The afternoon skies glowed red as evening crept across Twin Lakes. Scotty and I had pitched our tent beneath the redwoods on ground spongy from fallen needles. A fawn drank along the shore as I gathered our fishing rods. We stopped to enjoy the fullness of creation.
I cast our lines and wedged the poles between some rocks. I tied a small bell to each, then settled back against a trunk that was larger than our apartment. I pressed my hat down to my eyes and breathed the peacefulness of the mountains.
There was a stinging on my arm. I looked and saw a mosquito. I raised my hand and swatted it.
“My friend Axol says that when people die they turn into bugs. So, you shouldn’t be squishing skeeters.” He stood beside me, a scowl on his face. “That could’ve been Grandpa.”
Scotty had met some interesting new friends at kindergarten. “Well, champ, Grandpa’s in heaven with Jesus. He didn’t turn into a mosquito.” I smiled and patted his hand. “See, part of creation is that some critters eat other critters. That’s okay. And it’s okay when those of us getting eaten fight back. It’s the law of the jungle.”
He scrunched his brow and considered my words. “But Dad,” he said, pointing to the fishing poles, “aren’t we trying to eat the fish?”
I leaned back against the tree and took a deep breath. “If one of those fish wants to jump out of the water to try and squish me, I say bring it on.”
He turned toward the lake, eyes wide.
We sat together listening to the whisper of the breeze through the treetops. The waters were still, except for the trout leaping as they tried to catch damsel flies that strayed too close to the surface. A flight of mallards crossed the sky in a perfect V, the calls from the leader echoed by the balance of the flock.
There was a tug at my sleeve.
“Daddy? My friend Axol says that girls are differenter than boys. Is that true?”
“Uh,” I swallowed. I hadn’t expected to discuss this with a five year old. “Well,” I stumbled, “you see in the Garden of Eden, God made man first then He put Adam to sleep and took a rib to make Eve. Umm, so that’s why marriage is important. Like putting something back together.” My throat went dry. “Because girls have different private parts, you see. This happens because they have hormones. So they look different. Like, uh, Mommy is squishier than I am, at least in places.” Sweat beaded my brow. “So that’s why when you are married… and marriage is so very important, Scotty, you understand that, right?”
He nodded, eyes befuddled.
“When you are married you share a special hug and that’s where babies come from.” I tried to smile. It was painful.
He blinked. “Oh. My friend Axol said they have cooties. I’ll tell him they have hermones that make them squishy.”
I ran my hand over my face and grimaced. “Let’s stick with the cooties. Axol just might be right.”
An eagle perched on the top branch of a tree across the lake and sunned his wings. A mountain goat skittered along the rocks of a nearby cliff face causing a slide beneath him, the pebbles spilling into a field of poppies below. Nature was on display and I soaked in the peacefulness like a sponge.
Scotty tapped my leg.
“My friend Axol says I don’t get to go to heaven because I talked in class.” His face was twisted with concern.
I pushed myself up and sat him on my lap. “Axol was right.”
His mouth opened and a sheen of moisture coated his eyes.
“See, we’ve all done bad things. None of us deserve to go to heaven.”
“Not even you, Daddy?”
“Not even me.” I hugged him close. “And not Grandpa either.”
“But Grandpa’s in heaven. You said.”
“He is. See, we don’t deserve to go. But God still wants us there. So He sent Jesus to come and get us. All we have to do is let Jesus know that we want to go with Him.”
“And we all get to go?”
“All of us who want to, yes.”
“I want to go to heaven to be with God and Grandpa.”
I held him tight. I kissed his hair and smiled.
His face beamed. “I can’t wait to tell my friend Axol.”
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