Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Thursday, June 12, 2014


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©

“Scape, Bampaw! Scape!”
            It was usually when his mother had slipped into the bathroom for a shower that Joey reached his arms up to me and gave me the order. I’d pick him up, hold him close with my right arm, grab his six-wheeled IV pole with my left hand, and we would escape from the third floor pediatric oncology unit at The University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. When we were past the final doors, he’d muster as much of a smile as he could and whisper, “Red one.”
            We’d roll down the hall to the elevator and ride down to floor two, where the “red one” sat in splendor in a glass case. It was a huge red Christmas ornament with view holes in its sides. Through the holes we could view a marvelous animated winter scene—skiers gliding down a slope, skaters circling round and round on a silver pond, the twinkling lights of a village ready for Christmas, and best of all, a train that circled the whole scene. Joey’s tiny wasted body stiffened each time the train disappeared into the tunnel in the side of the mountain, relaxed each time its hopeful light appeared at the other end.
            Each time we ‘scaped, we went to the red one, like pilgrims to Lourdes or Mecca, and we watched the skiers and skaters and the little train, the brave little train that had to risk the darkness of the tunnel time after time, until our eyes and arms grew weary. Then we’d ‘scape even farther.
            Sometimes we’d just cruise the halls, picking up chicks. I mean, that boy was the ultimate chick magnet. Young ones, old ones, it made no difference. Not one of them could pass him by. I didn’t understand why he got all the attention and I got none. We were both bald, after all.
            Other times we’d go to the nursery and look at the babies. He loved babies more than babes. He took the babes for granted. They were just hindrances in the hallway. But the babies were a mystery. He would stare at them, trying to figure them out, until my arms were breaking. [1]
            On our way down the hall he would point out objects of interest—“Guys!” and “Wowers!” [flowers]. Then we’d ‘scape to the library on the ninth floor. He was too weak and tired and haggard to play with the games or stuffed animals, but he’d sit on my lap and we’d read the few books he didn’t have personal copies of in his room.
It was usually there that Nicole Alcorn or one of his other nurses would find us and give him a swig of medicine or attach a new bag to his IV pole. We were not supposed to leave his unit without signing out, telling where we would be, but I didn’t know that. We’d just ‘scape, and the ever-gracious Nicole would track us down and not say a word about our mysterious AWOL status.
Perhaps she had read the story about Jesus in his home town, when they tried to throw him into the abyss, and realized that sometimes a person just needs to ‘scape for a while. [Luke 4:30] It wasn’t that Jesus was afraid. He knew his life would be forfeit. But that bluff in Nazareth that day just wasn’t the right time or place. So he ‘scaped.
Joey ‘scaped, too, not just to go to see the red one with its brave little train. He had more living and loving to do, just as Jesus had more living and loving, teaching and healing, to do, before the place was Golgotha and the time was on that Friday we now call Good.
            Joey is now Joe, a tall handsome chick magnet instead of a short bald one, a Quiz Bowl champion, a Ping-Pong champion, a five-instrument musician, an archer, a soccer forward, with a driving permit in hand.
            Today Joe has his annual checkup. We trust and pray that he will ‘scape again.
Still, soon or late, the time for ‘scaping will be over for all of us, even Joe. Or will it? Perhaps death itself is the ultimate ‘scape. When that time comes for me, I hope Joe is there, so that he can whisper, “Scape, Bampaw. Scape.”

John Robert McFarland

1] About age four, he told his mother, “They would never give me a baby, even though I asked for one very politely.”

The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where people are Yoopers, a word in the new Merriam-Webster dictionary, and life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]

You don’t have to bookmark or favorite the CIW URL to return here. Just Google Christ In Winter and it will show up at the top of the page.

I have also started an author blog, about writing, in preparation for the publication, by Black Opal Books, of my novel, VETS, in late 2014 or early 2015. For some reason it does not appear when Googled, even though it’s a Google blog.

I tweet as yooper1721.

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