"Hi, Dad," I say and introduce myself to the men, Ralph and Glen. There is small talk from the men and not much talk from Dad, but he nods at appropriate times, indicating that he's following along.
I see on a bookshelf a game my students sometimes play that involves stacking blocks of wood that look like little railroad ties. I get the game and sit down, taking out the pieces of wood. First I line some up and then knock them over like dominoes. The men watch as I explain how the kids play with the pieces.
"What age you teach?" Glen asks.
"Grades seven to twelve."
"And twelfth graders do this?"
"They'll do anything if it means they don't have to work." All the men knowingly nod--remembering, I'm sure.
I stack the wood up to play the basic game: four one way side by side and then four the next way, back and forth in a rising stack. The object is to remove a piece on a lower stack, placing it on top. I begin the game and then invite the men to try it.
"I'm too shaky," says Ralph. "I'd knock them over."
"They always eventually fall," I say, "especially when there's a bunch of students stomping around on the floor." A few smiles at the thought of so much energy.
I remove and stack while the men watch. During the conversation I share why I'm here with my parents, that I'm from Iowa and have been here for four months and have two more before I can return home.
"A lot of families wouldn't do that," Ralph says.
"Well, my parents helped me when I was young, and now I'm helping them." Dad smiles and nods.
"Count those tiers," Ralph says.
"Twenty-three," I say, "and they're all each of two pieces. I can't do anymore unless I have a stack of just one."
I try this, and--lo and behold--I do it, balance a portion of the stack on just one piece. Trying for a second, the stack falls. We all laugh, and I clean up.
"Now, be sure to act like you can do this all the time," Glen says.
"I'll be sure to try some other day so that you'll all see today was just dumb luck to stack them so high."
I put the game away and then return. Breakfast is being served.
"I've got to go buy some bread and jam now. I enjoyed meeting you all," I say to the men. "I enjoyed today," I say to Dad.
"Thanks for coming," Dad says, and I leave. I don't know if Dad will remember my coming even fifteen minutes after the time I leave. I'll remember, though. It was a good day, and it warmed my heart to see my dad with a peaceful smile on his face.
Copyright 2013 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved