There was something about the way he stood at that window that I found odd. Ignoring tragedy is one way to deal with it, I suppose. But was this really the right time to winterize the windows? Nails were stuck between his teeth, his face grimacing as he struggled to get his shoulder underneath the window frame to hold it up while he fixed the splintered wood. These older homes never run short on projects.
In the kitchen, the table was covered with a bright, cheery, stripped fabric, with a dainty trim of tiny candy green apples. While he was busy sweating, she was making new curtains for the girls’ room. The fabric was carefully spread out, the seams perfectly aligned, the sewing machine set up to make the final stitch before she’d clear the table for dinner — the soup that was bubbling on the back burner.
In the living room, on the sofa, sat the apple of their combined eyes. The apple was sitting up, his color was surprisingly good, his eyes clear and he was beaming. Strange how a sickness can disguise itself so well under the simple flush of a cheek, tricking us into believing everything will be alright. Lately, it seems, all of their combined efforts to give help has bitten them back. They’ve worked hard; and there efforts seem to be fruitless. The cure, if and when it comes, will need to come from someplace farther and deeper than the souls they carry within them.
She looks tired, and washed out. Yet, I see peace in her tiredness; but it is not a peace that has come without war. There is a crispness and clarity in her eyes borne out of long days and nights of prayer without ceasing; and probably some good clean living mixed in for good measure. I see a resignation in her eyes that I have never seen before.
Outside, as I turned to leave and say goodbye, I could still see him in his ragged t-shirt at the upstairs window, working away. This was his day-off from the office, and he had reserved this day to knock out projects like this one around the house. He can’t hear my words with the window closed, as he seals the gaps in preparation for winter’s winds.
I remember now a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. I see the fierceness in Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), when he wore that white buttoned-down shirt in the final scene, with nails stuck between his teeth and a hammer in one hand. He was searching the bungalow for every crack and gap. Then, he slammed the hammer down, and sealed each one shut.
When I arrived here today, I may have thought the man in the grungy t-shirt was simply doing his inappropriately-timed winterizing chores; but now I know he was sealing out something much stronger than winter’s winds; he’s busy sealing out tragedy. And no, he doesn’t have a moment to spare.
Sunday Scribbling: A Winter’s Tale