Wade Tickle is almost eleven years old, and he is terrified of wasps. When he was younger, he was only afraid of them. Now he is paralyzed by the mere possibility of them. Normally, this would not be a problem….a quirk maybe, a source of some parental concern and, unfortunately, of some unkind teasing, but little more than that. The difficulty lies in the fact that our times [or his, perhaps] are not exactly normal right now.
Wade’s dad, who is our son, Wade, Sr., is in the process of buying and restoring a “new” old house in town. As a result, they have been living with us for the past six weeks and will continue to do so, in all probability, for another six weeks or so. That’s all well and good, despite the fact that Sr. keeps referring to his family’s current situation as being one of “camping out with” instead of “living with” us on the farm. And it is, of course, in the farm part of the thing that the real trouble lies.
Wasps are a part of rural living. Actually, they’re a rather necessary part of our natural balance here. They are busy humming around all summer long, and one normally thinks little, if anything, about them. It is in late August and all of September that one thinks about the wasps, because they are everywhere…aggressively everywhere. Presumably, they are preparing for the coming winter. In actuality, they simply appear to be taking over the place.
So it is that Wade is afraid in a way and to a degree that neither he nor any one of the rest of us has ever had to deal with before. He can not go the three hundred yards down the drive to the county road to fetch in the mail from the box for me. He has to run from the back door to the family car, when they want to go somewhere. He can’t use the backyard swing to dream in anymore, and he can’t hide in the barn when he wants to retreat. He can’t even ride the tractor with his dad, a joy that once upon a time was the capping one of all the farm’s pleasures…to ride across the fields in Dad’s lap and “help” steer that mighty, burping, rocking, lumbering machine! That was heaven, but no more….a loss made sadder by the fact that he’s almost old enough now to actually begin to learn to drive the thing.
And so, with August now gone, and September upon us, with the wasps making mayhem all over the place, and with all the long, sun-drenched days of September still ahead of us, I look at my grandson, trapped in my house, a captive of his own fear, and I am sad beyond speaking. My heart lives in weariness and agony for him. All the goodness of creation sings around him and all the joy of it waits just beyond the porch door, and he can not go.
Thus it was that this morning, as I was lying in bed, still half-asleep and half-awake, I suddenly realized what I had to do. What I had to do was take Wade outside with me, whether he wished to go or not, and then make him stand there on the porch while I annoyed a wasp into stinging me…
I came instantly awake as that unfortunate thought took shape in my head. It would work, of course. Wade could see me be stung and see me survive. But the other thing that brought me wide awake is the fact that wasp stings hurt like sin. I swell up as if I’ve been pummeled with a baseball bat, and I ache for at least a day thereafter, and sometimes for two. But at that moment, it was the only way I could see to free Wade…
It was also at that moment…or no more than an instant after it…that for the first time in my almost eighty years, I understood Calvary in a way I could rest in.…
The whole thing was such a shock that, like my grandson, I was paralyzed, not by fear, but by amazement, which has its own kind of terror. Believe me.