The house is old and the floor creaks.
Since I was old enough to notice such things, I’ve not lived in any other kind of house. The sneaky kid I was at seven years of age learned where the noisy spots were. When one was stealthily slipping out at nap time, that information was key in avoiding detection by lightly sleeping parents.
In much the same way, the sneaky grown-up I am at nearly sixty years of age has learned where the noisy spots are in my current house, as well. That information is key in maneuvering through the downstairs rooms quietly when the Lovely Lady is sleeping upstairs. This is not so much because I want to escape detection, as it is that I don’t want to disturb her rest.
I have a suspicion that I am not any more successful at it in these later years than I was as a child. Still, an attempt must be made. If one is to wander the house late at night, it won’t do to have the other inhabitants lose sleep because of it.
In all my years of living in creaky old houses, I’ve never encountered a ghost. Oh, the floorboards pop on their own sometimes, and there are unexplained noises in the night. Somehow, I think we can eliminate ghosts from the causes there. No shimmering essence has ever brushed past me on the way down a hallway, and certainly, I’ve never heard the clank of chains.
But, in my head? That’s a different story. My head is rife with ghosts. Some of them are as kind and benevolent as one could wish. A few are not remotely like that—all screams and anger. Still others, I barely recognize—long forgotten memories from the dim past.
Tonight, I’m sneaking around on the creaky old floors in my head, in much the same way as I do in the house. It is an equally vain attempt at not awakening the ghosts who are usually resting there.
Somehow, being ill has that effect on my thoughts. Perhaps it’s the not-so-subtle reminders of my mortality—the lack of breath, the pain in my joints, the sleepless nights—that lead to the tiptoe walk though the past.
So I said to him——I said——that’ll never go through the door.
My grandfather died the year I graduated from high school, but still I hear his voice, telling another of his stories. Always—always, they were punctuated with spaces. They were spaces in which he caught his breath.
When he walked from the front porch to the kitchen, he always stopped at the desk behind his easy chair. Every time. Leaning with his big hands on the edge of the desktop, he breathed deep, his powerful chest muscles expelling the bad air and drawing in good.
As I tried to talk with the Lovely Lady today and gasped for air, mid-sentence, I heard his voice in my head. Then again, I walked from the den to front door and had to stop and lean on the buffet for a moment and I saw the old man standing there at the desk.
Experience tells me I will breathe freely again very soon. But, these moments, these brief seasons of walking through the old, creaky house remind me of folks who’ve gone before—people I have loved and who have loved me.
They remind me of other things, as well.
My grandfather, he of the interrupted sentences, was a storyteller. He loved a good story. More than that, he loved being surrounded by people who listened to the stories he told. The gaps for breathing, at first an annoyance to both the teller and the listener, soon became room for thought and reason for suspense. A good storyteller uses the tools with which he is provided.
Grandpa was a good storyteller. Health impediment or not, he was going to tell his stories.
The thing is, I’m a storyteller too. You might say, it’s in my blood. Kind of like the lung issues. You see, genetics plays a part in my pulmonary problems. From my grandfather to my son, the males in my family have experienced similar problems of varying degrees. Without a say in the inheritance, we have each passed down the frailty to the succeeding generation.
May I talk about the storytelling for a moment? I promise to be nearly succinct. (Scroll down the page to see if I’m being truthful—I’ll wait.) The reader will have to be the judge of whether the time is well spent.
Did you know our Creator commanded us to be storytellers? And, He expected us to pass the love of telling stories down through the generations? His instructions—oddly enough, passed through another storyteller—were clear.
Parents tell your children. Tell them in your home, as you’re hiking on a trail, and when you’re in the shopping centers. Through all the ages, tell them. Give them reason to believe and to trust in a God who provides and protects. (Deuteronomy 11:18-20)
The testimony of previous generations is a bridge over which we cross the raging floods of cultural deception and shifting doctrine. If we fail to provide those bridges for our children, our progeny will be washed away in the roiling currents and howling rapids.
Tell the stories! Use words that are accurate and attractive. Put them to music, rhyme the syllables, and give them rhythm. Paint them on a canvas, or carve them in stone.
Tell the stories!
The Lovely Lady—my favorite walking companion—and I wandered along an abandoned roadbed just a few days hence, as my current bout with my thorn in the flesh began. We had a goal in mind, a century-old bridge, now abandoned, but still standing. It has not carried traffic for a number of years.
A monument to the past, the framework stands. There is even a roadway across, but a few steps onto it and one soon realizes that it will never support the weight of a vehicle again.
A monument—nothing more.
Bridges are meant to be more than monuments. Properly maintained and kept, they smoothly move traffic from the place left behind to the destination. Abandoned, they serve no purpose, but rust and rot into the landscape, forcing the traveler to choose a different route or be carried away in the flood.
I will build bridges.
With my last breath, I will tell the stories.
As my companion and I wandered, almost sadly, away from the beautiful old span, I realized that my faulty lungs would make the half-mile trek back to the road difficult and wondered about the wisdom of making the trip.
I needn’t have worried. Companions are made to help each other on the road.
We don’t walk the road alone—don’t build the bridges alone—don’t cross them alone.
Surrounded by a great cloud of storytellers, we press on.
To our last breath.
Tell the Story.
Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit!
(Hebrews 12:1,2 ~ The Message)
For in Calormen, story-telling (whether the stories are true or made up) is a thing you’re taught, just as English boys and girls are taught essay-writing. The difference is that people want to hear the stories, whereas I never heard of anyone who wanted to read the essays.
(from A Horse and His Boy ~ C.S. Lewis ~ English author ~ 1898-1963)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.