“Hello win column — the Texas Rangers have won the World Series!”
“And the winner for Best Actor or Actress in a Leading Role is… Megan Fox.”
“When asked about the situation, Jerry Jones only reply was, ‘No comment.'”
Unexpected sounds. Words you’re not expecting. Phrases that are out of sync with the present circumstances.
Twenty-three years ago this month, I was working as a consultant at a client site when the phone rang. The voice on the other end said someone named Sharon was on hold for me. This was odd for a couple of reasons — one, she had no idea where I was working, and two, she’d told me several months before she didn’t want to see me, “for a while.” Her voice that afternoon was completely out of the blue, as was her invitation to dinner with some friends. As was the “I do” that came four months later.
A few years later, Sharon and I we were watching a movie with the same friends. The movie was Yours, Mine, and Ours, an oldie but goody in which Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda play single parents with six kids apiece who get married and form a football team, er, I mean, form a family. One of the story lines in the movie involves one of Ball’s sons, who, after the wedding, wanted to go by Fonda’s last name. The school bureaucracy wouldn’t allow it because “it’s not his name,” and so the two parents decide to adopt each other’s kids so that it would be his name. After the movie was over, Sharon’s daughter said, “I want to be a Rice!” A short time later, she was.
Seven years ago (give or take), I clicked the “Play” button on the answering machine one evening to hear, “Well, I’m taking your mother to the hospital. It looks like she’s had a heart attack.” No panic, no emotional outburst, just the matter of fact words of my dad, who could have been calling to say he was going to the store, based on the tone of his voice. That calmness transferred to me as I went to the hospital. A stent and a stint in the hospital later, Mother was fine.
Today delivered another unexpected sound. Our family gathers together once a month to celebrate the month’s birthdays, and today was the day for July. We have exactly one person with a birthday in July, and that one happens to be my dad, so we all went to his and Mom’s house for pizza and cake. (And graham crackers with icing in the middle, but I digress.)
I had parked behind his truck, so I took Dad to pick up the pizza. When we get back and herded everyone into the kitchen to eat (no small feat with eight adults and two boys and one toddler), we gathered around in a circle to say grace. Usually whoever’s house we’re in has the honors. Except when we’re at Mom and Dad’s, when Dad asks me to do it. Every time. For as long as I’ve been an adult.
Today, he hesitated, and I thought he was going to ask my brother-in-law, or my son-in-law. But instead, I heard an unexpected sound. A sound I haven’t heard in recent, or even non-recent, memory. It was the sound of my dad saying grace. It was the sound of my dad praying.
That definitely qualified as an unexpected sound. A prayed-for sound, but an unexpected sound, nonetheless. I know, we’re supposed to pray expectantly. After a while, though, do we really expect it? I mean, really, deep down to the bottom of our toes expect it? And if we do, do we expect it now, or in some distant future we can’t quite imagine.
I also realize it was “only” grace over a meal. But, as Bill Murray would say, baby steps, baby steps.
And perhaps the next time it won’t be so… unexpected.