(Have a seat, this is a longer one 🙂 )
It was Michael who saved him.
Nine years ago his beautiful wife of 35 years passed along with his only son in a terrible car accident. It had been the worst time of his life, all he wanted was to be with his wife. Fortunately, it was Michael, who was then 1 year old, who gave him a reason to wake everyday. It was the love of this little boy that brought him back to life again. Over the past 10 years they had become the best of friends. There was nothing more Ben wanted in life but to protect Michael. He would do everything in his power to ensure this little boy was happy every day of his life, For that reason on this day his heart was breaking for this little boy. Ben sat quietly watching and listening to this little boy who is sitting on a kitchen stool, twisting his little hands knots, tears cascading down his pink cheeks. They could always talk about anything, yet today Michael seemed too embarrassed to even look him in the eye.
“They make fun of me” he cried “No one likes me, no one wants to be my friend”
Ben searched his mind for the right words, none came
“They push me and punch me, when I walk to school, I don’t ever want to go back, I want to run away”
Ben rushed over to take his grandson in his arms, “It’s ok, I promise. You are such a special boy, there is so much I have to tell you”
Before he realized what he was saying, it was out.
Since Michael’s fathers passing, Ben had put a portion of himself aside, almost as if it had died with his son and his wife 9 years ago. Now he found himself struggling both excited & scared to share the stories of his family with this little boy. Stories of the gifts he had hidden away as if he were trying to forget who he really was. It almost worked. Michael had no idea what an extraordinary line of men he comes from. Should the stores be shared? Was it better to let the stories die with him? He decided that it would be unfair to keep secrets from this precious boy who unknowingly gave Ben strength when he had none left. He wanted Michael to know how strong and powerful he really is.
Ben looked down at Michael, lifting his chin “Would you like to hear a story?”
Those words seemed to magically wipe away the tears “Okay, yes” the little boy answered.
Ben sat back on his chair, arms crossed looking off into the distance and began.
“When I was a little boy, I loved being in the woods. I would spend all day discovering new places, walking further and further investigating more and more. My parents would warn me about going too far but at that age I believed that nothing could harm me. One day I found myself in the most beautiful part of the woods I had ever seen. Although it was bright and sunny outside, in this part of the woods it seemed like night. After awhile my stomach began to tell me that it was soon to be dinner time, which meant it was time to head home. I trekked over mossy rocks, up and down hills covered with old leaves and before I knew it, I was lost. I wandered in circles for hours before I sat against a huge oak tree and just cried. I thought for sure no one would ever find me. How would they? No one knew where I was going! Soon I heard the rustling of leaves underneath soft footsteps. I thought for sure a bear, a wolf or maybe the boogie man was coming for me. I tried to hide myself in the shadow of a huge oak tree as the footsteps got closer and the sound of the crunching leaves grew louder. Before I knew it, the biggest most beautiful buck I had ever seen walked around the tree and looked at me head on. He seemed to stand at least 9 feet tall with a massive set of antlers.
I put my head down, closed my eyes and covered my head, I was sure this huge animal was going to kill me. Then I heard “Benjamin, pick your head up boy”. My head shot up from under my arms to see my father standing before me where the giant deer once stood.
I jumped up and ran into his arms and looked around frantically, sure that this animal would be charging us soon. I tried to tell my father about what I saw but he just hushed me and took my hand. We walked home through the woods in silence.
Later that night my father took me outside and told me how worried he was about me. I promised him that I would never run out like that again. I couldn’t wait to tell him about the giant deer I saw and how big his antlers were, how I thought he was going to trample me and how my father must have scared him away. He just looked at me and smiled “He didn’t run away, I didn’t scare him away”
“Then where did he go” I asked “Did you see him”
“Of course I saw him, I was him”
I laughed and looked at my father, waiting for him to finishing joking with me
“It is true son, you are of him too, as is your Grandfather and all of the other men in this family. You see it is a gift we were given many years ago. Many more years ago then you can count, it’s one you will continue to pass on to your sons should you have any”
“Dad, I’m not a deer, I’m just a boy” I giggled as if an invisible person was tickling me. My father had never been so funny before
“Would you like to see that giant deer again?”
All of my laughter stopped, and I just nodded my head, still half expecting my father to reveal his joke and half terrified this animal would show up again and kill me
He sat back in his rocking chair, rocking back and forth, back and forth
“Look there” he points to the break in the woods by our yard
I look over and from out of the woods I see the giant buck slowly walking through the woods towards us.
“Dad, there he is!! My eyes shot over to the rocking chair, now empty but still rocking “Dad? Dad!? Where are you?”
The massive animal arrived again, gliding from the side of our home.
“You see son, When you were lost in the woods, I was able to get to you quickly. I could run faster, hear better, see father because we are able to travel as our brothers the deer. Your Grandfather taught me, and I will teach you. It is our gift”
Ben’s far off gaze lifted and his eyes focused once again on Michael who was sitting wide eyed and fully engaged in this story of the giant buck.
“Grandpa, was that story really about you? Was your Grandpa a big deer”
“Yes Michael, that was my father, he taught me about all of our gift”
“Do I have a special gift too?” he asked
“Of course you do, just like your father did and just like I do.” He said “When you become 16 years old you will be able to learn how to use your gifts, I will teach you just like I taught your Father”
As if the air had been let out of his balloon, he asks “Why do I have wait until then? I want to do it now”
“Well Michael, there is lots more to learn before you’re able to do those things, there are stories you need to hear, experiences you need to have and before you know it, you’ll be 16. You trust me don’t you?”
“Yes, you’re my best friend and my Grandpa!” the little boy beamed
“Great, then we’ll have quite the adventure! Would you like to see that giant buck one day? Ben asked
“Ohhh yes!! I hope I see him soon” Michael replied
“Look! Look there Michael” Ben pointed to the window. Michael’s eyes followed. Out in the front lawn the biggest deer he had ever seen stood, looking through the window right at Michael.
Michael turned back looking for his grandfather, only to find he was not there. Michael squealed with excitement and ran out to the front porch, just in time to catch the giant creature leaping off into the woods. Just as he did, Michael’s eyes landed on the figure walking out of the same clearing in the woods, it was his grandfather. Michael jumped off the porch and ran over to his grandfather and hugged him
“That was so cool! I can’t wait to learn to do that”
“In time my boy, for now just know that no matter what happens, I’m always here and if you need me”
From that day on Michael’s confidence grew and eventually the teasing began to taper off. It was as if his new found confidence was a repellent for the attacks. He even began to make friends. Although the teasing had stopped every now and then when walking to school, the rustling of leaves in the woods would draw his attention. At those times he would catch glimpses of a regal stag walking slowly through the trees. His grandfather keeping a watchful eye on him. Sometimes he wouldn’t notice he was there at all.
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Feature Photo taken by Philip Male – https://flic.kr/p/dtKxva