fantasy book, but I just needed a break. In my mind, this will be a very short book, less than 200 pages for sure. A middle-grade book, I think. We will see. In my head, this book is dealing with some heavy issues kids are dealing with even today. My current working title is My Forgotten Youth. Enjoy.

Introduction: The Abnormal Life

You don’t really question the things that happened to you as a kid. To you, it was just how life was and that was normal. It’s not until years later that you start to understand that your childhood might not have been completely regular. Example: My mom once told me that my father was a famous magician. I asked her why I didn’t have a dad and she said that he was busy working in Vegas and that the entertainment company that employed him wouldn’t let him take time off.

It made sense to me at the time, that my dad was a magician; too important to come and visit me. I told all my friends at school, and when they got old enough to realize it was a lie, they let me know, harshly, over and over. It was 1990 and I was eight years old. My mom would often disappear for weeks at a time, that was normal. My grandma and I would always order pizza when she knew mom wasn’t coming home. I got to the place where I hated the very smell of the stuff. Mom continually traveled up to Detroit with her boyfriends; sometimes just for the weekend, and others, for a month at a time.

We lived with my Grandma Susan. She had a little trailer that my grandpa had left her when he died. That was years before I was even born though. We all lived in Sissonville, West Virginia and my mom and Grandma had their own rooms, but I had the hall closet. It was big enough that my twin mattress could fit, but that was about it. 

One morning, I woke up before I should have. Not sure why, but something seemed wrong. Sometimes you wake up because of a noise, but you think you just woke up naturally. It was one of those times when you feel like you slept for a long time. I was wide awake. There was the sound of clinking dishes in the kitchen and I walked in, the footed pajamas I wore had a hole for the big toe on each one, but they still made a soft shiff shiff as they slid across the linoleum floor. 

The sound of my feet caused my mother to drop her little plastic purse on the side of the sink. When she did, amber pill bottles came plopping out on the counter and the floor. She was startled.

“Hey darlin’, what are you doin up?” She asked, smoothing her blond hair back from her face and licking lips that were too dry. 

“I heard something, and woke up,” I said. 

She was fully dressed in a short skirt and some of those fishnet stockings that girls loved to wear in the 80s, but that she was obviously too old to be wearing. Mom was fashionable; MTV was always on when she was home. Her bangs were the poofiest bangs in the whole town. While I always thought mom was pretty, in a “my mom” sort of way, I hated poofy bangs. She quickly picked up the pill bottles and began stuffing them back into the hot pink purse. One of them had rolled across the floor and my bare big toe twiddled it. I reached down and picked it up. It had my grandma’s name on the label.

“Oh,” I said. “This one is grandmas.”

A slight panic flashed across her eyes. “Yes, well I am taking it to get it refilled,” she said.

“Are all of those grandmas?”

She backed away from me and I was confused. “No, these ones are mine,” she said glancing towards the door. “Why don’t you mind your own business, huh? You think you know what’s best do ya? You aren’t the parent here! I am!” She screamed the last part, but immediately hushed herself, glancing towards the hall that led to grandma’s room.

“Mom, are you okay,” I asked, brushing off the harshness of her words. I learned long ago, not to take her harshness with any sincerity.

“I’m fine,” she hastily said, zipping up the little purse. It looked stupid, hot pink and almost rubbery. I thought it was like something a little kid would have, not a grown woman. She brushed tears out of her eyes. When had she started crying? Coming over, she kissed the top of my head. She smelled; sour, like ammonia. Like when our cat’s litter box hadn’t been cleaned in several weeks. Her arms were too thin, I could see the bones in her wrists. She had bruises up and down both of her arms, little scabbed dots all over.

“You be good okay. Listen to your grandma. I’m gonna be gone for a couple weeks, alright. I have a job up in Detroit I have to do. Robert says we can get some real good work this time.”

Robert was the current guy she called her boyfriend.

“Okay,” I said.

What else could I say? She looked back once, then walked out the front door.

I never saw my mom again.

One Last Hug

I had a dream about a dead person. A person I knew long ago. I didn’t know this person as an adult, I knew them when I was just a kid, a kid in high school. In the dream, we were at a festival of some kind, there was music, and people milling around talking and having fun. People were meeting with old friends and chatting, there was laughter and good food. This person and I were going to perform in some way, I don’t know how maybe we were going to sing. Anyway, this friend of mine was doing some stage makeup for me.

This wouldn’t have been uncommon for this person to do this for me back in the day. They often did our makeup before the performances I was in; of which there were many. Anyway, she was doing my makeup, talking to me, gently whipping away mistakes, and just being their normal self. Suddenly, the haze of the dream was drawn away from my eyes and saw her. I knew she had died and knew I was in a dream. I stood up with intense sadness in my heart and began crying, the tears rushing down my cheeks.

Then she stood with me. “You’re dead,” I cried. “I know you’re dead, but you’re here.”

“I am here,” she said. “It’s okay. It’s really okay.”

I stepped forward and hugged my friend. It was a hug from years and years ago. When I was just a kid who was hugging a friend that he loved. She cried too, but her tears were not tears of sadness, but of joy that she was able to hug her friend again. I realized I was the only sad person at the festival. The people were around us were talking, laughing, and loving each other in friendship and family. It was a beautiful thing, and yet I continued to be sad.

I woke up, tears wetting my pillow, stunned. I’ve had several dreams like this in the last couple of years. Dreams where I have seen friends of mine who have gone on before me into the afterlife. My mother-in-law always says that when you dream about someone, that’s the Lord’s way of bringing that person into your mind to have you pray for them. What do I do with dreams of the dead though? I’m not completely sure. What I do know is that I pray for their families and those left behind.

I’ve lost several friends and family in the last several years and I think that may be catching up to me. Loss is a difficult thing. Sometimes, you weren’t as close as you would have liked to have been. Sometimes you were very close and the loss seemed personal, like the person’s death was a slight against you. Not that they wanted to leave, but that God wanted to harm you by taking them. The sadness and anger can be almost overwhelming. I don’t feel angry. I don’t blame God. Maybe I haven’t been hurt enough to feel that. All I know is, I miss my friend, and I’m glad I got to give her one last hug.

