A bit lightheaded, I steady myself, reach up, and hang my parent’s gold filigree framed portrait. I found the perfect spot, a bare wall, above my well-lit nightstand. The shadow from the lamp forms a halo, circling their heads, above the heart-shaped matting.
Stepping back, I look to see if it’s crooked, smiling with satisfaction, at its symmetry. I’m far from home, in this strange new dormitory setting; yet, my parents, would expect me to triumph in my transition. Even now, out on my own, Dad’s repetitive challenge still resounds in my memory. I can almost hear his baritone voice…
“Son, remember who you are, and whose you are.”
My heart rests easy, in knowing who I am; I’m their eldest son, and, adopted child of God. I no longer live in the confines of their home, but I still respect their authority, and heed their warnings, to guard my heart.
My family helped me make my final decision. I am confident that I made the right choice; yet, I know temptations will surely arise, in a co-ed dorm. I have convictions, and I fully intend to keep them!
A guy from down the hall sticks his head in the open doorway, making a quick scan of my side of the room.
“Making yourself at home? Cool bedspread! I’m Paul, from room 105.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Jack. Yeah, almost settled, still a few more things to unpack.”
“Looks like you like to read, me too. The library is up on the next floor. Think I’m their best customer!”
“Yes. I had a hard time deciding which books to bring.”
“Lunch is at 11:30. Why don’t you sit with me? I can stop here, on my way to the dining room. After we eat, I’ll give you the 10 cent tour!”
I glance down at my Timex, wipe off the face of the watch, and look up, into the friendly face, of my first visitor.
“Almost finished shelving these paperbacks. I’ll get out of this sweat suit, be ready in a jiffy.”
Paul seems nice enough.
I walk into the shared, now vacant, bathroom. Wiggling out of sweaty clothes, I edge forward to the sink, splash on invigorating water, and dry off. Stepping into comfortable jeans, I zip up, before slipping on, an Ivy League shirt. Closing the door behind me, I shuffle to the closet, lean down, grab sneakers, and ease into the recliner. I try to still trembling hands, as I double-tie, stiff new laces.
Why am I so nervous? You’d think it was my first day of high school!”
“Hi, Paul. Be right with ya’. Wanta’ grab a sweater.”
“Good idea, sometimes we just about freeze! Like eating at the North Pole!”
Like an obedient pup, I walk at Paul’s side, as he leads me through a maze of hallways. My nose serves as efficient compass.
“Pizza! Think I’m gonna’ like it here!”
We sit with about a half dozen others, at an oblong table, and Paul shares a steady stream of names. The smile, gentle voice, and green eyes of a red head, lure me. My pulse begins to race; I self-consciously keep looking in her direction. Nodding, as I’m leaving, with hesitation, I stammer, “Nnn-ice to meet you, Katy.”
That evening, I succumb to a severe attack of homesick blues, looking up, at Mom and Dad’s picture, then down, at my tattered Bible on the stand. I open, to the inside cover.
“To: Jack with Love,
Mom and Dad.”
Right before Boy Scout camp, my first time away from home…
Mom had inscribed a scripture passage in the lower right hand corner.
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:9-11 NIV).”
I finger the fading message, visualizing Almighty God’s finger extended, atop stone tablets, engraving the Ten Commandments…
Barely in a whisper, with parted lips, I pray.
“Lord, guard my lips. Guard my eyes. Guard my heart.”
I open the nightstand drawer. With gnarled, fumbling hands, I clasp a heart pendant necklace, dangling it from its delicate chain. Flipping it open, I gaze into angelic side-by-side faces. I will not betray the trust of Mother, or my dearly departed wife. I will vigilantly guard my heart, here, in this assisted living facility.
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