The Beautiful Life & Perfect Death of Father Davidson: Chapter 17

Father Davidson walked through the orchard with bare feet; he had given his shoes to the man on the bench earlier in the day and didn’t have another pair. “Though it doesn’t seem to make any difference,” I thought to myself, as I watched him climb a ladder to harvest some apples; he worked and walked as though he were still wearing shoes. I wasn’t surprised by this observation, for even when he stepped squarely into a patch of nettles he didn’t flinch; I was beginning to understand that he lived unaffected by minor pains and annoyances that most people live preoccupied by—in the short time I’d known him he appeared to be coolly detached from mental turmoil, emotional entanglements as well as physical suffering. I was musing about the Father’s unique relationship with suffering, when one of the men who lived in the RV called to me and invited me into their home to have a beer. I happily accepted and sat down at the small table with the three occupants of the motorhome; they were a middle-aged woman, and two men—most likely a couple, with their young adult son.

“The Father is something different,” the elder of the two men began. “You’ll not meet many like that.” All of us nodded in agreement and chuckled.

“I was just watching him walk barefoot through a patch of nettles,” I responded.

“Trust me, there’s more to it than you imagine,” the younger man interjected. “I’m not saying I know what it is, but there is always more going on with him than just what you see. There’s some kind of poetry in his bare feet, I’ll promise you that.”

“Poetry? How do you mean?” I asked.

“There’s always multiple meanings with him, things happening on more than one level, like in a poem. There’s the obvious, just what is happening, or what is said—or written if it’s a poem—but then there’s the symbolic meaning, something else that is represented that goes beyond the obvious.”

“For instance…?” I inquired.

“Okay, so here’s one. A while back, we had just arrived here, the three of us. None of us had a job and we had run out of money. We were stressed, I’m not going to lie, and at each other’s throats. Right?” He looked at the other two, and they nodded in agreement. “We were arguing a lot between us, and driving each other crazy, on top of each other, in this tiny space. One afternoon my mom, sorry is it okay if I say it?” He glanced at the woman and she shrugged. “So one afternoon she lays into my dad, about getting a job, getting off his butt and doing something for us…it starts to get pretty heated.”

“And then all of a sudden we start hearing something up on the roof,” the older man interjected, “jumping around up there. I thought it was a bear or an eagle or something, really loud and big.”

“Made us shut our mouths right quick,” said the woman. “And we all stared up at the ceiling like what the heck is that?!”

The young man continued, “Yes, but don’t forget what you said right before that, mom. This is the part that’s poetic. Just before that, my mom tells my dad, ‘you gotta shake a leg and get out there’ and then…” he stops and laughs for a moment, “…’and, you can’t expect something is gonna just drop out of the sky from heaven for you’. That is exactly what she said, and then…that was right when the Father fell through the skylight, that one right there,” he pointed up at the small square plastic bubble in the ceiling. “Well it wasn’t that one—it was the old one—we had to get it repaired after he came through it, but it wasn’t all of him, just his right leg.” The three started laughing and I looked incredulously at them. “Yes, that’s right, just his leg, from heaven! And then the funniest part, he starts shaking it!”

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said the woman. “We were all stunned. I couldn’t remember what I was saying.”

“None of us could,” said the older man. “The Father stopped us right in our tracks, which was a good thing, before we said anything more we might have regretted.”

“But then he just pulls his leg back out and leaves,” continued the woman. “He didn’t say a thing. Didn’t say sorry. He never said anything about it. Why was he up there in the first place? And why did he start hoppin’ around up there? And he never offered to buy a new skylight. I got a little upset about that.”

“Yeah, but dad tell him what happened. This is also poetic!” cried the younger man.

“It was something. I took the broken skylight down to the hardware store to see about getting another one, and got to talking with the owner, and one thing leads to another, and before I leave he offers me a job! Part-time, but anything helps! I’ve been working there ever since.”

“Dropped right from heaven!” cried the young man triumphantly, as he leaned back in his seat. “That’s what I’m talking about!”

We all sat silently and drank our beers; occasionally, each of us looking up at the skylight and smiling, or shaking a head, or pondering some secret thought. Eventually, the cans were emptied, and we agreed it was about time to head down to the campfire to hear the Father continue his story.

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