Fish Out of Water- Chapter 11
Saturday, July 6th, 2002
“Hello”, I muttered into the small receiver of my cell phone early Saturday morning.
“I am sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you,” said a female voice on the other end of the line.
I sat straight up. “Savannah, I am sorry. I meant to call you. It’s just that I…”
“It’s okay, I understand. Your mother is sick. You didn’t have to call me.”
I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, or at least I attempted to do so. “I meant to call you and let you know what happened.”
“Is she going to be okay?”
“Well, she died on the Fourth of July.” The words came out stale, like old dry piece of bread. I didn’t know how to say it, it just came out. Maybe I should have said something more formal, like she passed away.
There was a pause and I wished that I could have seen her face. I wanted her to hold me again like she did the night before I came to Washington. I wanted to feel her touch and taste her kiss. I wanted to escape into it.
“How are you, John?”
“Fine,” I said and shrugged. How do you answer that question?
“John, I know you have only known me a week, but please. You can be honest with me. I understand to some extent. I lost both of my parents when I was younger.”
“What you don’t believe me?” I teased.
“Well you could be “fine-considering”, or you could be abnormally “fine- I am totally avoiding what is happening” or you could be “fine-because of the light of Christ”. However, the final choice tends to be more peaceful and doesn’t necessarily fall into one of the ‘fine’ categories.”
“It sounds like you do have some experience in this department.”
“There you go again, shifting the conversation back onto and into me.”
“You know my game plan well. You must have been a great athlete. What sports did you play again?”
“Strike two.” I could almost see her smile into the phone. I stood up stretched and looked out the window it was dark.
“What time is it? It is still dark here.”
“It is 6:30 here. The parents will start arriving at 8 and I wanted to have a few minutes to talk. I am sorry. Did I call you too early? I thought you were a morning person.”
“In the recent past I was a morning person, but this week nothing in my life has been normal. I haven’t adjusted very well to the time change.”
“It is only an hour earlier in Washington,” she said.
“Exactly, I suffer terribly from jet lag.”
“A huh… Well, did you have the opportunity to see your mother before she died? Were you two able to talk?”
I nodded my head into the phone and then quickly realized I would have to give more than non-verbal cues. “Yes.”
“I am glad. That helps bring closure.”
“You sound like a regular shrink.”
“Should I call back at a better time, John? I shouldn’t have woken you up. I am sorry.”
“Why do I have a feeling you want to call me a jerk?” She didn’t say anything, so I continued. “You’d be right you know. Being a jerk is very natural for me and first thing in the morning it is even more natural. I am very good at it, I’ve been told.”
She chuckled a little on the other end of the line. “John, I can’t call you a jerk a few hours after your mom has died. Everyone knows you have to say kind things about the deceased and be even kinder to the living that the deceased have left behind. It’s a rule… I can’t call you a jerk until after the funeral services.”
“I like you. You have a kind heart but have a bite to you as well.”
“I like you, too. That’s why I called. To let you know I am here. I wish I could be there with you, but … I wanted you to know I am only a phone call.”
Where were all of my other so called “friends”? “So, is there some time this afternoon or evening I can have your complete attention? I promise I won’t be such a major jerk, just a minor one.”
“Things will slow down about 3 in the afternoon and then I usually head out to my cabin.”
“Our place huh? You are going to go cuddle up on that soft leather couch and dream about me.”
“Well, at least you haven’t lost any of your confidence or charm. Why don’t you call me about 4 my time, I should be all done dreaming about you by then.”
“It’s a date and thanks for being so understanding.” I let out a long deep breathe and continued, “Things have been so crazy. It all feels like a strange dream. I don’t know what is real anymore.”
“That’s how death is. Death isn’t real. It’s just a postponement. The door is only closed temporarily. She is still very much alive and very aware of you. She loves you.”
“Thanks. Talk at you soon.”
“You will be okay. Bye,” she said and she hung up the phone.