D. Michl Lowe

The Hero We Need

The shirt says it all!

My family and I enjoy going down to the Smokey Mountains. It makes no sense because we hate going to Myrtle Beach and the Smokey Mountains are basically Myrtle Beach without the water. However, we love this place and come sometimes twice a year. It’s one of our favorite places to visit!

This year, we have been staying at the Dollywood Dreammore Resort and it’s been pretty great. There are always a couple of standard events we do every time we come here. We always eat breakfast at The Apple Barn, and we always eat dinner at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen.

As we were waiting for a table yesterday evening, we decided to sit outside in the rocking chairs and watch a lightning storm roll in. As we sat there, my son Nikolai was running around playing on the patio. Suddenly, a woman fell while walking by the curb. My little two-year-old son ran over to her, gently picking up her bag and trying to help her up as well. I ran over too, but she was already mostly up when I got there.

She turned to me and asked if he was my son. I said, “Yes, he’s my son.” She got tears in her eyes and said, “You’re doing something right.” She wasn’t hurt, she was just overcome with the emotion of the situation. I walked back to my little rocking chair, stunned in a way; feeling an overwhelming sense of unearned pride.

My girls, Kat and Ellie are fantastic! They are shining lights and amazing young women. I couldn’t be more proud of them. They aren’t perfect, but they are turning out to be fantastic Christian ladies. However, my little boy is only two; seemingly too young to be aware of honor, chivalry, or a sense of protection of others… Or so I thought.

His boyhood instinct was to run over to this woman and help her. As she said, maybe this old dad is doing something right. Maybe his momma is as well! Whenever one of us sneezes or coughs, Nikolai will always ask, “Daddy, are you alright?” and I or whoever sneezed will say, “I’m alright, thanks.” Compassion, love, and care; are common instincts we couch in Christian morality in our household.

I look around at the instability of our world. I wonder if maybe there were more Christian moms and dads out there who lived lives reflecting Christ, maybe we wouldn’t have as many issues in society as we do right now. Maybe if we lived like Jesus, we would have more little boys who would run to the rescue and fewer of them who run into places with murder in their hearts.

P.S. Nikolai’s shirt was perfect tonight!

D. Michl Lowe

The Monster Outside My Window And My Dad

When I was around five years old, we still lived in the little red house on White Oak Dr., but now the house is white. However, as a child, it was a stark red color with wooden shingles and a leaky basement. When you entered the house and turned to the left, you would go down the only hallway in the home. My room was the last bedroom on the left.

One night, my dad put me to bed and said his customary “love you” and then turned off the light and went to his room. I sat there in the dark and being a little kid, got scared. I can’t tell you beyond just saying that I was scared of a monster, what that monster really was, but it was terrifying enough for me to call my dad back into the room with a loud call of “Dad”! He came back into the room and asked what I wanted.

“Um, I’m scared that there might be a monster outside of my window.” To be fair, my room had two windows and while one of them was a story up over the top of the garage, the one I was scared of was about four feet above the backyard. Dad went over to the window and beckoned me to come over and look out the window. “No…” I said, still slightly scared. “Get over here.” He said. I came over to the window. “Look out that window. Do you see any monsters out there?” He asked. I shook my head no. “That’s because there’s no such thing as monsters and there certainly aren’t any outside of your window. Now go to sleep.” I went back to my bed and dad walked from the room giving me a slightly gruffer version of “I love you; goodnight!”

Several minutes went by while my little boy brain continued to spin tails of monsters clawing their way into my room via the window to the backyard. Finally, I yelled again, “Dad!” … slowly he appeared in my doorway. “What?” It was a question devoid of desire for the actual answer. “I’m afraid a monster is outside my window…” Dad looked defeated. His logical argument had failed to suppress my imagination in the darkness and boredom. “Come here.” He said again. “No…” I said, shrinking back from his gruff utterance.

As scared as I was of the monster outside the window, I was much more scared of dad and the possible solution he was churning away at in his head. “Come. Here.” He said in a deliberate and just slightly menacing way. I slinked from the bed, sliding out from under the covers without even throwing them back. Like a magician pulling the tablecloth out from under a dinner place setting without even clinking the glasses.

Dad opened the window. “Stick your head out there and tell me what you see.” I slowly peeked my head out the window. The light was still holding on in the evening. It was summer and there was still mugginess to the West Virginia evening despite a slight tinge of coolness in the air. Thinking of it now, it was an evening that should have created a sense of comfort and home. Of sitting outside on the front porch in the evening with a glass of sweet iced tea and talking with a neighbor.

Instead, for the little boy in that room, the evening was full of possible fear. Fear in spite of the knowledge that my dad was there, protecting me, sheltering me, loving me. “Do you see a monster?” He asked again. I shook my head “no” once more. He closed the window. “Go to bed, I don’t want to hear from you again. If you aren’t bleeding or dying, I don’t want to hear your voice. Got it?” I got it and nodded my head.

I sat alone in my bed once more. It should have been a peaceful aloneness. Darkness that comforts you and wraps you up in the silence and stillness of a night. There’s the knowing that you aren’t alone in a house where your loved ones are safe and sleeping or just being quiet in another room just beyond your door. But this wasn’t my way of being this night. I lay with my head draped over the side of the bed with my face looking up at the dome of the ceiling light. The patchwork of textured ceiling melded together and blurred out as the blood would pool in my brain. The white of the glass globe slowly slides into and melds with the white around it. I sat up again, the blood cascading back into my body. I sat there… crisscross apple sauce on my transformers bed sheets, waiting for sleep that didn’t come.

I honestly believe I made it around fifteen minutes before the fear crept back into my mind. It was long enough for dad to believe his tactic of opening the window had worked and perhaps even time enough for him to go to sleep as well. However, given that I went to bed fairly early in those days, I am assuming dad was not only still awake, but just relaxing in his room with my mom. I debated for some time in my mind whether or not I should risk calling my dad into my room again. For a little boy, this was a very difficult decision. In the end, my imagination won out and I called out again. “Dad!” … It took him some time to get to my room. I could hear him having a discussion with mom in the next room. In the end, I could hear him as his feet pounded down the hall. He was mad…

He came into my room without saying anything and went straight to the window. Opening it, he gestured for me to come over to it. I shook my head “no”. He didn’t open his mouth, but hissed the words through his teeth, “Now…”. I came over.

