Joepa prayed like he and God were thick as thieves, you didn’t argue if he said it was going to rain that day, or that you best stay away from the river a particular afternoon. He was an old school warrior kind of Prayer-er, he’d kneel and kneel straight. Not sitting sideways slumped in the floor, nor cross-legged, like a lotus. Then he’d go softer soft, till you had to lean in to hear the words that would arrive between pauses, as if he were listening.
Joepa would listen when he prayed, That was new for me. I had heard other kinds – where you instructed God about the rains, exam results, menus, visits; requests for shoes, the right shade of lipstick, cricket matches; pleas for grand-aunt Mei to stop snoring, a certain relative to not visit that frequently, that kind of thing. When Joepa prayed he stood at a stairway, his eyes shut wide, sometimes he would tremble as if the replies that came down were too much for him, or even the Silences. As if his head or skin were too fragile for the intensity of those conversations that went on in the little room above JoseVilla where he had lived all his life, with his canes and hats, his books and shoes, his lovely wife and children.
On our many visits, Joepa would tell me little details about his life, about love and faith and trust. He hadn’t accumulated wealth or houses, because he gave them away. If someone wanted something he gave it to them – his radio, a piece of land. “Some ask me don’t I have my own family. I tell them its what I had to do.”
So, it made sense to me – the way he prayed. He lived like he prayed. His words were lived at an altar, a glass altar here heaven and hell and everyone of us saw his reality. He lived like he feared to ever hurt anyone. He saw others as if they were God’s own too. That’s what got to me. That’s why I believed that when he prayed he really was at a Stairway and it took him beyond the little room, beyond the nitty-gritty of asking, talking and not listening. Listening deep.
Today I sat with our youngest at home – he prays a few sentences or long ones, depending on the need. His needs aren’t exactly like yours or mine, unless you are visually challenged like him. He is intense, expectant. A few weeks ago he developed these motor/vocal tics twice, thrice a day, or more. All our check ups weren’t revealing much. Wait, Doc says. Go home. Relax. Let me know if there are changes, but right now, there are no signs to alarm us;
back against the wall, we, I started praying, telling God what He had to do here. Three days ago, out of sheer fatigue I leaned back and refused to say another word, not at the powers that be, at medicines, at Docs, and flustered feelings;
leaned back and took a good look at Joh, our son. He’d changed. Changed from a restless young one, into a quiet careful human, watching the hours of the day – for “Tizzy”. We call his Tics “Tizzy”,
…we let go. Yesterday Joh woke up early (as he always does), ran to us with, “No more asking for healing. I’m thanking God….”
We did a happy dance small celebration, but here’s the news, Tizzy showed up just once so far. I don’t know how to say this without sounding over optimistic. For some reason the pressure is off. Tizzy or no, its like the floor’s changed.
If Joepa were here, he’d have understood better than us, what makes Joh pray the way he does, fearless, focused, as if there’s no veil between the spheres, as if we are a bunch of scaredy- rabbits for nothing. Papa Joe was my father- in- law, I miss him sore today. I miss how his hands trembled when he talked with his heavenly dad , there were no doubts at all between them. If there was a conversation it was about trust, about meeting each other, unconditional togetherness that placed no blame or need between that relationship to sour it,
thank you Pa.