A Quarter Mile Down the Gravel Road

A Quarter Mile Down the Gravel Road

A quarter-mile down the gravel road, he saw the four there

And when he drove in the drive he felt a cold, icy stare,

From the son and daughter who made for the front door.

He then caught a view of the man named Joe on the riding mower.

 

He was here to see Joe and the family in such great need.

He climbed out of the car; Joe’s wife moved to intercede.

The mower had stopped, all things still and cold and distant,

She stopped him like a yellow police barrier insistent

 

That he watch out for her beloved who cut paths on the mower

Else she and her man and woman child would show him the door.

He meant no harm, but they were understandably protective

Of the man who was husband and dad and unprotected

 

Now with a disabling disease, something that made ill at ease

Everyone in the family and his guess everyone who tried to please

Those who were going through anticipatory grief and disbelief

Like the wife and son and daughter who stand in bass relief

 

On the grounds of the house that has the imprint of the man

All over it, house and yard and poll barn and vegetable garden.

The man named Joe, still big and strong and looking powerful

Had stopped the mower and everything became peaceful.

 

He had pulled, laboriously, one hand from the steering wheel

The key being turned with fingers that still had some feel,

Offering up that big, banana fingered hand with insistence

The other forearm, lifting and holding with patient persistence.

 

It was as if he was struggling to be as gracious as possible

Under the circumstances when the host should be hospitable,

But that was the way it was the visitor would find out

Over the course of months and months of family being stout

 

And Joe being gracious, hospitable and one of a kind

It seemed to the one who visited over and over in his mind.

Time went by and weekly visits progressed with mother

Son and daughter spirited away in the kitchen with another

 

Friend of the family.  They still seemed suspicious of  him

Who had driven up the drive that fall day and had seen them

In all their vulnerability, unable to change reality and no power

To make Lou Gehrig go away, that shadow who would glower

 

Over the ever weakening body of the man of the house

And make everyone there feel as if they had a dose

Of cold water tossed in their face. Wake up, wake up to reality!

No, no! Each would shout from the kitchen into eternity.

 

Joe’s voice was soft and warm like a late spring rain

He comforted the visitor with the ever same refrain

Which must have driven the family to distraction from the other

room as they heard him speak of prayer and the loving cover

 

Of God over all of them.  They felt only cold, piercing ice

Falling from the gutterless roof on their heads making a slice

Neat and quick which cut them to the quick, the shaft securing

Them to the ground, they were unable to move, no turning

 

Around, standing frozen by the kitchen sink hating more and more

The sounds of sadness spoken ever more quietly and uttered for

Peace and serenity. Joe couldn’t move his now thin, limp body

And his voice was so quiet even the attentive ears heard nobody.

 

The visitor knelt close to Joe’s supine stance to hear

And feel the soft, warm loving breath on his cheek, a whisper.

Joe saw the visitor’s tears stream down his face and he saw

The shoulders shaking, so with enormous will, Joe lifted his paw-

 

Like hand raised up with the monumental persistence

The visitor had seen in the fall. Now, done again with insistence

And placed, not dropped, on the folded hands of the weeping

Visitor.  It was Joe’s benediction for the visitor’s keeping.

 

They just stayed in that place of grace and the visitor could

See Lou standing with hat over heart while thousands stood

To hear him speak through tears the words unfurled

That he was the luckiest man in the world.

 

Joe’s eyes were shut, his breathing shallow

The family stood at the door sensing they needed to follow

Through the thin place into that sacred space

Of peace, and love and Eternal Grace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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