And you blink and your daughter steals your hat to go to work and serves you a beer when you swear, just a minute ago, she was a blond tousle headed four year old in a long orange shirt down to her shins stealing out of her room after bedtime, holding a ratty, blue stuffed bunny and saying, “You can have my bunny if you want,” because she knew you were having a hard night and wanted to help, somehow. And the young sprite who takes your money declines to look at your ID even though you know IT’S STORE POLICY TO CARD EVERYONE but, “Yea, I don’t need an ID when there’s grey hair.” Right. So you finish your pizza with two energetic opinionated yammering blond cutenesses who convince you to buy them frozen yogurt, which you must do of course because it is a glorious Saturday evening in Sammamish and at that moment nothing is more important than pausing in the push to accomplish and complete, a push that middle age seems to weave into your every moment except, blessedly, this moment.
So you walk to frozen yogurt and return a wayward grocery cart to its rightful place and ask them to do the same, and they are young enough still that this is a fun thing, a thing to do with daddy and you know pretty soon they will be too big, too busy differentiating, to call you daddy, but now they do it gladly, which is a gift. A gift, because two states away someone very dear to you is dying of cancer and you think you know the right words to say, but you don’t know what to do. There is nothing to do, really, to make this thing different than it is, better than it is, and that’s your job. You are a dad and husband and employee. You do. You fix. You get stuff done. But you can’t fix cancer. And so you use the right words and they are good words: “hope” and “thank you” and “wipe away every tear” and “you are loved.” You say this prayer sometimes:
Keep watch, dear Lord with those who work, or watch or weep this night and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted . . .
You hope that these are true words and you act as if they are. And you think maybe that’s faith. But you don’t know. It sure seems mustard-seedy, which perhaps is the point. And while you’re praying and remembering the most solid words you can muster up, there are little needs to be met, so you head home and give showers and read Lord of the Rings to little bodies wrapped in blankets that roll around on the floor and listen to the tale and become enchanted until, thankfully, there is the last glass of milk. Then you tuck in and clean the final pan and button up the house, shutting off lights except the the one by your bed, where you read, sinking into the still and quiet and calm, and wait for Idaho gal to come home so you can curl up and watch Friday Night Lights and prepare for another day, remembering the prayer now, if only faintly, “Keep watch, dear Lord.”