It’s true what they say about healing and time. I made it through the day. Tanner came home from school. Then I made it through the next day, and the one after that, and the one after that, and pretty soon, when Tanner headed into school, I headed into the clinic. We rode the ferry together each morning.
Slowly, a steady routine, my cheerful, quirky son, and the persistent beauty of the sunlight on the bay every morning, every evening, bore through the grief.
My heart still aches. That pit called loss still opens up before me now and again, usually when I least expect it. But I’m no longer stone inside, and I can smile.
Tanner brought home a school project. It’s for extra credit. He’s such a smart kid, but he’s having a tough time at school. He can’t get his grade up over a C.
I don’t understand it. His teacher referred him to the counselor, who referred him to a psychologist, who gave him an IQ test. “His scores are off the charts,” the psychologist reported back. They enrolled him in the gifted program. He still kept bringing home Cs.
I’m not worried. I know life is more than a letter grade, and not all forms of intelligence fit into a classroom with desks arranged in little rows. I’ve been thinking of transferring him to the Open School in Windenburg, but he says he wants to stay in his school with his friends.
“Teacher says if I do good on this project I’ll get a good grade,” he said. “Will you help?”
Of course! Working on a project with my boy? What could be better!
We set it up in the meadow at the side of the house.
“It’s supposed to be a castle,” Tanner said.
“So,” I replied. “We are making a castle out of air!”
“No,” he said. “We’ve got stuff.”
I looked at the little jars of paint, the dowels, the stacks of styromfoam, the glue gun, and an adorable little vice. “All of this was in that box?”
“No wonder it was so heavy!”
“You know? I think I’ve got a circuit board. What if we made an electric draw-bridge that went up and down when you pushed a button?”
“Could we?” he asked. “That’d be so great!”
I brought out the stuff we needed.
“So, it should be the kind of thing that I can push the button even if I’m across the room. Can we do that?” he asked.
I thought we could.
“You’re the best dad!” he said.
I don’t know if it was the concentrating on getting the circuitry to work or seeing how happy and excited Tanner was, or just doing a project together in the sunny meadow. but I suddenly realized that I was happy. Genuinely, positively happy.
We had a blast. The first circuit board I rigged up exploded! We had clouds of instant paper mache dust.
“This is great!” Tanner said. “Can we do it again?”
I said that big explosions weren’t really historically accurate, and then Tanner started talking about big giant dragon farts, and, even though it was so stupid, I couldn’t stop laughing.
Eventually, as the sun was getting lower, we got down to the business of constructing the thing.
“OK,” Tanner said. “We gotta do good. Like really pay attention to every detail. No extra glue drips, OK? Like Super-Tastic-Builders!”
So that’s what we were, The Super-Tastic Construction Crew.
I’ve got to admit: the castle looked great when we finished, and the drawbridge really worked–no explosions!
Tanner said we should celebrate with a song. So we made one up on the spot, complete with a dance.
I’ll check the wind, and
you check the rain, and
And when we’re done,
We’ll do it over again!
“And watch out for dragon farts!” Tanner said.
Oh, man. It feels great to laugh again, in a wide meadow, with the sun setting, and the mockingbird singing, and my boy joking.
Author’s note: Oh, look! Wonder is back! For new readers who’ve come to this blog in the past year, this story follows Charlie Rocca Cups, a wonder child, now grown up. He’s recently adopted a son, Tanner. He’s also recently moved through a tough season of grief, as good friends, his aunt, his mom, and his father have passed on in a short span of time. And for readers who’ve been around longer, I hope you remember Charlie! It feels great for me–and for Charlie–to be rediscovering how bright life can be when grief’s shadows begin to recede.