Dad then proceeded to throw me out the window.

Now it wasn’t a graceful action in any sense of the word. Let’s be clear, I fought tooth and nail to stop him. When the dance of the adult man and wiggly little boy was done, I was clinging to the window sill crying for all I was worth, molten tears creating an emotional river on my cheeks. “No daddy no!” I screamed. He was holding onto my wrists and I tried and failed to climb back in the window. “Look here. Listen to me.” He said, in a calmer voice than he had any right to use after doing what he had done. “I’m going to prove to you that there are no monsters out here.”

My eyes were wide, and I listened very carefully to what my dad said next. For all I knew, my very life depended on following the directions he was about to give. “I’m going to shut the window, and you are going to go over there to the back door and knock on it. I will let you in the house through the back door. That way, if there are any monsters out there, they will have ample time to eat you up before I get to the back door. However, if there aren’t any monsters out there, then you should be fine.”

My eyes were the size of softballs and I glanced towards the back door. In reality, it was maybe fifteen feet away if that, but as a little boy, it seemed as though the back walk was made of lava, and getting there was an impossibility. “No! No, daddy!” He pried my hands from the sill, still holding my wrists. “See you in a sec”, he said. Then he shut the window. I might as well have flown to the back door, grabbing the handle to jerk on it to see if perhaps it was already unlocked; no luck there.

I began pounding on the door. My father, on the other hand, meandered out of my room and stopped in the hall to stretch and yawn. He turned into the kitchen and stopped to check the fridge to see if any of the mac and cheese from dinner was leftover; there wasn’t any. Closing the fridge door, he walked over to the back door and calmly unlocked the deadbolt, and then opened the door.

I slid into the kitchen like a Hall-of-Famer getting home as the pitcher crashes in just behind him. Getting up I went after dad, pounding on his chest and crying hysterically. He was laughing at me, a big smile on his face. “Hey…” he said, in a much too jovial tone. “You’re alive! You made it!” … I looked around the kitchen. I looked up at my dad. “You didn’t get eaten.” He said. I stopped crying and wiped my nose. Walking me back to my room, he got more serious, “Now, go to bed.” He said.

I walked into my room and laid down on my bed. You might say the adrenaline surge had tuckered me out. You might say that the rush had spent all my brainpower so I was able to then sleep. Or, you might say that I was not much more afraid of my dad than imaginary monsters, and all that might be true. Or you might say that my dad had taught me a valuable lesson in trust and reality. I believe the latter. In any case, I slept soundly that night and many more in the future and was no longer afraid of monsters outside my window. 

D. Michl Lowe

Our Trip To Florida And How I Nearly Died

When I was around seven years old my family decided that it was time for us to take a trip down to Florida and go to Disney and then head over to Daytona Beach. We decided I needed a buddy to take with me, and so Cousin Randy went with us. Because we wanted to save money where we could, we decided to drive down there. On the way down, when you are coming out of Georgia and heading into the northern part of Florida, you are driving on a large highway that is very straight in one section. I remember looking up from my Gameboy and seeing that our side of the highway was empty, with no cars at all. However, on the other side of the highway, it was bumper-to-bumper traffic.

I mentioned this to dad and he thought this was odd as well. So turning on the radio, we discovered that Florida was being evacuated because Hurricane Andrew was going to be hitting Florida very soon. Now I don’t know about your dad, but my dad’s reaction to this news was to comment that he would be able to get some really cool video with his camcorder while we were down there. And so we continued our trek down into the sunshine state. Our first stop was at Disney and our first park was supposed to be The Magic Kingdom. Now, I have been to Disney several times since this first trip and have never had the same experience as we did the first time we went.

Upon entering the park, there is a large boulevard running down the middle of the park with Cinderella’s Castle at the end of the road. The road is lined with shops, restaurants, and little boutiques. Every other time I have been to this park, there have been so many people crowding this area, that you can barely see five feet in front of you and are shoulder to shoulder the entire time. It is always packed. However, this first time we went, there were maybe twenty people on that boulevard. No one was in the part hardly at all.

You might think I am exaggerating, but I am not. Normally, each ride has a good hour-long wait to get on it. We walked directly on every ride we wanted to. No, wait at all. In fact, we rode a couple of the rides twice. By lunchtime, we had ridden every ride we wanted to ride in the Magic Kingdom. We went back to the hotel to eat, then decided to go over to the Animal Kingdom to check it out. By dinner, the time we had experienced everything we wanted to at the Animal Kingdom as well. When I tell you it was the best Disney Vacation we have ever had, it’s not an exaggeration. It only rained once, for about twenty minutes.

After our time at Disney, we went over to Daytona Beach. This is where things get a little more interesting. The storm had begun to really become fierce. There were days we were stuck in the hotel room because of torrential rain. Dad was having a ball filming it all and mom kept asking if we needed to get to the first floor of the hotel since she believed we would be blown away. Dad informed her that if we were lower, we were much more likely to be flooded so it was better to stay on the higher floors. I don’t think that made her feel better.

So on Randy and I’s first trip down to the sand, we decided that playing in the surf was the best idea. However, that idea was quickly dashed when we realized that about every twenty minutes or so, a ten-foot-high wave would come along and crash so hard on us that we thought it would rattle our teeth loose. So we moved a little further out into the water so that it was about up to our waste. For some reason, the waves were not nearly as bad at that depth, but it presented a new problem for us; jellyfish.

Apparently, the storm had blown in a very large school of quarter-sized jellyfish. Their tentacles weren’t but three to four inches long, but they could still sting, and sting they did, a lot! The problem was, it wasn’t a bad sting. Let me explain. With a normal jellyfish sting, it hurts bad enough that a little kid might be done swimming for the day. But these little jellies weren’t terrible, and that was the issue. It wasn’t a bad enough sting to make you get out of the water. I would compare the sting to the bite of a horsefly. So you would yelp, and swat at the water, but then keep on going, with only a little red line to show where they had got you.

