During our monthly review day I learned that his father was dieing of cancer. The Lt. asked if Dad could come for a visit, and Mr. F. just shook his head.
“It’s not fair,” he said, “he’s done so much for us.”
The Lt., having expressed his sympathy, changed tactics: “What would he tell you to do right now?”
“To do the best in every situation.”
“No.” There wasn’t much more we could add.
That conversation was still clear in my mind when Mr. F. showed up in my room on the first day of the new semester. I couldn’t shake my sympathy that he would never see his dad again.
Over the next few weeks I learned that Mom was without work and shouldering the task of raising kids, nursing her husband, and driving over four hours nearly every weekend to visit her son in jail. You can’t help admiring someone like that.
It’s a small world among prisoners. His mom is close friends with the mom of my female student. It was through her that I heard that on his birthday his mom, siblings, and girlfriend all showed up with t-shirts especially designed for the occasion. He cried. I also learned that they had made arrangements for Dad to come that day, but he slipped into remission.
Well, Dad mustered up the strength a couple weeks later and showed up for a surprise visit. I couldn’t believe it. I almost cried. His message and encouragement was simple, and I wish his son would take it to heart.
We’ve been rude with each other lately; neither one of us having a kind word to say to the other. This bothered me and I prayed about it one weekend. The following Monday I told him to put his work away and come play a game of cribbage. We played a close game in near silence. Later, I explained that I did this to mark the turning of a new leaf. He was surprised, and before he turned to go he apologized for his behavior and said he hoped we were on good terms for the rest of the semester.
I really love playing games, so I always feel a bit guilty when my game drawer slides open, but on occasions like this I remember that they’re a relationship tool where I work. Where would I be if I hated games?