I love crib because my dad taught me how to play. We don’t play every time I visit, but I feel guilty anytime we don’t. When I’m in my hometown, my internal clock tells me that 7 p.m. belongs to the family table, my dad, and a game of crib.
I sleep in my mom’s room when I visit. Often, I wake up as my mom hops out of bed to run down the hallway where my dad is yelling for help. My internal clock doesn’t know the time, and I cannot see the one on the nightstand. Is it the middle of the night? Or has morning come?
Sometimes my mom lays back in her bed only a minute later. Sometimes it’s twenty. Sometimes it’s longer.
My dad is years and years into a degenerative disease. I often find myself wondering about where Jesus is in all of my dad’s pain, where he is in all the ways his condition affects those he loves. Where in the room Jesus would sit? Would he rub my mom’s back as she pulls my dad’s compression stockings off? Would he paint over all the scuff marks the wheelchair made on the walls? Would he join us as we play yet another round of crib?
When the sky is clear, my mom takes my dad out for a car ride to see the mountains. Without fail, he calls my sister across the country to give a Mt. Baker report. I think Jesus would come for the ride and enjoy the update. Maybe he would sneak another bag of candy into my dad’s desk. I wonder if he would sit with me as I contemplate the years to come, the hypothetical losses all lined up in front of me. Would he nod in agreement when I say that I do not love being this many years into a grief with no end?
Pain is a terrible thing. I believe that the Lord hates pain, yet he met it when he left heaven. Jesus met pain the first time he scraped his knee on broken earth. Jesus met pain as the whip broke his flesh. But he didn’t stop with just meeting pain. They were not mere acquaintances. Jesus greeted pain, he welcomed pain, so that someday he could greet each of us and wipe the tears from our eyes.
When I look at Jesus, I see a man who saw no one as a stranger. Every woman and man he encountered knew pain. And as Jesus saw no foreigner, he saw no reason to withhold. He lingered with children. He lingered after meals ended. He lingered in prayer.
The woman at the well was scared to be known. The man healed from leprosy was scared of being forgotten. The bleeding woman needed to be close to the one who knew what to do. Jesus lingered with each of them.
As a teacher, when my students show me their work, I pore over it for as long as I can. When I’m leading worship on a Sunday, as the song builds I linger over the words in my heart, pondering and praying. I look the bus driver in the eye and holler “thank you” as I hop off at my stop. I want to linger longer—at my parents’ house, in the classroom, at the bus stop.
I try to be like Jesus by lingering, by learning names.
At soccer practice as a kid, my dad would run laps with us. Nobody could be behind him. He knew all the kids on the team. He drove the ones who needed a ride. He paid for ice cream if anybody hadn’t brought money.
In all of our team photos, my dad looks proud. I miss that look, that posture. I haven’t seen him stand straight in a few years now. Once, when he was my baseball coach, my teammate got a bloody nose. My dad pulled his white hankie out of his back pocket and stopped the bleeding. He knelt to the kid’s level and wiped the pain away.
I try to be like my dad by lingering, by noticing, by standing tall and bending low.
Jesus lingered with people he healed. I wonder sometimes if he stayed with the woman who had been bleeding because he wanted to communicate to her that he saw not only the injustice of how she’d been cast aside in society, how doctors had likely not listened to her, how men would have seen her as worthless. Did he, I wonder, stay a moment with her to acknowledge the injustice of pain?
A couple days a week, men come and play crib with my dad. Some of them have known him since well before he held a hankie to my childhood teammate’s nose. Some of them have Parkinson’s Disease, just like my dad. Some of them simply have a compassionate heart for a man whose world dwells largely at home. Each of them demonstrates the power of mundane love, of faithful friendship. They linger, refusing to be strangers, just like my dad does.
These days, my dad has to use a cardholder even though he doesn’t want to. He reckons the concession is worth it, though, because the game still offers him community. The game casts an anchor deep into hope.
Someday in glory, I think Jesus might play crib with my dad, no cardholders in sight. If I had to guess, I’d say my dad might win. I know they’ll linger at the table long after the last round. I hope they’ll let me play.
Cover photo by Jack Hamilton.