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Chris Fabry
Married to Andrea since 1982. We have 9 children together and none apart. Our dog's name is Tebow.
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Where We Are Now

After finding and remediating mold twice in our Colorado home, we abandoned ship in October 2008. Because of the high levels of exposure, our entire family was affected. After months of seeing different specialists for all of the problems, we came to Arizona to begin comprehensive treatment to rid our bodies of the toxic buildup. In August 2009 we moved into a larger home, four bedrooms, south of Tucson, north of Mexico. I am doing my daily radio program/ writing from that location. Thanks for praying for us. We really feel it.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013
I wish I had a picture of him walking away. I’ll try to describe it.

I remember when he was little, he’d walk away, at varying speeds, in order to retrieve something.

“Reagan, stop.”

He’d keep going for the car or truck or plane or whatever was outside in the grass and I wouldn’t mind. I knew in his little cranium he couldn’t process all the “stop” signals I gave with all the “go” signals passing through the synapses.

“You need to obey me,” I would say. “There will come a day when I’ll tell you to stop and it will be really important. Do you understand?”

“Yeth.”

Today he walked away. And this time it wasn’t over a toy car, but a real one. Reagan is 17, not three. He’s 6 foot tall. I know that because it says it on his driver’s permit. I asked this morning if he wanted to go for his test and he grinned like the Cheshire Cat.

He drove, obeying the speed limit, and we got there just before the DMV opened. He practiced his 3-point turn. There was a long line of people waiting in front of us, but within half an hour he was in the car and I was watching the last 17 years melt in a right hand turn. Wheels spinning, asphalt running beneath him like summer fields.

I sat inside a little room at a student desk and read the 13th chapter of Proverbs and made some notes on a story. But I couldn’t concentrate. All those years gone like a flash.

And I went back further, much further, to my own driver’s test. I failed. My dad wasn’t there. Neither was my mom. I went with Mr. Lambert, our driving instructor at the high school, along with a few others from class. He said if we all passed he would take us Wendy’s and buy us dinner. Thank God for Floyd Persinger. Floyd and I were part of the “Epic Fail Drivers Club” that day, and I was glad to have company.

(This is from memory, and after 30+ years things get fuzzy, so if Floyd was not there or if you passed, Floyd, I apologize.)

Dawn Lewis and I were in the car when the State Trooper came out. Dawn sat in the backseat of the car that drove like a tank (I’m sorry, what were you thinking Mr. Lambert?), and watched as I nervously pulled toward the intersection that would lead me up Mt. Failure.

It was a gray, overcast day as I recall. The trees bare. Everything muted in a sepia tone. Or maybe that’s just my memory. For Dawn it was probably Spring and the sun was out and birds filled the trees.

Across the road was a brick building that people said was the state mental hospital. To this day, I don’t know if that was true, but what happened next, right there at that intersection, has stayed with me like a bad country song.

An older woman in a heavy coat stood, bow-legged, waiting to cross the street. I think she was carrying something, a bag, perhaps, or a cane. I’ve blocked that part out.

“Just stay right here,” the officer said. She sounded annoyed, like I was a stain. Like I was single-handedly keeping her from something she needed to do. Perhaps she had an abusive husband. Maybe she had a sick child and couldn’t concentrate. Maybe that was her mother crossing the street, I don’t know. All I know is we sat there, the three of us, in silence. And waited. Like eternity shuffling across the two lane blacktop. Have you ever heard a State Trooper breathe? I have. I think her stomach growled, too. Perhaps that was why she was mean to me, she was just hungry.

Then the old woman stopped, in the middle of the road. Just stopped, I swear she did. And because I was an observant child, I noticed something about her leggings. Her stockings. They were rolled down, bunched onto her ankles. And her stance seemed familiar. It was something I had seen on the farm, a dog, a cow, I can’t recall, but what happened next shocked me. I shouldn’t have been surprised because, looking back, it was inevitable.

She peed in the middle of the road.

