I closed the front door behind me, knowing that Rick was on the other side, either weeping or praying. Unlike Rick, I had forgotten how to weep, and I had not prayed since the night God took Lissa from us. On that horrible night, I had cried out: Why? You don’t need Lissa in heaven, but I need her here! Failing to change God’s mind, I had turned my back on Him and barricaded my heart.
And now I was leaving—not because of anything Rick had done, but because the house was strangling me. Every room was thick with memories of my little girl. Lissa making a bubble bath beard. Lissa covered with cookie icing and colored sugar. Lissa sleeping, with a stuffed monkey tied to her wrist. Lissa playing right-hand melodies on the piano. She was alive everywhere, but I could not grasp her, and I felt myself turning to iron.
I promised Rick that I’d return, and fled to my parents’ cabin on the lake, knowing that it would be chilly there in November. Cold hardens iron—I would embrace it. I had packed enough clothing for a week, maybe two, with no plans other than solitude and a respite from Rick’s gentle pleading. Come to church with me, Janey. Let’s go out, Janey. Can we just talk for a while, Janey?
The first few days at the cabin passed in blessed numbness. I sat on the deck, wrapped in a blanket and staring at the lake, my thoughts dull and frosty. Waves tumbled to the beach and receded. Clouds drifted by, resembling nothing.
On the third day, however, an icy rain began before dawn and coated the deck with a crackling sheen. I sat on the worn sofa with a mug of coffee and listened to the minutes tick by, wishing that I had brought a book.
A desperate boredom led me to search the cabin for something to read. I had refused to bring a Bible, despite Rick’s wordless gesture as I packed: Don’t you want to take this? his eyes had said. But I was not speaking to its author, and I had no desire to read His book.
In a cupboard I remembered from my childhood, I found several old board games, some plastic beach toys, a tattered collection of Field and Stream magazines, and a child’s book of riddles. The magazines held no appeal for me—hundreds of indistinguishable pictures of deer, fishermen in waders, and rifles. Sighing deeply, I poured another cup of coffee and started to read the riddle book.
What did the duck say when she bought some lipstick?
--Put it on my bill.
Have you heard about the new corduroy pillows?
--They’re making headlines.
What color is a cheerleader?
I choked on something unfamiliar—laughter. My face felt strange; I was using muscles that had been frozen for weeks. I closed my eyes and examined this feeling that threatened to feel like a betrayal of Lissa. All that came to me was an echo of her musical giggle. How she would have loved this book!
Where did Napoleon keep his armies?
--In his sleevies.
What do you get when you cross a pond and a stream?
How do you kill a circus?
--Go for the juggler.
The tears that salted my lips were made of equal parts of grief and love, repentance and laughter. An iron door creaked open somewhere near my heart, and with each silly riddle, joy rushed in. How exactly like God, I thought, to use this ridiculous book to thwart my stubborn spirit.
For two more days I stayed at the lake, while God transformed iron and ice into something human once more, warm and pliable. Before I left, I tore one riddle out of the book and tucked it into my pocket. It was one that would have tickled Lissa, and I wanted to tell it to Rick.
Why are pirates so popular?
--They just arrrrrr.
I practiced my pirate voice all the way home.
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