“Grandad, we need to talk”. Daniel sounds upset as he settles beside me. The swinging garden seat resumes its movements but now at a more urgent pace. “What really happened to my Uncle Brian?” My grandson’s voice is intense and betrays more anxiety than a fifteen-year-old should have to experience.
Irritated, I hesitate, unwilling to re-live the calamitous past, but when I realise that I can’t escape his question I take a deep breath to continue. My nervous hands occupy themselves by tying and untying the rope we had been using to practice our fishing knots. Do I really need to open these old wounds I have suppressed for so many years? My mind was racing, my stomach churned as my thoughts were dragged back to that fateful fishing trip twenty years ago.
I bring myself back to the discussion with Daniel and resume speaking. “We had been hiking to lake King William in the high country behind the “Great Western Tiers” when Brian, then eight years old, had wandered off from the camps site and was never seen again, an intensive ten day search coordinated by the search and rescue squad had failed to find any trace of him, the Coroner had determined death by misadventure.”
I was struggling to remain composed and Daniel’s disinterested look did not help, after all, he had heard this story so many times from his father and others. Why is he demanding answers knowing that it distresses me so much, my exasperation is building to an awkward level and the futility of this discussion is pushing me to the edge?
He must have recognised my irritation and discomfort as he suddenly jumps from beside me and kneels down in front of me taking a firm grasp of my hands. His voice is shaky but determined as his anxious eyes bore into mine as though plumbing the depths of my thoughts.
“Grandad, Dad has told me that you always spent a lot of time in the bush with him and his two brothers just like you do now with me. But I have noticed on our last couple of outings as we sit by our campfire you seem to become irritated and anxious, this leaves me feeling worried and helpless. The happy chats I always look forward to don’t happen anymore, Dad reckons that I’m imagining things and that you are just going through a grumpy stage, but I don’t believe him”.
I swallowed hard as Daniel increased the pressure on my hands, his love and concern for me was overwhelming and I owed him an explanation.
I wiped an escaping tear from my cheek, sat on the ground beside him and placing an arm around his shoulder I opened up.
“The last few times we have been in the bush together the memory of Brian and my inability to find him, having to tell your grandma that I had lost our little boy, the sorrow, pain and feeling of failure all seem to come flooding back like never before. I try to remember the counsellor’s advice, the support from family, friends and our church family but I can’t shake the fear and anxiety that I have for you and my responsibility to care of you when we are out there, I must not fail again”.
Daniel looked at me with a wry grin, “OK grandad, let me give you some of your own advice, we need to pray this through and have a little chat with a Father who knows what it is like to weep for a son.”
He gently placed his arm around my shoulder, there we were locked in a prayerful embrace, his words of love and spiritual authority were way beyond his fifteen years. I experienced a third person in our presence embracing us with a reassurance, peace, comfort and a refreshing that surged through my entire being as I wept tears of joy, not just for the forgiveness for having stopped trusting and believing but also for the perception and spiritual maturity of my grandson.
That same night as we sat around the dinner table my wife asked what Daniel and I were looking so happy about, something she hadn’t seen for quite a while. I explained what had happened and that this day an irritated grandfather had met a fifteen year old spiritual giant. Praise God.
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