Back in high school my husband was invited to go turkey hunting with a friend on the nearby Indian reservation. It’s the kind of invitation you don’t refuse.
He told me he and his friend got up at an ungodly hour in the morning to walk out into the untamed part of the reservation and started to dig a hole. With no explanation from Bobby, my husband helped to dig, wondering meanwhile when they were going back to get the guns. But they were hunting traditional native style, there were no guns.
After digging the shallow pit, he and Bobby lay quietly within, some brush covering them. They waited and waited and waited until the bait lured in a cocky tom. When the tom came close enough, Bobby reached up and grabbed him. “It was like grabbing hold of a tornado,” my husband explained, “only a prickly, squabbly, jabby sort of one.” I picture his friend wrestling the turkey like a watercolor painting, nothing precise, but a beautiful mess of fall foliage, feathers, and natural toned clothing.
When he had finished telling me about this hunting story, he tried to explain to me that laying in the shallow hole that morning, the sun rising imperceptibly at dawn, the humidity lifting and then hovering over the forest, and the two adolescents waiting with every sense for a bird to pick his way over to their lair, he learned a different kind of patience than most of us are accustomed to.
I think about that phrase a lot, “a different kind of patience,” because I’m learning in the various roles I play out in life that there are more kinds of patience than anyone ever prepared me for. For example, I have a child who screams at the top of her lungs–with a shriek you have to hear to believe–when she’s happy, when she’s hungry, when she’s angry, when she’s bored–you get the picture. It comes out of nowhere, this scream of hers, and sometimes she gets so enamored with it, she lets it out in a successive,unstoppable series. At 10:00 AM I have patience, to a degree, in dealing with this without screaming at the top of my lungs myself, but at dinner time I have had enough. That takes a different kind of patience. Mothers know what I’m talking about, as do teachers.
I remember toward the end I played a parting game of Cribbage with a former student. We were both out of practice, but for some reason our games always come out close. Maybe I would win more games if I didn’t talk so much. With a full schedule he hadn’t had a chance to stop by and chat that semester, so I started asking between 15-2, 15-4, a pair for 6 where things stood with his family. His dad having passed, his mom had to find work, and I was surprised he was pushing the girlfriend out of the picture. I shouldn’t have been too surprised, but I knew she was a huge help with his younger siblings. That’s when he said, “You learn not to care, Miss, sitting in here.” He was honest enough to say that caring hurt too much to bear. This was his way. Others act out like crazed animals. Most, however, acquire a certain far-away look, an expression in the eyes that I came to understand as a different kind of patience. That’s what you need to survive inside those gates.