At the end of the first day, we came up out of the water and it looked like we had red spider webs all over our legs. That’s how many sting lines we had down our legs. Not that we minded really though, we played that entire day in the ocean. So it wasn’t that bad, but by the next day, we were ready to see if there was another way to have fun. Other than swatting at jellyfish.

The deeper out into the ocean we went, the fewer jellies there seemed to be. So we moved out deeper and deeper, which, thinking about it now was very foolish; considering rip tides and what I am about to tell you about. Either way though, we moved further and further out into the ocean until we were around a football fields length out in the water. It was around ten feet deep at this point. We were diving for shells. Both of us were expert swimmers even at such a young age and had no trouble diving to the bottom to search in the dark for the shells.

We had been out in the water for around ten minutes or so and were treading water. We were facing each other talking, I was facing towards the shore, and Randy facing out to sea. Suddenly, as I was swimming there, a large fin rose up out of the water, just behind Randy. It passed by him and silently slipped back down into the water. I was almost speechless, but managed to sputter out,

“R-R-Randy… th-th-theres a shark!”

His eyes went wide, “Where?”

“Just behind you.”

“Well we gotta get outa here then!” he said.

We started swimming as fast as we could back towards the shore, but we only made it about halfway back, before three more fins rose from the water just in front of us. We stopped dead in our tracks. But should take a moment and explain something to you. In the ocean, there are two main types of fins that you should know about. One of them, is a large triangle, like the one I saw just behind Randy. It was nearly a foot long with crisp edges. The other type of fin though is more like the crest of a wave, where the tip of it curls back. This second type of fin was the type we were seeing now, the three of them begin to circle us.

As you may have guessed, this second type of fin is not a shark fin, but a dolphin fin. The three dolphins were about eight feet from where we now trod water and slowly circled us. We were scared, of course. Dolphins are big animals and these weren’t the trained ones you see in Sea World, but wild dolphins of the Atlantic. However, as we continued to swim towards shore, they kept up with us, circling us the whole way into the breaks where we could stand.

Now, I don’t know how you would have taken that situation, but from that day forward, I have believed that the dolphins were protecting Randy and me from the shark. So that’s the story of how Randy and I went to Florida during Hurricane Andrew and nearly got eaten by a shark, only to be saved by dolphins. True story.

D. Michl Lowe

The Coming Of Nikolai

Let me talk about the end of 2018. Kyle and Natalie, our music pastor and his wife, came to us and told us that they were pregnant with their third child. I don’t remember the exact date, but it was mid-2018. In my heart of hearts, I can assure you (my reader) that I was done having children. All through college and perhaps even before that, I had always said that I wanted two little girls; no more, no less. And at that moment, I had my two girls and beyond that, Ellie was already seven years old. Having another child wouldn’t make sense at all.

However, when our friend’s words rang in my mind, a spark began to burn inside of me. I couldn’t shake the idea of another child from my mind. It nearly consumed me. God was pulling at me, causing me to question my conviction. At first, I didn’t talk to Alicia about this. How could I? If I told her about it, she would get excited and if these feelings turned out to be nothing, just a passing fancy, then I would have hurt her a great deal. Inside myself though, I knew she wanted more children. She had always said four, but we had compromised on two. She always said no way to three because she didn’t want the third to be left out. Or for there to be a middle child.

I went and spoke with Kyle about my feelings and thoughts. His immediate response was, “You need to have another kid!” Now I know he must have been a little biased since he and his wife had made a very similar decision. I spoke to him about my hesitations. About all the reasons why it was a crazy idea, why we shouldn’t do it. And then I said that despite all that, I was still convicted about it. I didn’t know why. He told me that he had similar feelings before they had made their decisions and that he had come to have peace about it through prayer. He told me I needed to be in prayer and that I should seek Christ’s will. While I appreciated his enthusiasm and advice, I was still unsure.

I went home and spoke to Alicia about it. I came out of our closet just before bed and said, “What would you think about us having another kid?” She stopped. “Are you being serious?” she asked. “Now, you can’t just bring this up with me, if you are serious you need to let me know. Because I had a peace about us not having any more kids, even though it’s something I have really wanted. You can’t just throw this out there you know.”

I paused in the doorway, considering why I had even mentioned it without having come to a solid conclusion just yet. “I haven’t come to a consensus yet on how I feel, or what God is telling me about it. I don’t have peace, but I felt like I needed to tell you what was on my heart. What do you think about that?” I can’t be sure, but I remember her beginning to cry. “I have a peace about it, I say let’s do it!” I regaled her with all my logical reasons as to why I thought it was a bad idea, and still she held firm. When I spoke to my mom and dad about it later, they held to my beliefs about the bad idea of having another kid. It would be too hard, too expensive, and just overall not a good idea. I didn’t have peace about it. I wasn’t sure.

During this time, I was working up in the sound booth for our local church. I can’t tell you what the sermon was about. I can’t tell you what really was even going on in my own mind at that moment. However, while working the sound for our Facebook live feed, Pastor began to speak and my heart suddenly lurched. All I can recall is that for a moment in time, Pastor was no longer speaking to the congregation, God was speaking through him to me.

All my fear was gone. All my reservations were gone. The logical reasoning, I had built up in my mind seemed like foolishness. God had a plan. I didn’t know what it was, but He had one. I needed to trust in His ability to see us through the challenges. Which is interesting. Nikolai was born on August 31, 2019. It was a mostly uneventful birth, but just a day after he was born, he had to be taken to the NICU because he had an infection in his blood. He was there for about a week until he was strong enough to come home with us. It wouldn’t be the last time one of my kids had an extended stay in a hospital.

Looking back at this time now, after Niko was born, Alicia was able to take off enough time from work so that she could get all the way from the beginning of school in August to Christmas break staying at home with him, fantastic. But God took us a step further. One month after Christmas break, the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 hit and we worked from home for the most part until that Summer, giving Alicia just about a full year of staying at home with Niko.

Even when we did have to go back to work (sorta) in the next school year of 2020 in September of that year, Niko was able to only go to daycare part-time, Mom and Dad kept him two days a week, saving us money and allowing him to spend a lot of time with family. God has a way of working these things out. In ways, we will never understand and will often never see until a long time later.