I put my hands behind my head and stared at the old popcorn covered ceiling. The popcorn looked like the covering a distant planet, one that I had to be on to feel so giddy and light. This was nuts. My mother had just died 36 hours ago and I felt like I was on top of the world. I felt peaceful, happy and could it be? Dare I say it? In love?
When was the last time I felt excited about a woman, I mean excited about more than kissing her? When was the last time I felt good just talking to a woman on the phone?
I tried to remember her face and her smile. A priceless painting filled my mind; it was an image of Savannah smiling at me. Her eyes were full of light. What had my mother said about her? Did she tell me to be patient? What was it? She didn’t even know her but my mother liked her. Did my mother see something that I couldn’t see as she stepped closer to the spirit world?
A peace filled my heart. A feeling I was learning to recognize as a spiritual feeling or Jack might say that was a feeling of confirmation. I didn’t hear any words and I could no longer see the beautiful image of Savannah but I felt as though it would all work out. I knew that I could trust her and I knew that I could learn to love her.
I didn’t want the feeling to end; I wanted to bask in this feeling of complete peace. I wanted the feeling to abide with me until I could see her again and have her to be mine. I laughed out loud. You know, God is going to have his work cut out for him to convince Savannah that I am the man of her dreams. Thank goodness he has had practice moving mountains, parting seas, creating worlds, and causing the walls to fall because I am going to need some assistance in the miracle department to convince her that I am the man that God wants her to be with.
I think I heard God chuckle. Does God chuckle? Is he amused by us? I decided to ask him. I rolled over and fell unto my knees by the side of the bed.
“Father, is this love? Am I a fool to think that somehow you will guide me and teach me to love? Will you bless Savannah to see the man that you see in me and will you do everything in your power to help me be that man?”
My soul felt like it was on fire. As if I was feet away from Moses and the burning bush. “You know me. You are the only one. I cannot walk this path alone. I need your help and perhaps that is why I need someone like Savannah. Perhaps she is someone who will cause me to stretch and reach further than I imagined possible; someone to light the way and to help me climb the highest mountains that are unconquerable alone. I do need her don’t I? I need her to remind me of you and your love. I need her just as I need you only in a different way.”
I continued to talk to my Father in Heaven. I poured out my soul to him. I was so at peace and full of hope in a world that I did not know could or would exist, but now I believed with a surety I had never imagined possible. I was a new man, renewed by him and through him. He loved me and I loved him. It was the most incredible feeling and I didn’t want it to go away.
After praying, I felt rejuvenated. I threw on my shorts and running shoes, and ran for over two hours basking in the hope of a new life and in love.
That morning went by slowly. Dad had more errands to run. He invited me to go along, but I felt that maybe I should try to prepare my speech for mom’s funeral. The clock was ticking I had less than 48 hours until dooms day. To be honest, I would have gone with my dad if I knew I would have been back in time to call Savannah. But he said that he might not be back until 7 or 8. So, with my dad gone, the clock ticking, all I could do was think about what I was going to say to Savannah.
I tried reading the scriptures, honest I did. But I kept staring out the window, wondering when I would get to see her again and what I would say. It was ridiculous. I couldn’t believe myself; I was counting down the hours until I got to talk to her. If I hadn’t been spiritually reborn again, I would have thought that aliens had taken over my body or that devils possessed my mind. But she was real and for some reason she kept putting up with me and I hoped that she had the patience to put up with me for a very long time.
At one o’clock, I was pacing around the kitchen. I’d already finished off the tuna casserole that Sister Jones brought over the night before, with the two pounds of green jello spiced up with a bit of fruit cocktail. I didn’t even know that you could still get the fruit cocktail. Or maybe she had canned the peaches, pears, grapes and cherries herself. You never know.
The scriptures were lying open on the bar in the kitchen. I looked over at my running shoes by the back door and thought about going for another run. Then when I got back I could take a shower, a nap and then talk to her.
I walked over to my shoes, picked them up and shook my head. What was I thinking? I couldn’t run with a stomach bulging with a tuna casserole and green jello. Some people might be able to run on a full stomach, but that had never been one of my strengths and I did not want to meet my lunch again.
