I need a moment here for deep reflection. I had a dream last night wherein I was dropping my youngest daughter off at the college I attended, I think. It was so odd. She is not in college and is unlikely to go back after a stab at community college. In the dream I was standing next to her trying to show her where the entrance to the dining hall was, up a ramp and then across into the large building before us. I just saw large folks disappearing into the heartless factory, as if conveyed via a slow moving treadmill. I saw my beautiful daughter’s profile and her innocence. I couldn’t bear the pain I imagined she would endure there, lost and unappreciated. A massive sad clot woke me up. I was suffocating from sadness and had sit up to catch a breath. The feeling remained intense though I was now sort of conscious. It felt like a mild thunderstorm was rolling through my lungs and abdomen. Our dog, her precious buddy Johnny, was whimpering to go outside at 3:30 a.m. so I let him out. Still the sadness hung on without any antecedent. How can such a geyser of sorrow rise up, as Jackson Brown sang…”a fountain of sorrow”, without a preceding thought? Why was I drinking this absinthe?
Then I recalled that in high school she was attached to a circle of girls at the beginning of 10th grade. She was riding on the social coattails of our exchange student Kaisa and these girls accepted her as part of the package. But halfway through that school year she decided to move away from this circle of girls for some moral reason. Apparently they spoke offensively and Jess is very sensitive. The only place available to sit was an empty table, which is where she sat for the second half of a very long year. My heart broke. Her protector sister’s heart broke. Her mom’s heart broke. I could not think about it for very long without being overcome by a powerless aching. I remember the feeling of watching a pet rabbit die of heat stroke and nothing could be done for that innocent creature. This was like that. My precious sterling daughter was an outcast, a high school leper, and there was nothing I could do about it. The school did not allow visitors to lunch. No charity for the poor.
Jess sat and prayed for some resolution. She took books along to lunch. She cried at home in her loneliness. The phone never rang for her. As far as I could tell, no one reached out to her in her isolation, no staff or teacher or other students. Kaisa stood up for her like a sister, but she ate at another lunch period. And then the school musical came along. It was “Annie” and Jess wanted to try out. You see, she has an angelic voice and spirit, both of which have been well trained. But it was the old boy network of high school loyalties where your last name is weighed alongside any talent during tryouts. We’d been down this path before with my eldest daughter and theater tryouts. Typecast as a dancer, thank you very much. The leads were born long ago in different favored families. But Jess can’t dance (I’ll take credit for that genetic marker), so I figured she’d be brushed aside and maybe wind up deep in the chorus where you can’t see anyone’s feet. I knew she’d accept a thin bone tossed her way and be grateful.
She tried out for the part of Grace Farrell, one of the three largest roles in the production. Wow! I was proud of her spunk but worried about her lack of political savvy. I didn’t think she had a chance as she prepared for her audition. But I was wrong. Somehow the old alignments weren’t working that year. The director turned out to be a former student teacher of mine from years back. She was not from the old boy network and did not know the power names or owe anyone a favor. She loved my daughter’s voice and spirit, both of which began to soar in the spring of that year as the rehearsals rolled on night after night. Jess memorized all her lines and managed to make it through costume changes. I held my breath as I often do when she sings a solo, hoping and praying for her true light to shine through.
Finally it was show time. She was amazing. Thoroughly amazing. Lots of folks came to cheer her on and praise her. She was celebrated by her cast mates. I exhaled in praise of God’s protection for this wonderful canary He blessed me with. Brilliant. Not a single sparrow falls that the Father does not know. And yet he cares for even the least of those. In my powerlessness His power shone forth. Jess radiated joy. It remains the highlight of her young life.
I could not shake the melancholy spirit, heavy and soaked with salty vinegar. An underground spring of tears seemed to be running freely inside me. At breakfast I just sat next to her and felt awash in my joyous sorrow. She said, “Dad, aren’t you going to watch the news?” This only confirmed that I don’t take advantage of every opportunity God gives me to love her. “No, Honey. You are the news today. I’m just gonna watch you.” Thinking about her gently oozed the splinter out of my heart, taking most of the sorrow with it. She knows much better than I do about suffering well, and I’ll never know the suffering I avoided because she has been my precious child.