Now, I continue to look at my son (he’s two and a half now) and Kyle’s little girl and I think about these kids. Who they are becoming and who they are right now. The world is a better place with them in it. A friend of mine recently went through a similar situation as I did and I got to hold his little girl (just a couple months old now) in my arms. We were at dinner with them the other night and I looked over at my son and then down at this little girl in my arms. What a blessing children are. I feel like the meaning of life and love and laughter are brought into clarity through these kids. They will grow up in our church, they will be loved by everyone in it, and they will be loved by us. There will be difficulty, pain, heartache, and tears, and it will all be worth it. All the difficulty that comes with having kids and raising kids will be worth it.

D. Michl Lowe

A Mother’s Discipline

At one point, I don’t remember my age, I had done something wrong and needed to be punished. My mother sat me down looking out a set of windows that faced the backyard. “You sit here until I come to let you up!” She said. I pretended I didn’t care, that the punishment was no big deal. She then went over to the telephone on the wall and called down to the neighbor’s house just below us. These neighbors had three little girls and a little boy. The middle little girl was Ashley, mentioned above. “Hey Chris, would you send your kids up here to play in Michl’s treehouse for a few minutes? Thanks!” and then hung up the phone. I didn’t hear this conversation.

What I saw next was the point of the exercise. All my best friends suddenly appeared and began playing in my backyard. “Hey, mom!” I yelled. “The girls are here; I’m going to go out and play with them!” I was very excited. Mom came into the room. “Oh, I’m sorry, but little boys who don’t listen to their mommies don’t get to go play with their friends. So, no. You are not going out to play with them.” Big tears welled up in my eyes and began running down my cheeks as I suddenly understood the reason, I was facing the backyard. The kids were only playing back there for maybe five minutes at the most, but it was enough to get my attention as a little kid, four or five years old. “Now, if you decide that you are going to listen to mommy for the rest of the day, then maybe tomorrow we will invite the kids up to play with you and then order some pizza for lunch as well. Does that sound like a deal?” It did. Like I said, I don’t remember what I had done, but to this day, that lesson has stuck with me. Take away what is most important to a child and be willing to give it back with a bonus… good parenting advice.

Speaking of eating pizza, it shouldn’t be understated that getting pizza was a big deal when I was a kid. We didn’t have a lot of money because mom and dad were shoving all their extra money into savings to be able to afford to build a house later. Once, Chris Bloss and Mom took all of us kids to McDonald’s so that we could play on the playground there. You weren’t allowed to play on the playground unless you bought something, so Chris and Mom bought a Diet Coke to split. All of us kids had Fox Kids Club Cards. A card you could get from the local radio station that would get you all kinds of cool stuff as a kid, but mainly for us, would get us a free small fry from the Mcdonald’s. So, we brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, got our free fries, and then all ordered water, also free and since a diet coke was bought, were allowed to play in the play place.

Looking back at that, it was a little sad, but we didn’t care. We got to play on the playground and had some of the best fries around. Once, when the Bloss’ dad Tom got a bonus at work, Chris decided to buy all of us kids a Slurpee from the Kmart. Back then the only flavor was cherry. She handed them out to us kids and each time she gave one to a kid that kid would say, “Thank you!” and then she would move on to the next kid. Not me though, she handed me that thing and I immediately began downing it. I only made it several slurps in when it was suddenly snatched from my hands. “Next time, you will remember to say thank you.” My mother said. I cried, but you better believe the next time something came along like that, I was the first to say thank you. Manners were important. To this day, I still have a habit of saying, “Yes sir and no sir”, which has fared me well.

D. Michl Lowe

The Demon In The Hall

One night, I was sitting up in my bed, quietly just waiting to get sleepy. My bed was on the opposite wall from the door to the hallway. As a sat there, I saw a figure of a man walk past my doorway towards the bathroom. It was dark (I didn’t have a night light) and it was only a silhouette that I saw, the color of the back of your eyelids when you close your eyes, a swirling mix of colors that ultimately would be called black. I assumed it was dad going to the restroom, but as I sat there waiting for the light of the bathroom to come on as he used it, that didn’t happen. Instead, the figure came back and stared into my room. It then came into my room and moved silently over to my bed and stood over me.

This was not my father. This was a figure that was made of darkness, the blank face looked down at me and then turned and silently strode from the room. As soon as it passed beyond the threshold of my door, I bolted from the bed, screaming, running towards my parent’s room. When I should have run into the back of that thing, I ran into the front of my dad who had heard me scream, and came running from his room. I was comforted and put back into bed. What did I see that night? I’m not sure. A demon, maybe? This will be a question I get answered when I finally arrive in heaven someday.

D. Michl Lowe

The Floating Lights

One night, my mom and dad went down across from the Bloss’ house to their grandfather’s house, Don Bloss. This was Tom Bloss’ father, Tom being the girl’s dad. They were buying some property from him to start the process of building a house. They wanted to build a house of their own design. My cousins; Randy, Tammy, Tuesday, and I were hanging out together. This had to have been around Christmas time because Tammy lived in Texas and I was only able to see her around that time of the year. As it happens, there was a blacktop road beside the girl’s house that went up the hill near there and had a circle turnaround at the top. Don had paved this to encourage people to buy lots up there.

As mom and dad were negotiating and signing contracts, my cousins and I decided to walk up to the top of the hill and play tag at the top. It was becoming dusk by the time we got to the top of the hill. It was cloudy. There was a large tree just beyond the pavement, which sat in a small field just before the edge of the forest which continued up the hill. I knew just inside the tree line was a barbwire fence. The land Don had broken up into lots, used to be his family’s farm where they had cows. As we played, I noticed some lights at the top of the hill just inside the tree line. I didn’t think much of it. There were a lot of kids around this area that rode four-wheelers down the trails here inside the barbed wire fence. So, I just assumed it was some kids up there riding four-wheelers.

