Friday, January 13, 2012

Broken Beauty

A few weeks back, Cory and I went on a double-date with Sarah and Rick. This was our first true double, and that's just a crying shame.

You already know that Sarah and I go way back (here and here, for starters.) But it's really more than that.

When I was sixteen, I was rolled out of my high-school on an ambulance stretcher, very sure I was having a heart attack. I wasn't. But when I finally made it home that day, so tired of being the sick kid with the weird problems, feeling all embarrassed and still a little scared, hers was the number I dialed. She was what I needed. I wanted her to pray for me that day, because I believed all the way down that her prayers were always answered.

She has been my antidote to many of life's thrashings. She listened through the sludge of dumb mistakes until she heard my broken heart and then she kept on loving it.

She remembers my celebrity crushes better than I do. She knows the books I'll love most. She understands when I cancel our Christmas dinner on account of cramps and a bad attitude.

Two decades ago, she rumbled into my life in the passenger seat of a beat-up burgundy van packed full of who-knows-what. (I never bothered to investigate.)

Her dad was the driver. He looked like a renegade and spoke in a whisper.

He dropped her off at church and sometimes I rode back home with them, the three of us squeezed in together, along with everything else.

We'd thunder down the lane, hop out near the barn and walk in to a home where I always felt right.
It was warm inside, smelling like bacon and the kerosene heater. We spent hours upstairs talking about boys and reading magazine tips on eyeshadow and zit remedies.

The years rolled on and I kept my grip on Sarah, who kept her grip on me. Things changed all around us and they just kept changing. They never stopped. Choices were made and hearts were shattered and stitched back. Love bloomed wild. Jobs were landed. We held the slick keys of our first real freedom.

Then one night a phone call reeled me from a dream and it was her, just two buildings down. She said her dad had been in an accident. He was gone.

Our voices were small that night, in the car. Her heart was broken and the part of mine that was her broke with it. We drove back home to Ohio, on streets lined with sleeping houses. In the quiet, in the dark, we tried to force ourselves to feel what had happened. For me it was hard. It was too pitch black to make sense. It was too much change, too much sad, and I didn't know what to do, so I did what we had both always done; I stayed the same for her.

I think about her dad more often than she knows. I think about his ponytail and his wind-burned cheeks. I wish I hadn't been sixteen back then, because sixteen doesn't make room for the dad who drives the beat up van. It doesn't make room for the mom cooking dinner at the table.

I want to tell my Sixteen to notice that he's an artist and his art is right there, right in the barn that I walked past without another notion.

I want to tell Sixteen that someday, she'll care about his art. She'll see for herself the piercing beauty in junk redemption.

I think of him bending low, hoisting up, hauling out the things that everyone else had long given up on. I picture him smiling on the inside over what they were all too blind to see.

He made a home for broken things. He loved them into something exquisite and new.

Maybe he knew his own brokenness well enough to recognize it in a shard of pottery or a splinter of wood. Maybe I know mine well enough to recognize it in him.

*all photos courtesy of cmb