Don’t Slam that…
(A work of fiction)
Glenn A. Hascall
It was the on thing in our house that papa didn’t make his’self. Papa was a jack-of-all-trades and could fashion beauty from any old piece of dog-eared lumber, but not when mama raised a fuss about the front door. No sir, papa could make everythin’ else but that door - a solid oak paneled beauty with a small diamond shape window. It let light in and ‘lowed mama to see what was comin’ up the walk.
It would be nothin’ more than exaggeration to say that the rest of the house was little more than ordinary. Three bedrooms to house seven children and mama and papa.
We often heard the familiar, “Don’t bang that…” as the door slammed against the frame and the little house shuttered. Her warnin’ didn’t hold much sway with young’uns like us, but papa’s switch? Well now, that was the beginnin’ of a different tail - so to speak.
As the years rolled right along, that door opened and closed in a curious dance and rhythm. Sometimes the song was joyous like when new baby Caroline was comin‘ home. Sometimes the song was mournful like when papa lost his job at the mill. Other times the song was a dirge like when when Nana Campbell came face to face with her final breath and homegoin'.
The door welcomed relatives and friends. It showed no partiality when it came to strangers. However it stood sentry over the welfare of our little family, keepin' out the cold and keepin' in the love. I know what you‘re a sayin’, “no door can keep in the love“, but there was plenty to go ‘round behind that door, and it seemed that anythin’ outside that door paled a mite in comparison, so I will always think of it that way.
It was after a Sunday dinner many years ago when papa passed through those doors a final time. Mama followed a few months later, I can still here her a sayin’ “Don’t slam that…” I don’t think she ever said that last word.
Bein’ the closest kin, I took over the homestead and my children began to learn somethin’ special about that door. They noticed spots worn smooth by many hands over the years. They noticed the loose handle due to papa’s liftin’ and poppin’ the door into place on cold winter nights.
My son, Jerry, was rushin’ out the door to do some meaningful bit of mischief and I heard words comin’ from my mouth that I was just certain I would never hear from myself, “Don’t slam that …”
Each of our children learned the faith of papa and mama. Well, all except Jerry, he was all fire certain that there was somethin’ besides Jesus that should be considered when makin’ a decision about eternity. He still found the love behind that old oak door but he’s lookin’ hard to find something better.
So Paula and I pray each night for our eldest, thinkin' "maybe someday he’ll come ‘round".
A few Sundays back, Jerry and his little family came by for dinner and they each had their fill. We told stories of shuckin’ corn, bailin’ hay and shellin’ peas. Then for good measure we added the details of our chicken butcherin’ - seems only boys have an unnatural interest in that.
Jerry grabbed his oldest boy, Dakota and they took off on a hike near Stove Pipe Rock - a favorite spot of Jerry’s. They explored all the nearby cattle trails and then decided to climb the rock itself. Jerry told Dakota to stay put while he climbed a ways up. Jerry’s problems began when he looked down to wave and smile at his son. A thirty foot drop will take more than the wind out of ya.
Dakota had the presence of mind to use his daddy’s cell phone and call for help. We got the call from the hospital when Jerry was admitted for emergency surgery to repair a few things broken deep inside.
His mama and me was standin’ beside his hospital bed when he came to. He was pretty groggy and it was easy to see he was still hurtin’ somethin’ fierce. “We’ve been prayin’ for you, son.” I said with a lump the size of a grapefruit cloggin’ up my throat.
I was whisked back to the moment we brought him home from this exact hospital more than thirty years before. The times I knelt by his bed and prayed for the salvation of this little sandy-blonde-haired fella. The time he brought Lisa home to see his mama for the first time (Paula fell in love with Lisa right from the start). The moment we met our first grandbaby carried in the arms of his own papa. Memories tucked deep in the hearts of those of us who lived behind that door.
A doctor broke into my precious memories and asked if he could visit with us. We was taken to a small room and he laid out the gut-wrenching truth that Jerry had been broken more than we ever thought possible. The doc wasn’t at all willin’ to encourage us in the survival of my oldest boy.
Lisa went to his bedside and cried like a baby. All Jerry seemed to be able to do is look at her mournful like and let the tears spill into her hair.
Mama had her say to her boy and then took Lisa for a walk. That left me alone with my broken, bandaged boy who seemed all of thirteen at the moment. He was scared and I knew he faced some unfinished business.
“Son,” I began, “I know you been lookin’ for all sorts of ways to God, but I betcha a dollar to a donut ya’ ain’t found nothin’ to satisfy that ache deep down inside. That ache is on purpose, ya know. It can only be filled by Jesus.” I paused as Jerry looked toward the wall, a tube stickin’ from his mouth and wires attached everywhere. “Maybe this is the only way I will ever be able to say this,” I continued. “You’re a stubborn old cuss and I haven’t been able to get a word in edgewise about Jesus for years. He said that He’s the only way, the only truth and the only life and no one can come to God unless they go through Him. Son, I’ve been praying for you your whole life,” I paused, “You know there is a verse in the back of the Bible that says that Jesus stands at the door and knocks - He’s wantin’ to be friends with us, but we gotta let Him in, Son.” By this time I was chokin’ on my own words, “Please, Son, don’t slam the…”
Jerry’s eyelids flickered and his body jerked as hospital staff came runnin’ into the room. I was booted out standin’ in the hall wonderin’ what was happenin’ behind that door.
A few weeks have passed and I’m still haunted by what I don’t know. Meals haven’t tasted as good and my heart has been heavy. The old oak lets us know that guests have arrived. I gather my strength and head to the door, givin’ it a solid pop to admit Lisa and the boys. My heart nearly bursts as I see Jerry sittin’ in a wheelchair being wheeled toward the door.
“He was released just this morning and wanted to come,” Lisa explained.
“Set another plate, Mama,” I holler with emotions that can‘t seem to decide if it would be better to laugh or try on a good old fashioned cryin‘ jag, “our prodigal son’s come home.”
More tears spill as I help my son through the door. His hand reaches out and grasps the door and his fingers rub one of the worn spots, “Thank you for everything,” Jerry said real quiet like.
“I’ve never done nothin’ any other dad wouldn’t have done,” I replied.
“Yes, you did.” Jerry said with determination. When I found myself somewhere south of uncomfortable my boy continued, “You need to know something.”
“Sure son, What is it?” I asked.
“I made a decision while I was lying in that bed. You've been praying a long time," Jerry shifted in his wheelchair thinkin' how to go on, then smiled with inspiration, "I stopped slamming the…”
He didn’t need to finish the sentence for this son of mine that had been lost had now retuned home and it was time to have a party.