There was a problem with this theory, however. There was no sound of engines. Randy suddenly stopped running having seen me standing over to the side staring up the hill. “What are those lights?” He asked. “I’m not sure.” I honestly answered. “I thought maybe they were four-wheelers, but I don’t think so, there’s no engine sound.” The girls stopped playing as well and came to stand next to us, hearing the conversation. “Maybe it’s some people riding bikes with lights on the handlebars?” asked Tammy. That could have been the case, but those were not cheap and often broke easily. So, seeing so many (five in fact) on bikes would have been rare at this time. As we debated, the lights began to move down the hill, just inside the tree line, down the trail I knew was there.

“I don’t hear any leaves,” I said. Referring to the fact that the foliage was down and we should have been hearing the crunch of leaves as bikes or even feet were coming down the path, but it was completely silent. No sound at all, save for a slight breeze. These lights were round and appeared to be hanging in the air. They were about the size of basketballs and moved slowly down the path, about as fast as some running at a slow jog.

As the lights came closer to our group, they left the woods and began floating across the small field between the blacktop circle beneath the tree that was there. It was at this point that we realized that nothing was holding up these lights, not a bike, a person, or anything else. The balls of light were gently glowing with a yellow-ish orange light and they were floating about three feet above the ground seemingly on their own. As children, we were terrified and immediately began running down the hill. The lights, followed us, close behind. Looking back, I could see they were matching our pace as we ran, being only about twenty feet behind us. We ran all the way down the hill and then up the driveway to where my parents were meeting in the house just above the end of that road. We stopped long enough to look back down at the end of the road we just come from. The lights were at the end of the road. As we watched, they began swirling around each other and then just winked out, as if someone had blown out their candles.

Of course, we told my parents what had happened, but we weren’t believed. My dad just thought we had gotten scared in the dark and whipped ourselves up into a frenzy. However, I can tell you that when I was around 14 years old, I was watching the Discovery Channel with dad when suddenly on the screen were my floating lights. I jumped up and just about scared the pants off of dad. “That’s the lights we saw when I was a kid!” I yelled. Dad was completely confused and I had to tell him again about the lights. So, what did the Discovery show say about the lights? Aliens? Ghosts? Nope! Apparently, it’s a natural phenomenon called “ball lightning”. It’s where lightning forms into a sphere because of magnetism or something. It often floats several feet off the ground or way up in the air. Now the way it seemed to chase us? I’m not sure about that, but I am convinced that we saw ball lightning that night. I guess when I get to heaven this is yet another thing, I am going to have to ask God about.

D. Michl Lowe

The Ninja Kitty And The Trailer

Around the time I was seven years old, my mom and dad decided that we should move to a new house. They had purchased the land from Don Bloss and we would be moving to the other side of the Bloss girl’s house onto the land they had bought. However, the house had to actually be built. So, they started to build, but also put our little red house up for sale at the same time. As it happened, someone bought our house before the new house was done being built.

We were in the middle of the build for the new house and now had no house to live in while it was being finished. What could we do? Mom spoke with a friend of ours who agreed to allow us to rent a trailer down the road from Sissonville Elementary. It was a very small trailer! In fact, it was only two bedrooms and one of those bedrooms was packed floor to ceiling with our moving boxes. As it was, my bed was placed in a small walk-in closet.

When we first arrived at the trailer, we brought Samson (my dog) and BT, our kitty cat. I remember we got them down out of the car and Samson immediately began running around the small yard peeing on everything and BT ran off into the woods. We were a little concerned about BT, but she was an inside/outside cat, so she could take care of herself. Leaving her some food and water out on the porch, we waited to see if she would come back. When we woke up the next day, the food the water was gone, but there was still no sign of BT.

We left out another round of food and water and left for school and work. When we pulled up to the house from our day, we saw BT on the porch drinking some of the water we had left. However, the moment we got out of the car, she ran off again into the woods. This continued for a couple weeks. One day though, we got out of the car and the food and water were untouched; we didn’t see BT. We continued to leave fresh food and water, but each day that we came home, it was untouched.

This might sound like a really horrible situation, and it was, but in my seven-year-old brain, I created a scenario that made it easier to deal with. In my mind, I forced myself to believe that BT had decided to live out the remainder of her days in the woods hunting squirrels for her food as a Ninja Kitty. I often would imagine her hopping from limb to limb chasing down the squirrels; oddly enough, she was also wearing a Ninja Turtle Style mask on her head in these imaginings as well. We never saw BT again.

Sometime after that, we started to notice a smell coming from inside the trailer. It started off not that bad, just a mild sickly-sweet odor, but then it started to get worse. It became so bad that when we would open the door to go inside, we would have to turn back around and nearly punk off the porch. It was really bad! Dad decided that he would put on his overalls and crawl up under the trailer to see what was going on. When we got under there, he found a large hole in the flooring panels under the trailer, it looked like something had chewed the hole open.

Upon sticking his arm up into the hold, he felt something large and furry that wasn’t moving. Immediately, he thought “oh, no. BT has crawled up in this hole and died. Michl is going to be crushed.” But it wasn’t BT. When dad crawled back from under the trailer, he pulled out a river rat that was as large as BT from there. All told, it was nearly three feet long including the tail. We found out later that our neighbor had been putting out poison for the rats from the river just beyond his house and the poison was meant to make the rats want to drink a lot of water. So, they were supposed to go back to the river and die down there, but for some reason, this particular rat decided to come under our house to die.

Looking back on this time now, I am wondering if perhaps BT got into the poison, he had put out and that’s what really happened to her. I guess that’s a much more realistic explanation for what happened to her, but honestly, I like the seven-year-old explanation better. Sometimes, we encounter situations in young lives where it’s easier to believe the make-believe rather than the somewhat harsh reality of life. As a kid, I think my mind preferred to live within that fantasy instead of actually facing the death of a beloved pet.

We were in the trailer for nearly a year. Most of my memories there were of riding my bike along the flat blacktop road that led up to the house. I mentioned it was a small place and we were there during the Christmas holiday. There wasn’t enough room for an actual Christmas tree, so we settled on a little Charley Brown Christmas Tree that was set on top of our kitchen table. There was only one gift that I remember that year and it was a red microscope, complete with little slides that had sections of bugs, leaves, and other little things to see close up. For all the scrimping and saving our family was doing at the time, this was one of the best Christmas’ I can remember.

