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Free Prayers at The Tin Roof

Downtown near the college in Chico is a coffee shop and bakery with outdoor tables. They are the best places in town to have coffee in the morning. Lots of people think so and come to the shop for coffee and pastries and stake out their tables.

One man and his mission statement are there this morning. His is the table with the sign “Bible Answer Stand, How May I Pray for You?”

I think about that question and decide to ask him for a SpeedPrayer.

“Okay,” he says, “I can do that. What do you need?”

“I’d like you to pray that, soon, I get a call from God. I’m waiting by the phone but he doesn’t call and he doesn’t write. If you get through, tell him it is okay to call collect. I’d like to get his confirmation about my mother. I’m ready to accept the charges.”

He writes down my request in a small notebook.

“Okay, I can do that.” He pauses for a minute and closes his eyes. Then he opens them. “Done,” he says.”No, I don’t accept donations. This is what I do.”

Others come and go around me as I work on my manuscript on this fine June morning. Two tables over a sad blonde who is slowly fading into “the land of the formerly cute” sits slumped with an ugly canvas smeared with iridescent purple goop filed loosely under the rubric “art”. She heaves a sigh and then looks at the tables nearby and flirts with a guitar playing man who is tuning and strumming at the next table. He bends over his strings and tunes and strums aimlessly. No eye contact. After a minute or two, she looks away.

I glance down at my cell phone.

Nope. No calls missed, no messages waiting. I glance over at the sad blonde. She’s still waiting.

Why does she sit there waiting with her hideous paintings turned towards the world? Doesn’t she know that they only advertise her confusion, her naked need for love; her vulnerability?

Perhaps she does, but perhaps, in truth, all she’s saying is “This is the best I can do. The very best. Isn’t it enough? Isn’t that enough to have love.”

And it should be. It should be.

One table over, the guitarist picks and strums looking for a tune he’ll never find. Giving up, he packs up the guitar and walks off thinking, “That was the best I could do. Shouldn’t it be enough?”

And it should be. It should.

What’s to be gleaned from this minor morning’s observation? Very little except perhaps that people should learn how to sit down at tables where other people are waiting for somebody to sit with them.

Two minutes after the guitarist disappears, the sad blonde picks up the hideous painting and leaves. As she walks off I notice a price tag on the back of the painting. Shopping. But still doing the best she can.

As am I, waiting for a call that is still on its way.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jewel June 30, 2019, 1:12 PM

    Art thou set to depart these tired shores, Friend?

  • Rob De Witt June 30, 2019, 1:30 PM

    The message of confirmation about your mother lasted for almost 75 years. Weren’t you listening?

  • BillH June 30, 2019, 1:36 PM

    Reminds me of our many visits to SF in the ’70s and ’80s. We always stayed at the Fort Mason officer’s club, and hiked down the hill early each AM for breakfast and a local character watch at the small Boudin coffee shop at the far west end of Fisherman’s Wharf. