Built in the 1950s, the curved streets of Danny's childhood neighborhood sat adjacent to Centennial Race Track in Littleton, Colorado.
It is now a mature neighborhood, those gleaming brand new homes showing their years, the saplings planted with so much hope now fulfilling that long ago promise, a canopy shading nearly the entire length of the street. The horse track and drive in theater are long gone, replaced by strip malls, fast food restaurants and a senior housing complex that looks like a high-end prison to me. The bowling alley where Danny and I first met, and first kissed, is still there.
In 1968, it was still a young neighborhood, with countryside to the south and west, and a new junior high school at the top of the hill. Danny was among the first students to attend Goddard Junior High, now Goddard Middle School, named for Dr. Robert Goddard, a rocket scientist. (Rocket science was part and parcel of that era and that region, with Martin Marietta employing many Littleton residents, including my mother-in-law.)
Danny's dad, Archie, was a long distance truck driver, contracted to Bekins Van Lines. He was gone weeks at a time, seldom making it home for family birthdays and the like, but he was always the life of the party at Christmas and the Fourth of July. When Danny introduced me around the neighborhood in 1971, the neighbors were still extolling Archie's party persona.
Because Archie was so often over the road, Danny grew up waiting for him to come home. And, although the neighborhood remained young in 1968, Danny didn't. The death of his father in August of that year changed everything and he learned in an instant that waiting was not the hardest thing he would ever do.
Prior to that day, when Goddard Junior High opened its doors at day's end, Danny would race all the way down the hill, across Lowell, and over to Aksarben. His step never faltering, he continued his downhill run until he rounded the slight bend that blocked the view of his house, third up from the corner. He made that run every day, hoping against hope to see his dad's Kenworth parked somewhere close to the house. If it wasn't there, he would slow to a walk. On the rare occasions when the truck was where he daily hoped it would be, he sprinted the rest of the way down the block, another long wait over.
When Danny returned to school in the fall of 1968, he found himself plagued by a recurring "daymare" -- a self-inflicted deception. Maybe, just maybe, he would think, the cops were wrong and his dad was just on an exceptionally long run and would soon be home. He would nurture that thought through the long school day, no longer running down the hill toward home, but still hoping to see that signature green behemoth parked at the foot of the hill. Danny knew how to wait. He didn't know how to say good bye. He learned that bitter lesson, seasoned with disappointment that year. He also learned the deep and lasting damage that comes from living with a lie, even a beautiful, comforting, idyllic lie.
I well remember waiting for Danny after Lisa's premature birth. He had returned to his job in the high country after making sure she and I had everything we needed. As low man on the totem pole, he had drawn weekend duty and so had been gone 10 days, an eternity to me. I was busy every day, being shuttled back and forth to the hospital several times each day, our infant daughter thriving but still in the hospital. On the day of his expected return I started waiting way too early, entertaining the fantasy that they would let the crew off early, that the 200+ mile commute would take less time than it typically did, that traffic would, for once, cooperate. None of that happened. In fact events conspired to make Danny much, much later than he should have been and although I was simply relieved to see him standing in the doorway, his mother was livid.
"I have never seen anyone wait for anything harder than your wife has waited for you!" she yelled. I obviously lacked the waiting experience Danny's family had, with practice, polished to a high gloss.
It seems we're all waiting for something.
Some, time having taken a high physical toll, are simply waiting to die.
Some, victims of an insidious form of widowhood, better known as no-fault divorce, are waiting to be loved.
Some, victims of the economy, are waiting to feel needed again.
Some are waiting for Mr. Right or Ms. Wonderful to walk through the door and change their lives.
And, some wait for a secret rescue, counting on the promised change "in the twinkling of an eye," to come before its time.
Those who live, waiting only to die, are wasting precious time, polishing the wait to a high sheen, while relationships remain untended, hearts remain estranged and love remains unspoken.
Victims of modern-day widowhood, brought about not by death, but by abandonment, are loved already and ever have been. Their wait is over, if they've eyes willing to see and ears willing to hear.
Mr. Right and Ms. Wonderful are the stuff of fantasy. Even if you think you've found them, once you round that last corner, their shortcomings come into full view. We are all, after all, shaped from the same broken mold.
As society continues to decline into chaos, as retirement accounts empty, as bank accounts dwindle, as food prices soar and life becomes more and more difficult every day, confidence in a secret rescue fades. Waiting for that secret rescue, that beautiful, comfortable idyllic lie, some have neglected to polish their faith to a high gloss. Instead, now they advise believers to stockpile foodstuffs, to buy silver and gold, to prepare for the trials ahead. Forgotten is the promise "Therefore, do not worry about what you will eat..." Forgotten is the admonition, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth..." as they seek to keep the dream of a secret rescue alive. Do not be deceived. His return is a promise to believe. "For as the lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." Matthew tells us in 24:27.
While we wait for this very visible -- anything but secret -- event, we are to be about our Father's business. While we wait for this sign, we are called to seize the opportunities found in each day to demonstrate a highly polished faith, giving away each day's earthly treasure, trusting each day's need to the one who is called both "Faithful" and "True."
"It will be good for that servant, whose master finds him doing so when he returns." Matthew 24:46 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.