D. Michl Lowe

The Snakes

When I would go to my Aunt Sherry’s house to spend time with my cousin Randy, we would often make the trek down the road to the local swimming hole. The Little Kanawha River and Little Spring Creek came together in a “T” about a mile down the road from his house. It was here, just beyond the bridge of Little Spring Creek that we had a small sandy beach that resided below the limbs of several trees. It was shady, cool, and slightly deep compared to much of the river. Water that reached our shoulders wasn’t common in the Little Kanawha River around where we were familiar.

So, we would head down there and wade out into the middle of the water, playing as children often do. However, each time we ventured down to that area, there was always a constant, up in the branches of a beech tree, there was a family of black snakes. The beech tree was very large, larger around than I could reach my arms, even today. It was also hollow. On top of the tree, it had been hit by lightning, so it was sheared off at a completely horizontal angle, creating a flat area at the top of the tree where the snakes curled up with each other.

As we swam below, we could look up and see the coils of the snakes drooping down over the edges of the flat area. One of them in particular was extremely large. As a kid, I remember him being at least ten feet long. However, in talking with Randy recently, he states the largest was more like six feet, but I will swear till the day I die that it was at least ten feet long and ten inches around the waist.

The interesting thing about these snakes is that we didn’t mind they were there at all. For one, they never bothered us at all. They stayed in their tree. For another, we understood that black snakes killed and ate poisonous snakes like Copper Heads and Rattlers. They also ate river rats. We knew we didn’t have to worry about those issues at our swimming hole. You might wonder how we knew how big they were if they were always in the tree.

If we sat on the sandbank long enough and quiet enough, eventually the snakes would get hot up in the tree. So, if we were fishing down there on the bank, or just hanging around, sometimes we would see a snake drop down out of the tree and splash into the water. It would bob to the surface and wind its way through the water to the base of the tree and slither up the hollow to get back to the top where it would curl up again. We could see how long they were as they swept through the water. I remember ten feet; Randy, not so much. He says six or seven.

D. Michl Lowe

The Boat

Time spent at Aunt Sherry’s house was cathartic in a lot of ways. Thinking back on that time there was a lot of downtimes; time spent just lazing the days away. However, there were also times when Randy and I would come up with some crazy idea and start something that would be special in some way. Ideas that in retrospect were stories from childhood that would stick with my mind and grow into tales of meaning and adventure.

There was an old barn across the road from Randy’s house. It was falling apart. The walls were leaning at an odd angle and walking into it, you always had to watch your feet for fear that there might be a copperhead lurking under each board. Truthfully, there most likely was, but when we entered that place, it was with a purpose. Usually, it was to get boards. The rusty nails didn’t offer much resistance to our yanks as we would cart tons of this stuff over to the river and up into a tree to make our treehouse. One summer I came back to Aunt Sherry’s only to find that Randy had built an elaborate spire of platforms and walls, and even trap doors into the tree.

At one point we were “fishing” for catfish one night and decided that building a fire on the wooden floor of one of the platforms was a great idea. Twenty minutes into the fire and the fire itself suddenly disappeared in a bright flash. Having burned a hole through the floor, the entire campfire fell right through it and landed on the ground twelve feet below in a spectacular explosion of sparks. We howled in laughter.

One time, we were hunting through the old barn and came across a large tractor tire insert. It was the large rubber part that would go inside the hard ribbed rubber outsole of the tire. Upon examining it, it was clear that if we blew air into this tire, it would expand and become a huge innertube. At first, we were thinking about how neat it would be to go down the river with this large innertube, but as we talked about it, an idea wormed its way into my mind. What if we strapped boards to the top of this and made it into a boat?

So that’s what we did. Taking rope we lashed a platform of boards to the top of the innertube and created a fine boat. We went into the woods and cut down some small trees and removed the limbs to make some twelve-foot-long poles to act as quant poles used to push us through the water instead of paddles. My Uncle helped us to load the boat into the back of his truck and then drove several miles up the river. After unloading the boat into the water, we set sail down the river back towards Randy Allen’s house.

Several times during the journey, we got stuck on sand bars or other obstacles, but we managed to get ourselves free and continue on. After what I remember to be a long time, like nearly an hour, we arrived at the section of the river behind Randy’s house. Since things had gone so well, we decided to continue going. We continued sailing down the river until we got to the old swimming hole where the snakes hung from the giant beach tree. We continued on. However, it was just after this point those things got a little hairy. With the addition of the creek water entering the river at the swimming hole, the river itself got much swifter, deeper, and wider.

It was becoming much more difficult and often impossible for us to steer, slow, and especially to stop our boat. In the end, after trying for some time to get the boat over the side of the river so that we might walk home and have Uncle Randy come to retrieve our boat with his truck, we were unable to stop it. We abandoned our boat, which continued to sail down the river without us. I like to think that somewhere down there it made it out to the ocean and saved some shipwrecked sailors.

D. Michl Lowe

The Bear

When I was a young boy, I spent some time at my Aunt Sherry’s house around ten or twelve. My parents would send me there when I was driving them bananas. There were several times that I went to her house which was always fun for me because my cousin Randy was there. He was several years older than me, but we played well together. Her house was a small one-story place with a large kitchen in the front and a little living room set in the back.

In front of the house was a large mountain and their house was set in the middle of a small field with a river that ran behind that.

One day, we had been playing down in the river below the house trying to catch craw-dads. Coming out of the water onto the sand bar, we saw large tracks. Having studied Boy Scout books (even though neither of us were a part of the Boy Scouts), we knew these tracks were bear tracks. They were very large! We followed the tracks up into the field behind the house and moved up the yard following the tracks in the wet grass.

Yet, upon coming to the paved road we lost the trail. Seeing bear tracks of course made us excited, but also a little frightened. Black bears in these parts were no joke. We had heard stories of hunters who had shot bears with an arrow only to have the bear continue to charge them and kill them when the arrow had not done enough damage.

