I have written about authors and poets that I love and really enjoy reading their work. Not only do I feel that I learn something when I read, I often feel that a great piece or a great story changes me. Usually for the better. Often moves me to tears, sometimes with sadness, but usually they are tears of joy.
I read a couple books a few weeks back, that wrecked me. Made me cry. Couldn’t move on. Hurt my heart. It took me a few days to pick myself up and take the first step forward. My bleeding heart left me crying one day as I exited a grocery store. I even gulped for breath one afternoon sitting on the deck trying to catch up on emails. Well written books aren’t just interesting, they capture you, mind and soul. They make you feel more than you often wish to feel. They make you reminisce about days gone by. They make you want to make changes when it comes to how you approach the life that is yet to come. But most of all, they affect you so deeply, that sometimes picking up a new book isn’t possible for a spell.
The phrase, I melt in front of you was impressed on my mind after reading another book by Rudy Francisco. I melt. Melt. To make or become more tender or loving. Soften. Disarm. Touch. Affect. Move. This word applies to so many situations in life. The sound of a song that brings back memories. The questions of an innocent child. Love declared when it isn’t expected. Seeing God’s perfect creation anew each morning. The understanding of something that has been prayed about is now happening or changing. I melt much more often than I care to admit. But melt, I do.
One of my earliest memories as a child was when I was 3 or 4. We had a beautiful large dog named Joey. My dad loved this dog. Joey was adventurous and loved that he was given free roam as we lived in the country in Forest Lake, MN. He was a big dog, but so very gentle with my sister and I. In the country, we often struggled with invasions of raccoons investigating our garbage cans, deer eating everything in our garden, and hungry fox and coyotes roaming in search of their next meal. I remember when the howling from the coyotes would be so loud and surrounding us even during daylight hours. Those were the days that our parents would pull my sister Angie and I indoors or keep us close if we were out in the yard. Joey met up with a pack of coyotes, probably believing they were his friends as they looked so much like him. They were not his friends. They tore our amazing dog apart. My dad went searching for him that evening when he didn’t come when he was called. My dad found Joey in the woods directly behind out house, cowering under a fallen tree. He calmed him and carried him back home and directly into the back of his work truck. Dad hollered for my mom to quickly bring him an old blanket so that he could bring Joey to the vet. My father barely spoke a word.
I sister and I cried and worried about our sweet Joey. Covered in blood with so many open wounds, we prayed that the vet would be able to help him. My mom felt horrible. We waited. And waited. Our dad returned late that evening after my mom had tried so many times to put us to bed. The next morning when I woke, I raced to find my dad. My mom said he was in the basement with Joey. Joey. He was alive. I reached for the door handle and and my mom quickly grabbed my arm. She told Angie and I that we couldn’t go downstairs. That Joey was very sick, and might not make it. She said our dad was going to try to save him by keeping him medicated and continuing to clean his now stitched together wounds. The vet stitched him together. My child mind wasn’t able to understand that stitches alone wouldn’t fix Joey.
The next week was heartbreaking. We were allowed once to go down and see and Joey with both our mom and dad by our side. We were told that Joey wasn’t going to be okay and that we should go downstairs and love on Joey a bit. We did as we were told. He looked so sad laying there on the makeshift bed my dad had made for him on the cement floor of our basement. My dad had torn sheets and blankets up to make bandages to tie around his torso and around his mangled paws. The smell was horrible as infection had set in, but I wasn’t about the mention it to my mom or dad. My dad was kneeling down next to Joey, and turned and looked at my mom. My dad had tears in eyes. “Joey, you are good dog. We love you. I am sorry, I couldn’t protect you from the coyotes. You have been the best dog ever. Thank you for being my friend and for being the dog I always wanted.” Tears freely ran down his cheeks. My dad swiped them away, and Angie and continued to cry and hold Joey’s one paw.
Those difficult days are not only one of the first clear memories that I have, but that morning was definitively the first time I melted. As I saw my dad cry, as he told our beloved dog how much we loved him and as he thanked our dog for his companionship. My love for my family grew. I knew then at there, even at the tender age of 3 or 4, that this was important. That this dog made a difference to our family. That memories of this amazing furry friend would never be forgotten.
When I was around 9, I remember our neighbors fighting. Not just fighting, they were screaming at each other. My mom said that sometimes men and women fight, that they just feel things deeply and that sometimes their voices get really loud. I commented that our neighbors voices must be the loudest of them all. My sister and I liked to check out their pigeon coops and occasionally pet their dog. We were both playing in the yard and my sister had commented that she hadn’t seen the neighbor lady in awhile. I also realized that I hadn’t either. I saw Doug a few minutes later exit his back door and head to the pigeon coops to feed them dinner. I hollered a greeting of hello to him. He waived, his expression blank, and silently enter the coop. Angie and I followed, not really picking up on the fact that maybe he didn’t want to talk that evening.
Angie and I knocked on the coop door as we had been taught how to do, (never to enter if pigeons were loose or able to fly out the open door) and Doug told us we could then enter. A casual exchange of pleasantries followed and then silence. Angie and I didn’t have anything else to say and neither did Doug. After an uncomfortable amount of time passed, Doug raised his head from where he was refilling feed, “You guys, um, I need to tell you something. My wife left the other day. She won’t be coming back. I guess you should tell your mom and dad too.” I didn’t know how to respond. I think my sister muttered an “I’m sorry”. Doug turned away from us. “I will miss her. I will miss her a lot.”
Even being so young, I understood that in my heart he really did mean it. They may have fought constantly, but Doug would miss his wife. I realized he was sad about her absence. Before that, I had only ever seen death separate a couple. I had never witnessed the choice to leave a relationship. My heart melted right there and then right inside the door of the pigeon coop. Husbands and wives didn’t always stay together. Sometimes they chose to leave. Sometimes they needed to leave. Angie and I returned home to share the news that we didn’t quite even understand ourselves. I told my mom Doug looked sad and maybe she should make him some banana bread and bring it over to him. She smiled at me, pushed my hair behind my ears and said she would do just that.
My heart continues to melt more than I wish it would. When loved ones hurt deeply, when sickness invades a body, when relationships fail, when my heart wants what I can not have have, when joy and sorrow abound. But what a joy it is to feel and experience each new situation. Tears are nothing new and nothing to fear. Heartache is inevitable. Suffering hits hard and often. But to feel deeply, ah. To make or become more tender or loving. To soften. To be disarmed. To touch and be touched. To affect. To be moved. Yes. This is the perfect definition of what I know I will continue to experience.