A few weeks ago, I reviewed Margaret Harrell Wills' amazing book, Pressing Into Thin Places. After that post, she graciously agreed to write a guest post for Jacob's Café. The first of the two part guest post is below.
I first met Jimmy on a Sunday afternoon. He sat across from me at my sister Betsy’s dining room table. Betsy had invited him to join our family for after church dinner. Jimmy is an intellectually challenged, middle aged man. He was a healthy three-year-old little boy until Rhyes Syndrome took him a hair’s breadth from death and left him with a life of mental impairment, severe headaches and seizures.
Jimmy wore nice dress pants, a sport coat, a white shirt and a blue clip-on tie. The tie had a few small spots on it from other dinners. Onto the tie Jimmy had a prized possession; a rather large Noah’s ark tie pin. He was proud of the pin which he pointed to and mentioned several times.
Jimmy was not bad looking. In fact, just seeing him, you might have thought he looked like, business man (minus the spots on his tie). But when Jimmy talked, you knew. You knew he was different. His speech was halting and slow. It sometimes seemed he had to push his words out with a bit of added effort.
Jimmy could carry on a limited conversation and sometimes he talked about God. It was reported that Jimmy once went to a Christian music concert and the whole time had his hands raised in the air, singing and swaying to the songs as they were sung. He also once took notes in church while the preacher was talking and ended up with something that had nothing to do with the sermon. He did manage to write down the word Holy Spirit. He insisted on showing his notes to the preacher after the service.
Jimmy had a naive innocence and purity about him, a sense that the world was good and fair because he was. One time Jimmy said he was going to plant apple trees in his front yard. His friend asked him what he was going to do if people came and stole the apples from his tree. He thought a moment like he could not grasp the concept of someone stealing. Then he said he would put a sign out that said, “Share.”
At the table that day he fretted about the fat that was on the meat he was eating. He poked at it saying he didn’t eat fat because his mother told him it was bad for him. He informed us he could recognize fat by just looking at it. He was noticing fat. Once he spotted some, he took great effort in whittling the fat away from the meat. Our conversation lingered for a while on the fat on the meat and the fact that he could make spaghetti all by himself. He said he made good spaghetti. He emphasized and drew out the word the g-o-o-d.
Suddenly, out of the blue, Jimmy, in his slow deliberate way, made a pained statement. With a raised voice he blurted out, “I need a girl. “You want a girl?” my sister Betsy said. ”Yes, I want a girl real bad,” Jimmy replied. He then said that he had a girl once. “You had a girlfriend?” I asked. “Yeah,” Jimmy responded and then, in his halting speech, he said, “I had a girl once and she died. We asked Jimmy what happened to her. He got a grieved look on his face, his eyes narrowed and his forehead began to collect deep furrows. “I don’t know,” he said, “She just got sick and then she died real fast. I loved her. I loved her whole lot.” Jimmy said as he dragged out the words whole lot.
Jimmy then began to tell us in his slow cadence about his love for the girl. “I gave her a necklace, I gave her flowers, I gave her a ring. I really loved her. I was going to marry her. The word marry lingered long on his lips. “You don’t give a ring and flowers to a girl unless you really love her,” Jimmy said in a reflective voice. “She died,” Jimmy said again. “Do you have a picture of her?” Betsy asked. Jimmy said he had a picture of her on his dresser at home but he was saving her in his mind.
I wanted to leave the table, or just put my head down and cry for Jimmy, and his grief that had traveled over the miles of time and stayed, stayed in this gentle man, like a disturbing dream that lingers in the early morning.
Jimmy suddenly announced he had a bad headache. We asked him if he wanted some Tylenol but he couldn’t decide. Then we asked him if he wanted to lie down. “Yes, Jimmy said, “I want to lie down on a bed.” We found a bed and Jimmy went to be by himself. I wondered if he slept and if, in his sleep, he forgot about his memory of grief. Or perhaps he lay down and dreamed of the girl he loved; the girl he gifted with a necklace, a ring, and some flowers. A man needs a woman. God knows that. Jimmy needs a girl. He has a ring and some flowers and a heart to give to a girl who is waiting for a boy to really love her.