I woke up a couple weeks ago to a text message from my sister describing that a large branch had broken off one of our trees. The branch, while falling, happened to strike our new vinyl fence, destroying one section of the fence. Although not happy with what had happened and the money it would cost for repairs, I decided to take it in stride. I promptly picked up my phone, got on my social media site and like seemingly everyone else does now days, posted about the incident. Instead of being negative I shrugged the start to my morning off and decided to turn a negative into a positive and joked bout how it was going to be an awesome day and how thankful I was for the blessings I receive daily.
The next couple weeks were filled with clean up, ordering supplies, and awaiting the faithful Fedex driver who would be bringing my new fence panels. Upon their arrival and as everything else fell into place I set the date that I would try my hand at repairing a fence. Becoming somewhat of a handyman, my wife has become accustomed to my fixing things around the house rather than paying someone to do it. Whether this newly acquired skill set is a blessing or something entirely different is yet to be determined.
Hearing that I was going to be working on the property, my youngest daughter decided she was going to accompany me to assist. Her tagging along has become a norm and to be honest a bright spot for me as I approach the challenges of building maintenance. Additionally, her presence helps remind good ol’ dad of the importance of watching my tongue while struggling to complete projects given the stressors only a handyman dad can understand.
As we began the process of preparing materials, I noticed my child doing her best to help lift a box of fence panels. As I thanked her, my attention was drawn away from ensuring I didn’t trip over the uneven footing, to her location behind me. Then she quietly said, “Dad, check this out.” As I looked, she directed me to a tiny, baby lizard which had taken up residence on top of the box I was carrying. As we watched the terrified creature I did what dads do best and recommended that she find a container to house her new friend. With zero hesitation the child bolted out of sight, quickly to return holding a mason jar. The next several hours consisted of dad working on the fence and Riyann helping while taking routine breaks to check the welfare of her new friend, Bonzo the lizard.
The child worked hard at making her new friend comfortable, ensuring that it had food and water and everything a lizard needed to survive like a king or queen. Research using Siri was a norm as I heard the child ask her iPad everything from what Bonzo liked to eat, drink, and the best time for him to nest in his new home. Seeing the joy in the eyes of my child while playing with her new friend was refreshing. Later, my lovely child and I would discuss survival and fairness to wild creatures. The discussion led to my daughter somberly walking into a wooded area and releasing her new friend. A short time later I watched as my child sat in the drivers side of my vehicle. As I opened the door I could see tears in her eyes as she thought about her lost friend.
As I thought about my child and her pain over doing the right thing by releasing her new friend, the realization came to me that friends come and go from our lives routinely and we so often are left hurting by their departure. Although we know that they are in a better place and that conditions are many times much more aligned for their success, our struggle is not lessened. The hurt we feel is real. We must remind ourselves that our loss is in fact not final. For the memories of our friends and the times we have shared remain. It is through those same memories that we can find the courage to care again, love again, and reach out again, building new friendships along the way.
Richard J. Stephens lives in Carter County and is the father of three little ladies ranging in age from nine to 29.