Thursday, February 25, 2010

Power of Words and footsteps

I mentioned that during Tuesday night's show with Kathy Bates an old story about the power of words came to mind. Sometimes you don't know how much someone means to you until after they have left the world. Larry just didn't leave the world, he left my world. He made me a better person by often getting made at me for being set in my ways and people don't often get mad me and I got a kick out of that.
His father wanted him to follow in his footsteps as an engineer. He sent Larry to an expensive college in Mass. and he expected Larry to return in four years an engineer. There was no discussion and no choice. Larry gave it all wanting more than anything to make his father proud of him. It is an old story with an old ending. There was no engineer hiding in Larry waiting to come out. There was a goofy, fun loving guy, but no engineer. He called his father and told him that he just couldn't do it and that he had dropped out of college. His father then spoke the words that picked up Larry and threw him down a bottomless pit. "You are no son of mine."
Larry drifted along doing odd jobs, but every year he fell further until he landed in the New Hampshire woods in an abandoned cabin. Each morning he would walk through the woods and take a right when he came to the road until he joined a group of other young people in the woods who did drugs. Winter was coming closer and there was no heat inside the cabin and summer was too far away to save him. Today was going to be his last day. He planned to walk through the woods and the take a right, as he did every day, when he came to the road and simply take too much drugs. He stood at the edge of the road crying-there should always be one person crying when you die, but Larry turned left, not right. Maybe every part of him had given up but his two feet-who knows? He never had an explanation. He was wearing the same clothes for months and it was just as long before he had a bath. He walked on the side of the frozen road still falling--still going no where. A lady with pure white hair and an even purer smile who everyone in the world would scream at her not to stop, stopped and offered him a ride. She spoke in gentle words. There are countless words in countless languages but Polly only knew the gentle ones. She took Larry to her house and treated him like her son . Larry was able to take a bath, and dress in her real son's clothes who was in Europe. He joined her in the living room, but saw that her eyes were closed and that she was lost in either meditation or prayer. He quietly took a walk around the beautiful old house and in one room on the wall was a painting of a very old man with white hair and a white beard and he was smiling at Larry. It was a face and a smile Larry had seen as a child one night in a dream and Larry stood staring at that face. He returned to Polly in the living room who was setting a table with hot tea and food. She told him about the man in his dream and His teachings. Larry became a Baha'i and I met him years later at Green Acre in Eliot where I live and where the man in the dream visited in 1912 after regaining His freedom after fifty years of being a prisoner. Larry and I would sit on the porch overlooking the Piscataqua River and he would tell me great stories about his crazy younger days, but the story I liked best was a quiet one that had no ending. His voice became soft--gentle even. "Ronnie, to this day if I am inside I will know Polly's footsteps on the porch stairs and I will rise to my feet and get ready to hug her." I wonder if Polly heard Larry's footsteps at Heaven's door and was there waiting for him. The power of words and footsteps that either take you to right or to the left.

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