I could go for a walk that wouldn’t cause a series of regurgitations; however, I doubted that I was patient enough to walk. I couldn’t walk down a path or a road unless I was holding some pretty girl’s hand or wearing some very expensive uncomfortable business shoes. No walking would only evolve into a slow jog, to a faster jog to an all out run and I didn’t want my dad to find me on the side of the road lying in a bed of green jello. He’d had enough trauma for one week.
Instead, I grabbed a carton of ice cream, a spoon and plopped down in dad’s recliner. The remote was strategically placed inches away from my free hand. With the cartoon of ice cream in-between my legs, the extra large spoon in my right hand and the remote in my left, I was convinced that I could forget about the how soon I would be talking to the woman that I would someday marry.
ESPN was my last and final resort. I needed strength, I needed adrenaline, I needed to see men hitting men with great force. It was my only hope. ESPN might save me from the torture and torment of not being able to talk to Savannah.
A few hours later, I woke up still sitting. Well, I wasn’t exactly sitting; I was lying down in dad’s recliner. The empty carton of ice cream was on the end table beside me and the baseball announcer was going nuts because someone hit a grand slam at the bottom of the ninth. I rubbed my eyes, and turned off the TV–so much for ESPN. I stretched my arms and put the recliner back into its upright position. I looked down at my watch and gasped.
It was 4:30 pm. I was late and I hadn’t even taken a shower. Would she know that I hadn’t taken a shower since? Would she know that I hadn’t shaved in, I touched my beard, man how long had it been? I ran back to the bedroom and checked my phone. It was fully charged and there was one missed call. Was it her?
I was so disappointed to see Taylor’s cell number. She hadn’t called. Would she be mad? It was 5:30 her time and I was an hour and a half late.
It was ironic. In the beginning of all of my other relationships I had literally swept women off of their feet, but in this relationship I had done everything wrong from the start. Maybe it was all part of His Plan, to have me groveling and begging for forgiveness from day one of this relationship.
Well, no better time than the present to start groveling. I let out a deep breathe and dialed her number.
It rang and rang and rang. I deserved it. I was almost two hours late.
“Hi, you’ve reached Savannah’s phone. Leave a message and I will get back to you as soon as I can.”
I sighed and I was pretty sure she would hear that sigh on her voice mail. “Savannah, I am sorry. I have been looking forward to talking to you all day. I, well, I fell asleep and I know it is late, but if you have some time this evening…” My phone was beeping someone was trying to get through. It had an Idaho prefix. “Maybe, this is you calling and I’ll be given the opportunity to apologize in person, if not call me back as soon as you can.”
I sounded desperate, well not as desperate as an old maid, but pretty desperate.
“Hello?” I said.
“John. How are you?”
Well, if it wasn’t Savannah at least it was a close second. “Jack. You’re leaving a few fish in that fishing hole for me to catch when I get back, aren’t you?”
“There are always fish in that fishing hole. I think God personally stocks it for my grandchildren and other lost souls!”
“Well, you found this lost soul and saved it from the grasp of Beelzebub, himself.”
“You and I both know who found you and brought you back into His loving arms. I am not taking any of His credit.” He cleared his throat and added, “How are you? Savannah told us about your mother. We feel just terrible and wish we could be there with you.”
I smiled. He really cared.
Jack continued, “My mom just died a few years ago. I am a grown man, but I bawled like a baby. It was hard saying good-bye to the woman who sacrificed everything and came near death to bring me into this world. I know that death is part of the plan but it isn’t easy. We have to allow our self time to mourn. As we are taught there is a time and season for everything and death is a season to mourn and then to be lifted up in the hope of Christ. He will bless us with the knowledge that we will be resurrected, live again, and be reunited with those that we love for all eternity.”
“Do you mind driving out here Monday and saying what you just said at my mom’s services? Then I could get out of talking and would have less of a reason to mourn. I thought this funeral would be mine. But the thought of speaking at my mother’s funeral just about might kill me.”
“You’ll be fine. The spirit will guide you.” Jack said with perfect confidence in me.
“Jack, you don’t understand. I am not like you or the missionaries. I don’t get up in public and speak. I hate speaking in front of people.”
“Well, sometimes the Lord stretches us and demands that we go where we’d never want to go.”
“Don’t you think he has stretched me enough this week? I mean come on—enough is enough.”
“Why don’t you talk to him about it? But I personally doubt he will let you weasel out of this one John. I have a feeling you need to hear yourself talk more than anyone else.”
“I listen to myself all the time and most of the time we don’t agree. I’ll be honest; I am still shocked that the Lord went to so much pain and trouble to call me back to the fold and why he would send some of kindest angels to reach out to me.”
“You don’t have the vision to see who you are and that is why we are here—to point you to the vision and remind you of who you were before you came here. You need to hear your spirit’s voice speak.”
“You sound like an Indian Chief.”
“Actually, I have some “injun” blood in me somewhere and maybe it creeps out from time to time. There is some wisdom in their ways.”
I imagined myself standing up at the pulpit at church dressed in an old fashioned Indian garb, complete with feathers, loin cloth, and leather moccasins. I opened my mouth and the only thing that came out was “ugh”. It wasn’t a pretty site. I felt my heart race increase and I felt a little sick to my stomach. How was I going to make it through these next few days?
“How are you doing?”
“Jack, I feel like I am on an emotional rollercoaster, one that I have heard many women complain about. At one moment I feel filled with a peace I never dreamed possible, the next I feel scared to death about speaking. Then I feel faith and hope, and then at moments I feel consumed with despair and a pain because I don’t know when I will see my mom again. It is then I long for more time with her and to see her again.”
“You aren’t accustomed to feeling, are you?”
I shook my head, sighed and said, “It has been a long time since I have felt anything.”
“The peace is real and it is from Him; remember that. The pain is real; we feel it when we are separated from those we love. But when we loose hope, the prince of darkness is throwing seeds of doubt into our mind. We need to learn to allow ourselves to feel pain, but do not be tempted to think that the despair is necessary. You have the gift of the spirit and even amidst trial, persecution and pain you can feel a peace and know that you are on the right path and that He is right beside you.”
“Jack, will the roller coaster slow down or am I going to need Prozac by the end of the month?”
“It will either slow down or you will become accustom to feeling again. No drugs necessary. We were designed to feel heavenly things on this earth and Satan tempts to drag us away from the joy and peace that God desires to bless us with.”
“I know everything is real. I know that my mother has passed away. I know that God loves me. I know that Christ atoned for me and that he reaches out to me because of His love. I know I am imperfect and yet, part of me wonders if this is just a dream, like the movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’”
“John in many ways this life is like a dream, because the veil of forgetfulness is drawn over our eyes. We cannot see all things spiritual, nor remember clearly the things of the world before we came here. Satan doesn’t want us to remember anything, especially the feelings of our former home, the feelings of the spirit, of love and of peace.”
Everything Jack said made sense. That is why I liked talking to him. I wanted to make sense of this whole mess and I wanted to understand. I wanted to feel sane again. “Thanks, I needed to talk to Jack. I don’t know what I would have done without you this week.”
“I’m not going anywhere. Call anytime and hurry home. We miss you.”
“Thanks,” I said again and I meant it. We said good-bye and Louise got on the phone. She said not to worry about food when I got back, she would see to it that I was well fed and nourished. I couldn’t believe that I had only known these people one week. They probably knew me better than anyone else in the world.
I put the phone down and noted there were no missed calls. What had happened to me? Was it even possible to change so much in a week?
The phone rang once and I picked it up, hoping that it was her. “Hello.”
“Hi, sorry I missed your call I was…”
I interrupted her, “Savannah, I am sorry. I was waiting all day to talk to you and then I fell asleep and didn’t call you when I told you I would.”
“You were waiting all day to talk to me?”