Not just a little bit, this was prodigious. And the water cascaded down the slope and I sat with mouth agape at the horror. Abject humiliation. I turned to the officer. She stared straight ahead and put her hand out, urging me again to wait. Keep the foot on the brake.

I looked in the rearview at Dawn. Her hand was over her mouth. But not a word.

I looked back at the road and the old woman had begun to move again, hobbling along, water rolling down the double yellow.

When she was safely on the other side, the officer motioned me to proceed. As if nothing had happened. As if this was something you could expect in life. No big deal, move ahead. Nothing happened here, move along.

I should have put the car in Park right then and turned to her. “Can you help me process that? Can you help me understand? The woman should have been mortified. She just peed in the middle of the road. But there was no reaction from her. None at all. But even worse, you’re not reacting. You’re acting like this never happened. Please use your words. Tell me how to look at life when an old woman loosens her bladder in public.”

All my life I have wanted to put the car in Park and ask for an explanation. Ask for some clarification of where I really was, what was happening, to make sense of the events I’ve seen, but everyone seems to stare straight ahead or give a flick of the wrist to say, “Move along. Nothing happening here.”

I drove up the hill and parallel parked by a barn with two barrels in front of it. I think I did. My heart was beating out my chest wondering what horrors might await when we returned to the parking lot. How do you overcome something like that? Pulling out of the sharply angled drive, I managed to steer the USS Titanic so far into the other lane that I quickly realized how dangerous the situation was. With lightning quick reflexes, I snapped the car in Reverse, backed up, then safely made a much more judicious turn and drove the two ladies back to the police department, a feeling of cold chivalry running down my spine.

Dawn got in the driver’s seat and drove straight up the hill and back like she’d done this her whole life. When the officer led us inside she informed us that Dawn had passed and I had failed, with not much more emotion than the wave of her hand.

“You can’t back up in a roadway.” Or something like that.

“What happened, Fabry?” Mr. Lambert said when he heard the news.

I had no idea. The whole day had that hazy, vague, dream-like quality to it, like I would wake up and it would all be over. But as we passed Wendy’s and I heard the groan of the others in the car, I knew it was real. Floyd and I both did. We would have gladly sat in the car and watched the others eat through the rain-soaked windshield, water like tears running down.

The door opened behind me and there he was, all 6 feet of him, walking into the DMV, his sunglasses in hand. I gathered my things and followed, but he was moving quickly, looking around the room.

“Reagan, stop!” I wanted to yell. But I didn’t want to embarrass him. He’d passed the photo counter where he’d get his license. Or maybe he didn’t pass.

He moved toward the front desk and closer to a room full of chairs, full of people needing a registration or a new license plate. And it wasn’t until then that I realized what was happening.

He wasn't moving through the building looking for the next station.

He was looking for me. And it wasn't the stride of a fallen warrior, it was the gait of a returning conqueror. The stride of love.

I stopped and waited and he finally turned around. I waved my red hat and he saw me and smiled. Bigger than the Cheshire Cat. He put both thumbs up.

“Way to go,” I said, slapping him on the shoulder. It was a manly slap, full of pride and hope and love.

I wish I had a picture of us walking away.

7 comments:

Wood chips from the wood pile said...

love it! Congrats to you son:) Still visualizing the part in your story about the old woman and the poor teenagers that watched it happen....oh my!

Kathryn said...

Beautifully told.

And I'm smiling...because I failed...twice! The first time something to do with a solid white line (at a stop sign in a rural residential neighborhood - sneaky). The second time I think I put the trooper in fear for his life...something about pulling out in front of a speeding car. :\ I'm happy to say I've not caused any accidents in the 40+ years since. :)

Pam said...

I loved this story...both the past and the present. :)

Anonymous said...

What a great story! Brought back so many memories. I love the way you write...you had me to the end!

Anonymous said...

I know how you feel, and wish I had the camera on so many things. One of our quadruplets got the first license last week, and one went on the first mission trip this week. It all goes by in a blur, and I close my eyes to try to remember it all.

karenwatson@Tyndale.com said...

How did I miss this one? Only you would have such a thing to happen to him.

Sarah said...

Wow! Just Wow!