All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

That is the Sound of Ultimate Suffering

My son, Javier, is the noisiest, most temperamental, and hardest to handle of all of our children. He yells. He’s impatient. He gets into everything. He is exceedingly unsatisfied with his lot in life, discontented with all that is around him. But I love him. I love him when he throws a tantrum. I love him when he is at his most desperate.

The other day, we were readying ourselves to go to the park to play. I was alone with Jaimito and Javier. I got them ready, toys in hand, and opened the front gate. As we were ambling down the driveway, Billy started whining. "Oh please take me, oh please take me… please please please." came his plaintive barks. You see, I speak dog. I understand him completely in his native language.

"Sigh," I turned to my children, "Javier, stay right here. Daddy is going to put Billy in his house so he doesn’t whine the whole time we are in the park. Jaimito watch your brother, don’t let him go into the street."

"Okay, Daddy," said Javier.

"Okay, Daddy," said Jaimito.

Two seconds, almost literally, was all it took to put Billy in his house. From outside, I heard a cry, a desperate cry, a wail. Jaimito was saying, "Javier, come back, come back." But his pleas were soon drowned out by the sound of ultimate desperation.

I dashed out the front door. From the sound of the Doppler shift, I could tell Javier was moving at great speed and was by this time, far far away. I raced down the street, a block away, to see my little boy chasing his ball that had rolled down the hill. He had already seized it by the time I arrived. My first thought was, boy, is that kid fast for a two year old. Yikes. I could hardly keep up. But he was so desperate. He thought his ball was gone, and I swear his heart nearly broke. His sobbed to me, voice cracking, "Daddy – my ball – my ball was falling. It went down da’ hill. My ball – my ball – my ball."

His shortsighted attention to his ball, his lack of forethought of consequences, his folly, all mashed up together into a beautiful mess. I cracked a smile.

"It’s okay, little man. Daddy’s here now. We have your ball. You can’t chase it like that though. Next time, call Daddy. Say, ‘Daddy, my ball went down the hill’ and I’ll go get it. You could be hurt by a car. A car could run you over. Let Daddy get the ball. And Jaimito, next time, grab him. Don’t let him run in the street like that. Don’t just stand there. Grab your brother."

"Okay, Daddy," said Javier.

"Okay, Daddy," said Jaimito.

Now, let’s go to the park.

I reflected on this after, and I am convinced that it is when we see such sincere desperation, that we come to know and love more fully. I saw Javier in his purest form, no pretense, no forethought. I saw him at his most human.

And it makes him even more lovely to me.


  1. Avatar

    That’s what makes us all human; when our emotions take over.
    But, like you say, there are cars in the streets of our lives..

  2. Avatar

    And they are driven by Puerto Ricans. 🙂

    Will. Run. Your. Ass. Over.

  3. Avatar

    Damn. Irresponsible. Drivers.

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    Heh. Our driving teacher said to us: “If you want to kill yourself, then fine. Run into the woods and bang your head into a tree. But don’t put other people’s lives at risk!”

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