I couldn’t stay in the house one second more.
It was late Saturday afternoon and I was losing my mind.
I had spent a good part of the day either at the bank or in front of my computer as I prepared for my upcoming vacation and I still hadn’t knocked off several important items on my to-do list.
I was angry at myself for blowing two hours on a Netflix detour and for failing to make plans for the day or evening—but the weather report said it was going to rain all day and I figured this would be a great time to get my chores out of the way.
Then my computer starting slowing down and my blood pressure starting climbing and, once again, I found an excuse to get angry over nothing.
When the sun finally came out at around 5pm, I grabbed a book, bolted out of the door, and made for nearby Shore Road Park where I could read, relax and rejuvenate.
And that’s when I met Jacob.
He was nine-years old and he walked right up to me, giggling and clutching a plastic ray gun. His father was right behind him and we both watched Jacob pick up a piece of cardboard that someone had left on the bench.
“Hey, buddy, how’s it going?” I asked and Jacob just giggled some more. “What’s your name?”
“His name is Jacob,” his father told me. “He’s non-verbal.”
Jacob’s dad, Carl, was accompanied by his wife and Jacob’s younger sister, who was about 5 years old and very interested in a butterfly that was flittering around the nearby bushes.
Usually this is when I start internally whining that I just want to be left alone, but this time I felt I really should put aside my anti-social tendencies and talk with these people.
That piece of cardboard could be folded into a bank and Carl began putting it together while Jacob laughed and tried to snatch it away from him.
Carl told me that he had moved to Shore Road a few years ago, that his family was Norwegian and we talked about how his people once ruled Bay Ridge.
Is This Seat Taken?
“We still have the Norwegian Day Parade every May,” I said. “It was a big deal when I was a kid. The mayor used to come and give a speech.”
“Yeah,” Carl said, “but it’s much smaller now.”
Carl told me he was 56 years old, apparently thinking I’d be shocked, but then I told him that I’d just turned 60 in May.
By now Carl had finished the cardboard bank and he handed it to his son, who began tossing it at my head. Carl was trying to get him to stop, but I assured him I didn’t mind—and I really didn’t.
As they walked away, Carl nodded to me.
“Thank you for your patience,” he said.
Patience? In my six decades of existence no one, and I mean absolutely no one has ever thanked me for my patience. I thought of that grouchy nitwit who was cursing at his computer just a short time ago.
And I thought of Carl and his wife, the kind of patience these people must have to handle Jacob—from the very second they open their eyes in the morning they have to watch him to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself.
They’re not a young couple—this could be a second family for both of them—so it looks like they’ll be taking care of Jacob for as long as they live.
I’m trying to actually learn something from this experience about life, devotion, and yes, patience, instead doing my usual routine of bashing myself in a coma with a guilt-studded club, which doesn’t do anybody a damn bit of good.
I didn’t get much reading done on Saturday, but that family had given me a story I will never forget.