Several days later, we were coming back from our swimming hole when we decided that we needed a snack. While ideas like this were not common, we decided to not go home to get a snack but to head up onto the mountain to get some blackberries. Randy knew of an area on the side of the mountain called the Blackberry Maze where there were many bushes of blackberries. There were so many in fact that the paths between the bushes made a large maze on the side of the mountain, thus the name.

So off we trudged into the mountains. It wasn’t a difficult climb, but the closer we got to the maze, the thicker the brush became. Coming out into the maze, the bushes were taller than me and the winding paths were close nit. They hadn’t been created by people, but by the animals who frequented the area. Off we went sampling the fresh berries. Picking and eating the berries was fun and made you feel like you were a part of the land. We were natives in a natural world living off of nature—freedom in the truest sense of the word.

That’s when we heard it; a snorting sound coming from the edge of the maze, outside of it, and inside the dense brush of the forest. Both Randy and I stopped. Turning we looked at each other.

“Did you hear that?” I asked. “Yes,” Randy replied, whispering.

“Is that what a bear sounds like?” I asked. “Um, I’m not sure,” Randy said.

We heard that distant snorting again, and this time the brush on the side of the maze began rustling and swaying. Something significant was coming this way. Something that made our skin crawl and our imaginations light up.

“We need to get out of here,” I whispered and Randy nodded his head. He led the way out of the maze and once he got to the edge of the area, he jumped up and swung himself into a tree. I followed and soon we were both sitting in the highest branches of a tree off to the side of the Blackberry Maze.

“Can’t black bears climb trees?” I asked, upon settling myself into the crook of a limb. Randy looked over at me, “Yeah” he said. We both began hopping from limb to limb down the tree as fast as we could, but upon coming to the bottom of the tree once more, the noise from the side of the maze came again louder this time. We both froze.

Then, out from the brush at the side of the maze, stepped the largest example of this creature I have ever seen. A buck stepped into the area of the maze. Not a bear, a buck. A deer with antlers as wide as a car bumper stepped through the brush. He snorted and bounded over to our tree. Now in the years since this happened, I have been told this is not normal deer behavior, but I can attest this is true nonetheless. That deer came directly below our tree and scraped his antlers on the bark. He then proceeded to stamp his hooves and circle the tree for the next hour, not letting either of us come down.

I can only guess as to his motivations, but my assumption is that he had himself a girlfriend somewhere nearby and our presence was disrupting his ability to give her attention in a “baby-making” sort of way, but this is only an assumption. Maybe he didn’t like us eating his berries. Either way, after that hour he seemed to lose interest and wandered off. We were able to come down and head home. That’s the story of how I thought we were being chased by a bear, that turned out to be a deer.

My Grandfather Was A Coward

My mother knew nothing about her real father. Even when her mother was brutally murdered by another man, she knew nothing about her real dad; believing her father to be a different man. When her real father revealed himself in her fifties, she was taken aback. A mutual friend apparently was having breakfast with her “dad” down at the local Hardy’s every Tuesday. When she confronted this man who she was told was her “real dad” she was understandably hurt and angry. She asked him, “When my mother was murdered, why didn’t you come to get me? I had no one!” He hung his head, “I was just a poor boxer.” He said, “I didn’t have nothin to offer.”

So why did he contact her then? After all these years, why did he have his breakfast friend reach out to her? Why now? As far as she could tell, it was so he could have a dance partner down at the local Moose Lodge. He was in his late eighties and a little senile, barely able to really comprehend who his relations were. I (her son) went to meet him for the first time and spoke to him about my wife and my kids. “These are your Great Granddaughters”, I told him, showing him a picture of the girls. He smiled and said they looked nice. He didn’t ask anything about me, my wife, or what his great-grandkids liked, or what type of kids they were. Really, there was no discussion about us at all. He either didn’t care or didn’t understand what was really going on.

His days were spent in meaningless pursuits that at his age seemed silly. After a year of knowing about him, all my mother had been a couple of one-sided visits and several uncomfortable phone calls asking her to come dance with him at the Moose Lodge.

Then, he got sick. Sick to the point that it was clear he was going to die. he didn’t ask for any of us. Mom went first to visit him and came away numb. She said, “You don’t have to go.” I went.

I went by myself. I entered the room and saw him lying on the bed, haggard. I ignored the three other people in the room; a friend, his current wife, and his son from another marriage (he never actually married my grandmother). He was unable to speak. Staring at the ceiling he just watched, as if he was expecting something to happen. I stood by the bed and held his hand for some time.

If I am being honest, I hated this so-called man, right or wrong I did. I hated that he wasn’t up to the task of being the father he was called to be. I hated it that he hadn’t stepped up! That he hadn’t ridden in on a white horse and rescued my mom from a childhood of horrors. I hated that in some part, I could see his failures in parts of myself that I abhor. With his hand still in mine, I struggled with what to say. Do you really talk about dying to a person who is facing it? It seemed almost cruel to talk about the encroaching line of eternity that I assumed he was more than aware of.

The pause I took seemed to last for a long time. In the end, I made a decision.

It was a decision that I didn’t care if he wanted to know me or my family. I didn’t care if he was a horrible person who had abandoned his child for the sake of convenience. I didn’t care about any of that. I wanted him to know us. We were worth knowing. However, he would never have the opportunity to do this during his lifetime. His life was over.

I gently squeezed his hand and began to pray over him out loud. “Dear God, my Grandfather doesn’t know you Lord, but I do. I ask you now to open his eyes dear God to Your truth. Help him Lord to ask for Your forgiveness and to believe that you save him even now. So that he might be with you in paradise God…”

After leading him through the sinner’s prayer, I ended it. He couldn’t speak of course. He couldn’t even write or even really smile. I have no idea if he accepted Christ, ignored me, or was even coherent enough to understand what was going on. I kissed his forehead and walked out of the hospital room. I sat in the car beside my wife and wept. I wept for his wasted life, what he had missed. All the amazing relationships and love he had missed out on. He had missed it all.

He was so focused on himself that he had missed the awesomeness God had placed right in front of him. Dear God, help me never miss the goodness you have given to me. Help me not to embrace the cowardice in my blood. Help me to grab life by the throat and wring out every good thing you so generously provide. Help me not to be afraid of living life for You, of being the father you have called me to be.

D. Michl Lowe