The Marrow of Prayer

Early this year, Spanish researchers published a peer-reviewed paper considering the evidence of social learning in Middle Pleistocene hominids as indicated by patterns of butchery.

In the study, part of the Bolomer excavation under the auspices of the Prehistory Museum of Valencia, researchers examined bones to find that breakages during butchering to extract marrow occurred at unlikely places, indicating a specific intention, knowledge and practices transmitted through the generations from parent to child, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

I tuck in my three-year-old at bedtime under a mural I painted for him of mountains and trees and animals from his favorite storybooks: Owl Babies, Curious George. I turn the lights off, and brighten the dimmer three clicks, just enough to see. Aslan—the lion from the Narnia books I can’t wait to read to Sam when he’s a couple of years older—emerges from the dark with a slightly punk-rock mane on the wall just above my son’s pillow. [Read more...]

The Eucharist: Eat, Eat!

Good Letters welcomes Shannon Huffman Polson to our blogging team. Her memoir North of Hope: A Daughter’s Arctic Journey was released last week.

We sit in the back pew at church with intention; there’s an easy exit if our two-year-old’s patience has run out, or if ours has. Bible stories shine down on us hopefully from brightly colored stained glass windows on either side of the church.

Earlier I made spelt French toast for breakfast and my son ate three pieces, but halfway through the service he’s hungry again. He’s played with the hymnals, and retrieved every stuffed animal from the basket at the rear of the church. We work on silent diversions when he tries to use the visitor card pen on the pews themselves. [Read more...]

We Are Not Forsaken

My daughter’s teeth were clenched from the brain tumor and so I would hold her for hours and dribble protein drink through their crevices with a thin-rimmed yellow sippy cup. Most would spill out, but some went in, and so this is how we stretched out her life.

To what end I am unsure, beyond suffering. When it is your child you have no choice, you can no more let her die than cut your own throat.

Sometimes when I fed her I raged silently at God for twisting a three-year-old into this vessel of pain. Other times I prayed for him to heal her. “Let this cup pass,” I would pray, lifting that thin yellow receptacle with the tooth-grazed rim to her lips.

In the afternoons my wife took over, and I sat in our living room and tried to eat. Mostly I looked out our window at the blazing Kansas summer. I watched people pass on bicycles, watched them drive past with music playing. Sometimes through an open car window I heard them laughing. [Read more...]

The Heart, a Home under Construction

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. —John 14:2

When Charlotte moved in with me in January of 2005, my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder surged with such searing intensity that I had to schedule an emergency session with my therapist. I sought treatment in the first place because every time I tried to date someone, electric anxiety coursed through my central nervous system, threatening to trip all the breakers in my body.

“I don’t get it, Troy,” I said to my therapist, who diagnosed me with OCD in August of 2004.

“It’s not like I’m dating Charlotte—she’s a cat, for crying out loud! Why am I freaking out?”

One of my housemate’s coworkers needed to find a home for Charlotte, and I agreed to adopt her. I always wanted a cat to call my own, so I was shocked when my body betrayed me after I took her home.

“How will I ever love this cat if I’m so anxious about her?” I asked Troy. “If all I feel is fear, how will there ever be room in my heart for affection?” [Read more...]

A Father-Daughter Story

I sit in the sunroom and look at the strewn possessions of my youngest, my daughter who will be thirteen in three short months. The boys don’t leave clutter like she does—their socks lay limp around the house like the shed skin of fat albino snakes, but that’s about it.

Grace is the one who leaves her possessions all over. From the chair where I sit, within reach is her page-a-day DOG calendar, her Discovery Girls magazine with a special section by Taylor Swift “on mean girls, fitting in & more!” Her black travel jewelry organizer that says umbra on the front. A small bottle of pink bubble gum hand sanitizer that really does smell like bubble gum.

Here’s her change purse on the table, with swirling green and pink and orange and turquoise patterns that spin into paisleys and leaf shapes. Inside she has a library card, lots of loose change, gift cards from Starbucks and Michaels, “where creativity happens.” She also has paper cash, a five and some ones. And a receipt from a boutique called Silver Thistle, where she bought her grandmother a silver candle snuffer for Christmas. With her own money.

This almost looks like the purse of a woman, not a little girl, in which case—I know the rules—I really should keep my nose out of it. This strikes me, hurts a little. I always knew it was coming, the age at which parts of her life would close off to me, as they should, but to realize that the time has come is still a bit of a shock. [Read more...]