We slow down to 20mph in front of the middle school. I drop him off every morning now, 7:15am. We pull into a lot full of shiny SUVs, giants in the land. I'm the only parent driving a '97 Stratus with a cracked windshield and a check engine light that's been on for almost a year. My son doesn't seem to care about shiny SUVs. I like that about my son. Adolescent pine trees border the steps that he walks down, down, into his sixth grade day.
I love you, bud.
I love you, too, Dad.
Hillary's crowd rousing speech can't hold a candle to hearing those 5 words from your 11 yr old son.
As I pull out of the parking lot, I always look back, like Lot's wife did. I want to get one last glimpse of my son, my strength, before driving away. That "pause-glance" usually upsets the lady in the shiny SUV behind me who is talking on her cell phone with the surety that God died and left her the queen of the world and she's late for a very important date. I guess it's tough being queen of the world, never having the time to look back on what matters most.
An allergy's runny nose woke her up this morning about 4am. I heard her stir then reach for the tissue and blow. Then a whisper:
I love you.
I love you, too.
Why this lady loves me I do not know. I've disappointed her more times than there are shiny SUVs in that middle school parking lot. And as sure as Mr. Obama will be moving into the White House, I'll disappoint her today. But still, I love you.
For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, 'till death do us part. We had no idea what those words meant when we spoke them as kids eighteen years ago. No idea. I hope I can buy her a shiny SUV one of these days; she's the queen of my world.
One of her friends from high school was riding his bike the other day in Arkansas and a truck hit him, just about killing this young husband and father and friend. I wonder if, before he headed out for his ride, he and his wife exchanged I love you? I bet they will from now on.
The story goes that as Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife drove off to the hospital after their oldest son had just run over their daughter, that he had the presence of mind to yell out the window, Your father loves you. Well done, Steven. Well done. The veil between this world and the next is fragile indeed. It pays to consider what our "last words" might be.
I realize those three words are abused every day. Folks say them when they don't mean them or use them as leverage to get what they want. Still, I'm inclined to believe that those three words may constitute the threads that often hold our world together, keep us from coming completely unraveled. Even when they're said with less than pure motives, there's something about those words, these vehicles for meaning, which have a power over us and in us and through us. As if, even if we don't fully believe them in the moment, we're gonna' say them anyway because they represent what matters most about us and this world we're a'spinnin' on or the parking lots we're pulling out of or the sheets we're turning over in.