“Don’t bother me. I’m contemplating God, science,
and the universe right now…”
And the thing is, I love him. I’m not suppose to love him apparently, but I do. I’m not suppose to love him because after all, he didn’t work three jobs at a time and join the Army to feed and clothe me. He didn’t hoist me on his shoulders at the fair when I was tired, or sit with me through two eye surgeries. He didn’t drive 90 minutes to retrieve my lost doll at the car lot, or come to my dance recitals, or give me his last five dollars, or move me into my apartment my first year of college.
I’m not suppose to love him because except for a premonition, he didn’t even know I existed, through no fault of his own. Which means my birthmother brought me into the world pretty much solo and I thank her for that.
Even his older brother Jim, the first family member I spoke to before I met Dennis, braced me for disappointment. “He’s just an old Vietnam Vet who lives in the woods and prays a lot,” he told me. “Don’t get your hopes up, kid. He’s a guy that went away to war and didn’t come back the same.”
Too bad Uncle Jim didn’t know me as well as he thought he did. Likewise, too bad he didn’t have eyes to see the beauty of his brother’s mind and heart, brimming with the rare kind of forgiveness and love that expects nothing in return.
I waited two weeks after receiving a message from Dennis on my answering machine before I called him back. My nerves jangled and the brick wall of fear of the unknown loomed. I pulled out one of Hugh’s yellow legal pads and collected five pens in case I ran out of ink and dialed.
“Hello,” he answered, his voice bright and curious.
“Hello, this is Melanee,” I said, pressing this moment between my throat and my heart.
“Well hello there, Melanee!” he replied.”I am delighted you chose to call!”
His use of the word “delighted” encouraged me, as did the crescendo of joy that bounced off the end of his words.
“Is this a good time?” I asked.
“It is a perfect time,” he replied.
He did most of the talking at first, and I asked an occasional question. He told me about his childhood being one of eight children, just like me. He told me his role in the family was that of peacemaker, counselor, caretaker, and spiritual advisor, just like me. He spoke of his philosophies of life, of love, compassion, forgiveness, God and light. He spoke of the blessing and burden of his intuitive gifts. Of being able to discern people and their emotions and motives, and always seeking the good. Of his endless curiosity, and desire for inner beauty and excellence. Of his tendency to depression, his unyielding faith in Jesus Christ and his overwhelming compassion for the human race.
He sincerely apologized to me for any pain he had caused me by his mistake in judgement, explained all of the circumstances, and asked for my forgiveness.
I did not expect this. Any of it. I had hoped for simple kindness of course, and I hoped he wasn’t a loser creep. But this luminous kindred soul on the other end of the line mirroring my deepest beliefs and most sacred struggles and triumphs-never.
We spoke for over two hours straight, me rocking back and forth in my rocking chair on the front patio, scribbling notes in circles on my yellow legal pad, he answering every question I cared to ask with such honesty it startled me.
I could barely breathe when we hung up so intense were my emotions. And despite the positivity of our conversation, my foundation was so seismically shaken, it took weeks before I could call again.
It’s funny too because when I’d tell people I spoke to him, they’d say, “So what does he do?”
I’d laugh and say, “I have no idea. We didn’t get to that part yet.” We were too busy talking about God, science, the nature of light, love, sacrifice, and the universe. Too busy talking about what we want to become to pay much attention to what anyone does for a living.
It’s been almost four years since we met, and our conversations, rarely lasting under three hours, are always rich and ennobling. He’s visited me here at home, and I’ve visited him too.
And like it or not, I love him. The bright spot of joy in this journey that astonishes me still. The praying Vietnam Vet who lives in the woods and could light a dozen cities with his soul. How could I not?