An open letter to the Cloisters’ subdivision vandals
Last night (Friday) in a grand display of bravery, someone came by our house and shot a BB gun or a pellet gun at my father’s truck, parked on the street in front of our house. He parks it there because at 84, he doesn’t back up as well as he used to. And he wants the truck to be headed out because he leaves early each morning.
You see, he gets up before dawn, dresses quietly and leaves by 6:30 a.m. to head to Florence Hand Nursing Home. He wants to get there before she wakes up. Maybe then, she won’t realize that he hasn’t been there all night.
They don’t like to be apart, he and his wife of almost 66 years. Only duty serving his country in two wars, or severe illness requiring hospitalization has ever kept them apart. Until now.
Now his beloved, beautiful bride, who stunned everyone with her smile and wit and talent, who won his heart with her laughter and the way she tossed back her shining black hair; now she has Alzheimer’s. And for the rest of their days, as many or as few as they may have left, they will sleep apart.
But each morning, he gets his keys and goes down to that truck — his way to get to her — the truck that you thought, in your inestimable smallness, was humorous or brave to shoot up, and he goes to be at her side before she wakes — there to spend another day with her until she’s tucked safely in her bed again that evening. And then he gets back in that truck and drives home.
To eat, to sleep. To be again without her. And he does that each day as dutifully as he served this nation and all of us in combat a world away, a lifetime ago.
This morning, once again, his shoulders bent with age, but his spirit unbroken in devotion, he walked slowly to his truck. He got in it, and when he closed his door, the back windshield shattered, sending glass hurling through the cab and into the bed of the truck. He was shattered as well.
What had happened? Why? He walked back up the driveway in disbelief. Even as we called the police and the full realization of what had just happened became clear to him, his thoughts turned to her — his wife — my sweet mother.
“I hope she doesn’t get scared that I’m not there … who will feed her breakfast?”
As I sit here writing this letter to you — you who probably will never read it, or hear of it, because my guess is that reading is not something you do regularly — my initial anger and disgust with you has turned into immense sorrow, and writing is becoming difficult through the tears dropping on the page.
I’m crying, I guess, for all of us — for my sweet daddy and mother, for our world that has become so calloused, so decadent that it could produce the likes of you, someone who equates mischief and mean-spiritedness with the idea of “fun.” But I’m crying for you as well.
Because what you don’t realize today as you no doubt glory in your “bravery and conquest” in vandalizing an empty truck, that unless you change the direction of your life, you will most likely never experience the beauty and real joy of such a selfless love that these two gentle souls experience every time they see each other again. Theirs is a life well-lived. Yours is surely only the echo of a profound loneliness to come. Empty. Utterly meaningless.
And though age has taken its toll on my father, and he is no longer the dashing soldier, the handsome hero that caught my mother’s eye 66 years ago, he is more a man in my eyes than ever. His devotion is unwavering, his courage unbroken, his faith in God undaunted.
He is everything you should aspire to be and everything you aren’t. The contrast between the two of you is quite remarkable really, and the gulf between his true valor and your impotent bravado is not likely to be bridged in your lifetime.
But I will pray for you, that a merciful God will grant you real courage, real wisdom and a penitent heart. Then, and only then, maybe you will consider what you lost today.
Oh yes, it will cost him lots of money that he didn’t need to have to spend to repair that truck that he needs to get to mama, and yes, it will be a hardship to have to rely on others to get him to the nursing home each day until it’s repaired, but don’t be confused. Because you are the real loser in all this.
You lost your dignity, you lost your character and you lost the battle — the battle between goodness and ugliness. You lost. Not my father.