I met a guy a couple weeks ago named Richard in the Elkhorn Yacht Club parking lot on Thanksgiving day. My eyes were fixed on him as he fiddled with some fishing gear at the tailgate of his rusty, vintage 1970’s Ford pickup. After several minutes, I approached him and asked if I could take his picture. Specifically I asked, “Sir, do you mind if I take your picture?”
“Yes, I mind” was his quick reply.
However dissatisfied with his answer, I compliantly said, “ok”.
As I was turning to walk away he asked, “Why do you want my picture?”
“It’s because you typify a sailor and I wanted a picture of a sailor. And, I just think you look really cool.”
Responding to my compliment he said, “Ok, you can take my picture.”
I quickly snapped one shot trying to balance unfavorable luminance with Richard’s seeming crepuscular demeanor.
I put out my hand and while Richard reciprocated, I thanked him. I mentioned living in Montana and being down at Moss Landing for Thanksgiving with my sister, a resident of California.
“Montana, hmm…Montana. I think my son lives in Montana. Is there a place there called, Palistal or Teliscal…?”
“You mean, Kalispell?”, I offered.
“Yeah, yeah…Kalispell. That’s where he lives.”
Kalispell is in the northwest corner of Montana and a several hour drive from where I lay my head most nights. It’s located seven miles from Flathead Lake and 31 miles from of Glacier National Park. It’s a place known for ice-carved mountains and inviting beauty.
It didn’t take a detective to conclude Richard’s lack of relationship with his son. I mean, he didn’t even know how to enunciate Kalispell… Brining my hunch to fruition I said, “Richard, I’m just going to guess that you don’t know your son very well. I never knew my father and it’s been the single biggest void of my life. You need to know that it’s probably your son’s single biggest void also.”
It’s uncertain who was more stunned by my allegation. I expected Richard to disregard my personal history lesson by getting back to his fishing tackle or worse, by throwing a hay-maker my way. Yet, instead of enmity, Richard starred at me; obviously taken to a place 1200 miles north of our position. He was engaged. As he sat on the tailgate jutting out from the rear of his rust-bucket, I told him my story. It’s a story that concludes with God, my heavenly Father, filling the void left by my earthly father. It’s a story that illustrates God’s plan for my life through a relationship with Jesus Christ, my sin bearer. It’s a story that offers forgiveness, understanding and hope for a better tomorrow. It’s a beautiful story.
Our conversation ended two hours later with me inviting him to eat Thanksgiving dinner with my family. His reaction confirmed he wouldn’t show. He’s a loner who allowed me a rare opportunity to invade his isolation for just a couple of hours. I encouraged him to call his son and to get reacquainted. For Richard’s and his son’s sake, I hope he does.