17 November 2008

Daddy and The Merbabies

Mama-san got a book from the library for Trinh called The Merbaby. I love it.


Briefly, here's the story: a young man dreams of being captain of his own sailing ship, but he's stuck on a fishing boat with his greedy, workaholic brother. He loves the sea but doesn't really enjoy fishing. One day they wander into mermaid territory, and he only narrowly saves their ship from being lured into the rocks by the mermaid's song. The next day, he finds a merbaby in the net with the fish they've caught.

He thinks about putting her back into the sea, but he sees sharks circling. His brother is keen to keep her; they'll turn her into a freak show and get rich. The young man can't sleep that night. Finally, he resolves to take her back to her family, dangerous though it might be to approach the merfolk.

The merpeople are stunned -- they never thought a land-person would be so kind. They lavish him with riches from sunken ships and declare him a friend of the merfolk forevermore.

So much the tale. But I've left out the parts that really get to me: when he plucks the baby from the net, she puts her tiny hand to his cheek; he feels her small arms cling to his neck; her little fingers wrap around his pinky; he gives her a gentle kiss before handing her back to her mother.

I read this story to Trinhity again tonight at bedtime, and it finally hit me why it hits home for me: it's my story.

See, I spent most of my life as a fisherman. The fishing part was fine and good, but I've loved its context most: the water, the trees, the slippery stones, the feel of a well-loaded fly rod, the stories, the music of rivers. It's really not about fishing. It's about the pursuit of present grace.

My daughter was born into the water. I scooped her up and put her to her mother's breast. A pair of tiny hands had entered my life. Sometimes they press against my cheeks, and the little arms encircle my neck. I never tire of those hands, the arms, her eyes, that smile. They are an expression of grace.

Of course, putting her back was never a real consideration, and the crass brother doesn't appear in my story. The mermaid's song does, however: I have heard it, and my hands are upon the oars.

This is where my tale diverges: rather than resolving merely to take the child home, I seem determined to discover her world for myself. This was not my choice.

No, it was destiny -- and it was marriage, not parenthood, that established my path. My beloved wife held keys to a door that I never knew existed; she knew the way, and she guided me gently. For this I shall be ever grateful.

I know not how to confess the depth of these joys -- and my debt -- in her language. I wonder if she knows. She must. But she may not.

The wisdom of her soul and those tiny hands have led me into childhood: my own childhood, in a sense both real and terribly ironic. I have tumbled into the waters and become lost.

This year a second pair of tiny hands entered my life. If anything, these hands reach even more deeply inside of me. Sometimes I see in them my own. Sometimes this scares me. And yet, my own hands remain on the oars. I want to go where these hands will lead.

Again, I wonder if my beloved wife knows of these things. She must. But she may not.

These years of fishing have, in a mysterious way, brought me to a certain present grace. It is not quiet, restful or poetic. It is chaotic, a tearing asunder, a pathos-filled stretch between wretched extremes of emotional and physical work and weariness.

A sad chasm has opened. I reach across, but my arms do not seem long enough. I grieve.

We stand not in the same river into which we stepped. And yet the water flows, a soft music reminding me that this too shall pass. And that this too, even this, is grace.

My hands are at the oars. I shall pull for all I am worth. Always and forever.

1 comment:

Janine Evans said...

oh, Brian....
so lovely.
thank you for sharing your thoughts.