“Well, I ran six miles, ate half of a horse, and paced the kitchen looking for something else to eat to pass the time. But after all that eating and waiting, I needed a nap. Besides, someone woke me up pretty early this morning.”
She laughed. I loved the sound of her laugh. “I did, didn’t I? Like I said, I am sorry. I got back to the cabin a little late because we had a few predicaments that needed some attention and loving care. I walked into the door and laid down to rest my eyes and I ended up in some beautiful dream world for quite some time.”
“You were dreaming about me. I knew it!”
“I didn’t tell you that I dreamed about you!” She said.
“You might have forgotten about that part, but you did dream about me.”
“And why do you say that.”
“Because I couldn’t stop thinking about you all day.”
“You say that to all the girls.” She retorted
I paused. “No, not normally. In the past, I only think about them all day when I know I need to release them from the line and set them free.”
She laughed, “Oh, so you are breaking up with me and we have never even been on a real date. Fine if that is the way you want the story to…”
“Breaking up with you? Does that mean you are my girlfriend? I was hoping to convince you to give me a chance but if you’d rather just jump into my arms, I’ll throw the fishing pool away and never let you go.”
I could hear her breath. I could hear myself breath. We were breathing very loudly. I could not believe that I just said that. I felt like I had thrown my heart into the same lion’s den I had been in hours earlier. I knew I had to bear the silence, but…
“John, you are flirting with me but you are serious aren’t you?”
“Savannah, I have no idea what I am doing with you. Part of me wants to warn you about who I really am and how many women’s hearts I have broken, but the other part of me that seems to be speaking much louder, wants to hold you in my arms and never let another man within a mile of you. This week I have felt things, I haven’t felt since I was a boy. I know I do not deserve you. You are the most beautiful women I’ve ever met and that beauty is multiplied by the beauty of your soul.”
I could hear it, but I didn’t know if it was good or bad. “Savannah, are you crying?”
“You’re right. I did dream about you.” She said.
“And that is why you are crying? Was I mean? I kissed you again didn’t I? I kissed you in my dreams to. Only it didn’t make me cry.”
She giggled a little even though she was crying. “It’s just that those were the exact words you said in the dream and it’s a little odd—that’s all.”
“A little odd? I am glad that we both find ourselves feeling a little odd. Because I don’t know if I am on the Love Boat or the Twilight Zone,” I said.
She sniffled with a giggle, if that is even possible and added, “I think it’s a little bit of both.”
“You’re probably right. I just hope the price is right.”
“John, can we slow down just for a minute? I hardly know you. I want to know you, but I want to take the time to know you.”
“Great, that sounds perfect, because I want all the time I can get to know you. See, we are on the same page all ready, as long as there is some kissing thrown in their with the getting to know each other part.”
“Just as long as it isn’t all kissing,” She retorted.
“Glad to know that I scare you just a little. It will keep you on your toes– Maybe as much as you keep me on mine.”
“It’s just you and all that kissing that scares me.”
“Well, just for your information you brought it up that time.” I said.
“I did not.”
“Yes, you did. I had changed the subject to toes and you brought up kissing again.” I winked, that would have really rubbed it in if she could have seen it.
My cell phone rang. It was Taylor. I’d call him back. He’d have to wait.
“You are impossible.”
“Is that what you really think?”
“Honestly, yes. You are impossible to understand. This morning you were, how did you put it? Oh, yes, I remember. You were a ‘jerk’. And now you can’t stop talking about kissing me and holding me and keeping all the other men miles away from me.”
“Well, I am guilty of all that. So, what don’t you understand? I am a jerk who happens to be in love with you. Does that clarify everything?”
“Put so simple, yes, it does.”
She was speechless and I knew it. “Look, Savannah. I am handsome and I can be charming. But I am a lot better at being a jerk and pushing people away. If you give me a chance and stay put when I try to push, I will always come back to youIt’s just going to take some time and that’s what you want right?”
“I want time to get to know you, but not if you are a jerk.” She said, but I was almost positive there was a twinkle in her eye so I continued.
