Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Bridge (07/31/08)
TITLE: Fortune Fish
By Donna Powers
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Nobody really thinks these fish-shaped plastic strips can discern our true personalities, but they are on our tables at the Cub Scouts’ “Blue and Gold” dinner. The dinner had a Chinese theme, further emphasized by our boys’ garish homemade dragon masks and a menu of chicken, broccoli, egg rolls and fried rice.
This dinner marked the end of my Jake’s Cub Scout years. Jake had gone through five years of den meetings and camping trips. He’d learned knots, nature facts, archery, safety guidelines, healthy habits, U.S. history and first aid – among other things. He’d marched in parades and helped with food drives. He’d gotten over his need to always be first in line, and he’d grown up – and not just in body.
My little boy was becoming a young man.
All that stood between Jake and his future was a large wooden A-framed bridge, made by the boys and their leaders. Each Cub Scout had to climb its wooden steps, walk across its log expanse and then climb down to a “high-five” welcome from his future troop. It looked like a sturdy structure and it would take less than five minutes to cross. But, to my Jake, it would be a very long five minutes.
Jake was afraid of bridges.
Jake is my grandson, and his mother was my oldest daughter. As a baby, he wasn’t afraid of anything. He’d been fearless; boldly approaching strangers and pets. The darkness had held no monsters for Jake, and his sunny smile brightened every encounter. Bugs, snakes, noises and heights were adventures to be savored, and his musical laugh was music to all of our ears.
His laughter was especially sweet when his mother was diagnosed with cancer. Jake was too young to understand what was happening to his mama, so he kept laughing and braving challenges that might have scared another two-year old. He brought a smile to her weary face, even when she came home to spend her last days with us.
On her last night, he gave her a long, tender hug and said “I love you, Mama,” just before she slipped into her final sleep.
After that, Jake’s nightmares began. How could such a small boy understand his loss? All he knew was his mama was forever gone, and he began to be afraid. All of the things that had intrigued him became monsters that terrified him. No matter how much we tried to calm him, he clung to us and remained shy and easily frightened.
Bridges were especially frightening to him. When we crossed a bridge in the car, he squeezed his eyes shut, hugged himself and clenched his fists. He audibly murmured a prayer for courage whenever he crossed a bridge. He knew he wouldn’t be able to shut his eyes on the Cubs’ bridge, and he feared his little prayer might cause derision. He fervently wanted to do this; to safely span the bridge that symbolized his “graduation” to Boy Scouts. I’d told him to look straight ahead as he crossed, and to trust God. He’d said he would, although he knew he’d still be scared. His Den Mother told him he could walk under the bridge; they gave him permission to do that, because of his fears. He’d told us he wanted to try to do it the “regular way.”
As he began to climb the wooden steps, I clenched my own fist over the fortune fish. Where was my beyond-the-years wisdom, now? “Please help him, God,” I silently prayed. I knew the only true wisdom comes from God; it would be enough for Jake, as long as he remembered to turn to Him.
Jake stepped onto the log. I could see the boys in his den cheering him on; they all knew of Jake’s fears. All of them were giving him a “thumbs up.” His eyes grew wild; he started to tremble. I gripped the fish harder. I longed to run up there and carry him over the bridge. Wisdom, I prayed for Jake: true wisdom, to trust God. Wisdom for me; to let him do this on his own.
He drew in a trembling breath, looked straight forward and stepped across the log.
My fist unclenched, and the fortune fish slipped powerlessly to the floor. I smiled up at Jake, as he stepped across that bridge, toward his future.
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