And now, here is Kim’s winning story about seeing through the eyes of childlike faith.
by Kim Severson
“How much longer?”
“Not long, Billy-boy.”
Billy’s innocent brown eyes met Grandpa’s. “Will it be fun, Grandpa?”
“Oh, yes, Billy,” Grandpa answered with a gentle smile. “It will be well worth the wait.”
A thoughtful silence passed between the old man and his grandson. Billy took a deep breath. “Have you ever been there before, Grandpa?”
“No — can’t say that I have. But I’ve heard about it, Billy. It’s a great place.”
“Tell me one more time,” whispered Billy to his grandfather. “Tell me about it one more time.”
Grandpa sighed a little and rubbed twice at the corner of his right eye. “Well, Billy — ”
“How are my two handsome young men?”
“Top o’ th’ mornin’, my Dear,” answered Grandpa.
Grandma! Billy smiled. “Did you remember to bring it, Grandma?”
“I sure did, Billy-boy!” Grandma and Grandpa exchanged a knowing glance. “How could I forget a request from my favorite grandson!”
“You mean, your only grandson.”
“You got that right, ‘Pardner’,” smiled Grandpa, reaching out a hand to ruffle Billy’s curly brown mop.
Billy looked into Grandpa’s eyes — he loved Grandpa’s eyes. They were warm and kind and dark like chocolate. Billy even loved the little bird feet at the corners of Grandpa’s eyes, and the way that his eyes sparkled with mischief — or darted back and forth with a really great idea.
Billy smiled. He always knew when Grandpa planned to surprise him. It was as if Grandpa’s brain had told his voice a special secret. But the eyes — Grandpa’s eyes — always gave him away. Every single time.
Grandpa’s eyes looked different today, and Billy wasn’t quite sure why. Grandpa’s eyes didn’t sparkle like they usually did. They didn’t seem quite as bright. Not quite as clear. Grandpa’s brow was wrinkled, too — but not in the usual way. Billy was pretty smart, and he could tell the difference between happy wrinkles and other wrinkles. And Grandpa’s brow definitely had other wrinkles today.
Grandma bent down and planted a satiny kiss on Grandpa’s shiny head. Grandma’s eyes looked different, too. Usually, Grandma’s eyes danced like two ballerinas dressed in cornflower blue. But not today. Today, dark circles ringed Grandma’s eyes, as if she had stayed up way past her bedtime. And Billy wondered to himself if Grandma was catching the summer sniffles. Her nose looked just a little bit red.
As Grandma and Grandpa talked their “Grandma-and-Grandpa” talk, Billy sighed. Today was supposed to be a special day. A happy day. Billy had heard about days like this all of his life — from Grandpa, from Grandma, from Mom and Dad. And he had always imagined silly smiles and laughter on days like today. But it wasn’t turning out that way — not at all.
Billy sighed again. Through the door and down the hallway, he detected the sound of a muffled scuffle. He couldn’t make out the words, but he had heard that sound a millions times before today. Billy didn’t roll his eyes very often — he got in big trouble for things like that. But today, with Grandma and Grandpa momentarily distracted, Billy let one loose: a great big huge eye roll. A second later, Mom appeared, looming in the doorway (Billy marveled that such a short person could appear so big). She turned slightly, raised her eyebrows, snapped her fingers, and pointed to an invisible spot next to her. Sullenly, a pair of disheveled twins materialized at her side — obviously very, very wet, and presumably very, very sticky. Billy remembered that Uncle Bob had taught the girls how to shake pop cans last month.
On other days, Billy would have laughed and laughed. Billy almost never got in trouble. The twins almost never got out of trouble. Back in December, Mom or Dad would have doled out discipline masking a chuckle. That happened less and less over the last few months. And Billy was now sure that it certainly wouldn’t happen today.
On other days, Mom would not have noticed the lady in blue as she made her visit. She wouldn’t even have looked up, dealing with two soaked girls. The lady would have greeted Billy and Grandpa cheerfully and gone about her business. But not today. Today, Mom watched every move as the lady charted and checked, charted and checked.
Billy sighed. “Grandpa,” he whispered, “I thought that today would be a happy day. How come we aren’t happy?”
Grandpa gazed into Billy’s eyes with an intensity that Billy didn’t expect. “Billy,” Grandpa started…
Suddenly, a rasping cough shattered the air. Grandpa squeezed Billy’s hand. Billy shifted uncomfortably.
Within seconds, a middle-aged man in a white coat flew into the room, flanked by a battalion of crisp nurses.
“I’m right here, Son.”
Billy felt his heart begin to race. Was this the trip that everyone had talked about? Ever since the doctor’s report?
There’s Grandma, pulling out Grandpa’s Bible -
“There’s not enough time, Dear — ”
Was that Mom, choking back a whimper? –
Dad, what should I do? –
“He’s right here, Billy. Right here, in the room.”
“Do you see him, Grandpa?”
“I always see Him, Billy — with the eyes of faith.” Grandpa shifted forward.
“Oh, Grandpa! I see Him, too! He’s standing right by your chair, Grandpa, and He’s smiling.”
Billy’s eyes began to mist and glaze.
“And look, Grandpa — He brought angels with Him! Great big, beautiful angels! See the angels, Grandpa?”
Billy coughed again.
“No, Billy, I can’t see the angels. But tell me about them…”
“Oh, they’re so big, Grandpa!” Billy whispered weakly. “They’re so beautiful! Look at all the light, Grandpa! Do you see the light?…”
Grandpa’s voice cracked, and a tear fell from his chocolate brown eyes. “Not yet, Billy-boy. Not yet. But next time we’re together…I’ll see it then.”
Monday, August 20th, 2012