“This week has been nuts and you have been very forgiving. There are things I need to change, and if you are patient with me I am sure you will get through the jerk shell and see the man that I can be. We both just need some time. Will you give me some time? Will you spend time with me and go out with me?”
“Ten points for being direct, Mr. Stanley.”
“Thank you!” I said.
“But how are we going to spend time together, if you live in Salt Lake City, Utah and I live in somewhere in Idaho?”
“Have faith. It will work out.”
“I really don’t feel comfortable with the long distance thing.”
“Oh, you had a bad long distant thing huh?” I smiled. I was glad she didn’t want me far away.
“You could say that.” She said.
“Don’t worry, I won’t be far long. Just give me some time to take care of things here and settle some things in Salt Lake and then you’ll wish you could get rid of me.”
“John, what are you saying?”
“Well, I really had wanted to surprise you, but I am moving up to Idaho.”
“You quit your job?”
“No, I will just be telecommuting.”
“When did this happen?”
“The other day when I talked to my boss.”
She was thinking and trying to piece the puzzle together. I could tell. “Now, you think it might be better to have me back in Salt Lake City, huh?”
“No, it’s just happening to fast and no one has ever done anything like this for me.”
“Savannah, I am doing it for me and for you, and because I know it is what He would have me do. I want to be there and I want to be near you, because I can’t see you if I live in a different state.”
“Just give me a few weeks of insanity, and then you will have a lot of my attention and I hope you will give me a chance. Will you?”
She didn’t say anything, but I waited and I waited.
“Oh, sorry, I was nodding. I guess you didn’t see me.”
“No, I didn’t. But I wish I could see you and take you into my arms…”
She interrupted me, “And kiss me… I know… I know.”
I laughed. “See look how much you know me already?”
She let out a long deep breath and I was on fire. I wanted to climb Mt Rainer this minute.
There was a knock on my door.
“Hold on a second, Savannah.”
I put my hand over the receiver, “Dad?”
He opened the door. “Hi, just wanted you to know I am home.”
I looked at the wall, it was after 8. I nodded.
“Church is at nine. I am going to bed it’s been a long day.” He looked beat. He really did.
“Okay, see you in the morning.” I said and he smiled and shut the door. But I couldn’t help but notice that he remembered what time church was. Maybe he just knew because mom went. That had to be it. Hmmm…
“Savannah, my dad just got home. Sorry, I needed to talk to him for a minute.”
“No problem. If you need to go spend some time with him…
“I want to make sure that you are okay first before I hang up. Are you okay?”
“Well, I had just called to make sure you were okay and to talk about your mom. We haven’t talked at all about your mom. All we have talked about is us.”
“You sound shocked.”
“Good, be shocked and let me keep surprising you. I want this to work out. Do you?”
“More than anything in the world.”
“Great. I am going to hang up now, because that just might give me enough strength to make it through a very tough talk at my mom’s funeral.”
“When is it, the funeral, I mean?”
“Monday, morning. Can I call you after that and let you know what my plans are? I am not sure if I will go straight to Utah or come back there first. It depends on how long I can go without seeing you.”
“That’s fine. I need some time to think and to…”
“And to pray. Please pray for me. Especially that I don’t embarrass myself or my mother at her funeral.”
“Yes, John I’ll be praying for you and for us.”
“Then all will be well. Thank you.” I said finally taking time to breathe between my sentences.
“For what?” I loved that she was curious.
“For giving me a chance, thank you.”
“You’re welcome. It was good talking to you.”
“I’ll call you Monday evening after the funeral, okay?”
“Okay, good night, John.”
“Good night, Savannah. Dream about me.”
I hung up the phone. This was amazing. I didn’t understand why God was reaching down from the heavens to bless me a sinner.
I laid down on the bed and looked over at the picture of mom. There she was smiling at me. She was happy. She was really happy that I had come home and that I was getting the life she always wanted for me, the life I had been running from for the past decade or more. Maybe that is why God was blessing me, because of my mother, her faith, and because of her love?