Juxtaposition

Where to start?

It’s been a very busy week here and looking back at the whole week just makes me even more tired and my back aches a little more.  It’s been a good week, great week, or as my grandson has been saying all week, “It’s awesome, really awesome.”  Everything is awesome to him.

Oh to be nine again and view the world through young eyes.  To see the world anew.  How can one achieve that? How does one move beyond the cynicism that age and disappointment can bring?

Perhaps it’s best not to wax too poetic tonight.

I suppose the juxtaposition of life is feeling a bit weird right now.  Tonight our three grandsons have been here for a full week and we’ve had a blast so far.  Monday night we packed up the cars and Tuesday morning we headed up to Tuolumne Meadows in the Yosemite high country for a few days of camping. We were outnumbered, 3 kids (11 and 9 year-olds twins) to four adults – a mom, an uncle and two grand parents.

Tuolumne Meadows holds a special place in my heart.  My mother took me there as a child.  It was special to her – a spiritual place, a place that held her soul.  It is one of the few places where I can breath in and feel my soul renewed and energized.  It is a gift she left me.

We took the kids on a couple of hikes.  One out to Soda Springs and another up to Dog Lake.  I’ve written before about my mother taking me on my first backpacking trip starting at Tuolumne.  On the way back from that trip I sat on the bridge near Soda Springs waiting for her to come around the corner.  Every time I see that spring and that bridge I can’t help but think of her.

So there I was with a new generation, marching around all the familiar places, showing them the things that have held a special place in my heart.  Yet, I felt a bit frustrated not being able fully express what the place means.  I can only hope that these kids understand some of what I feel – that if they ever return, they might think kindly of me.

Sigh…  Best not to go there.

So much joy in the house – a Lego village is springing up in the living room.  The Harry Potter train is out and the track is laid in a great circle.  Gran was asked to make an RV and there are a number of buildings – houses for family and I’ve been officially asked to make a building for the city.

Then there is a thirst, a hunger in these children I find refreshing.  To learn, to be helpful, to grow.  We taught some camping skills.  Making smores being among my favorites.  Okay, not likely to save their lives but still the fine art of roasting marshmallows shouldn’t be lost, so I feel it important that they learn it.

One of the kids really wants to do some woodworking.  He’s been asking all week.  It’s a challenge for me.  I am not a great teacher for beginners and with him being nine it hard to think what tools would be safe for him to handle.  Then I figured, what the heck, I’ll teach him to scroll saw and I found a project for kids in a magazine.  Today we went out and bought some wood for it.  Then I took him to the saw, showed him how it works and held his hands as we pushed the wood through the blade.  I was happy that he had a bit of fear of the machine and was willing to let me do the hard parts (i.e. anything but the straight cuts).  Even if I end up doing most of the work, I know that he’ll have received one of the few true gifts I have – my love of making things.

I don’t have much time to write tonight so I won’t be getting too deep – they’ve started the movie in the other room and I’ve already heard one call for “Andrew.”  Guess I was expected to watch.

Juxtaposition – I love that word.  Can’t really explain it, but I felt it tonight.  We went out for pizza tonight.  Sunday night is pizza night in our house.  Normally, we have a healthy rice curst spinach pizza with light cheese, but we were talked into going out to the pizza parlor.  The kids had a blast – we gave each a stack of quarters for the machines and their pick of drink from the soda fountain.

I guess I’ve never lost my security guard eye, because after a while I noticed a man outside acting odd.  He was pulling a suitcase and had the sunburned, weathered look of a man living on the streets.  The county hospital is just up the road from the restaurant and from time to time the mentally ill and indigent get discharged with nowhere to go and wander our streets until they can beg enough money to get a bus to other places.  He was eying the place and ducked in when the staff wasn’t looking and started stealing food from the salad bar – quietly, unobtrusively but with the movements of a man not in full control of his mind.

What to do?  He wasn’t hurting anyone and if the staff wasn’t paying attention, what business was it of mine?

The kids where happily running between us and the game machines and the man was eating cottage cheese off a menu while looking over his shoulder.

That’s when I did something.  Out of my wallet I took a gift card for a hamburger place down the street and quietly walked over and sat down by the man.  He glanced at me as I held out the card and said to him, “Here’s a meal for you.”

He took the card saying, “I am trying to eat.”

“I know, but here’s another meal for you.”

“Yeah, when, now?” he asked.

“Anytime you want,” I replied.

The man worried me as he looked over my shoulder at the kids and returned to his cottage cheese and said, “Anytime I want?”

“Anytime,” I said.

He got the message I was sending and left the restaurant shortly after I left him.

Mixed feelings.  I gave a man a meal, but at the same time I was reacting to a perceived – possibly false – threat to those that the old guard in me felt the need to protect and I chased a needy man away from me.

Returning to the table, I encountered the joy of children showing the prizes they had won and excited over the announcement that Gran was going to take them to a movie this week.

Definition of the word juxtaposition – a lonely homeless mentally ill man steeling food in the mist of joyful, hopeful children eating their fill of pizza and soda surrounded by love.

Till next week,
Andrew

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I work in the high tech world doing software release engineering Then I got prostate cancer Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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3 Responses to Juxtaposition

  1. gpcox says:

    You are an excellent role model for those children; you should be very proud.

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  2. Marv says:

    Hidden in your story this week is the life lessons your grandsons are learning. They won’t realize it until they become adults. Witness my children helping me with tasks I can no longer do.
    Marv

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  3. deb reilly says:

    I don’t think you chased a needy man away from you. I think you gave a needy man an opportunity to enjoy a dignified meal. That was inspired more by kindness than fear, wasn’t it? I hope you all have a terrific week!

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