Friday, June 20, 2008

The love of a Father

Olivia has a Pileated Woodpecker. A toy one, anyway. It's made out of metal, it's about an inch long. It's special to her for a few reasons: 1) it was a gift from grandma; 2) it's small and cute, and for some reason 7-year-old girls like things that are small and cute; and 3) we regularly see pileated woodpeckers in the woods around our house. Real ones, not small metal ones. I saw one last Monday evening, as a matter of fact.

This is not the actual woodpecker I saw. This
image is added for dramatic impact only.

Earlier this week - it was Tuesday, I think - I was finishing some work in the front room when I heard the wail of a distraught child emanating from the back of the house. The wail drew nearer, and soon Olivia was in the room, with the saddest of tales. She had been sitting on the toilet. She had dropped the pileated woodpecker. It had gone into the toilet. And since the toilet was, well, full of. . .stuff, she couldn't see it anymore.

What's a dad to do? Walk back, check out the scene of the accident, discern that, true enough, the woodpecker is nowhere around the toilet, so it must be in there. . .covered over by all that, ahem, stuff.

Only one thing to do. Go find a nice, thick plastic bag, secure it around the ol' hand and arm, and go digging around, hoping to find the woodpecker by feel alone. And try really hard not to think too much about what you're doing.

Alas, it was to no avail. The woodpecker was gone. Nowhere to be found. Down the drain, literally. The toilet was flushed to clear out the water, and even then, with pristine mountain well water now filling the bowl, no bird appeared.

On to the next task - consoling the daughter, who is now devastated. For a moment I thought of bribing her - "Tomorrow we'll go buy something new and shiny!" - but decided she needed to learn to deal with loss, she needed to understand that hurt feelings aren't always assuaged by new toys. That life is sometimes painful, and we just have to deal with it. So I used my best daddy/therapist approach, affirming her feelings, reflecting back her pain, talking about loss and life and moving on. And off she went to bed, still sniffling, still devastated.

I admit, I spent 20 minutes on E-Bay, wondering if I could find a replacement, but "small metal woodpecker toy" don't seem to be a hot item these days.

Later mommy came home, and consoled Olivia even more, eventually allowing Olivia to snuggle with her all night, while daddy slept on the couch. The things we'll put up with for our kids.

Only, that wasn't the end of the story.

On Wednesday, the woodpecker showed up again. It seems it didn't actually go down the drain, but fell into the little freshwater-inlet pipe at the bottom of the bowl. And when the toilet was flushed, it popped out of said pipe. . .for a moment. Then it slid back into that tiny little space once again. Olivia saw it first. And came rushing in to tell us. We doubted her, until we repeated the experiment, and, sure enough, there was the head of the woodpecker, peeking at us from the water inlet. But there was no way to pull it out - even the tiniest fingers wouldn't fit down there to reach it.

So on goes the plastic bag (even though we were dealing with clean water, just the thought of putting an uncovered hand in there gave me the heeby-jeebies). The toilet was flushed, the bird popped into the bowl, I grabbed it and pulled it out. . .and that which was dead to us was now alive and back in our presence.

And we had a little talk with Olivia about not playing with small toys on the toilet. Plus, I told Olivia, "someday when you're a teenager and you think I don't love you, remember that I stuck my hand in the toilet just to save your bird!" She did seem fairly appreciative of the sacrifice I had made.

And perhaps I learned something in the moment, as well, something about the price of being a dad, and the things we'll do for love. And, just maybe, we all got a glimps of the way God reaches down into the, ahem, "stuff" of our lives and comforts us in our sorrows, holding us close when we mourn, and how sometimes - not all the time, but sometimes - he actually fixes those problems, and redeems the things we thought were broken and lost.


Erin said...

That was a cute and heart-warming story. Dads are the best.

Lori said...

Thanks for a good laugh. I needed one badly today. You are a great dad for sure.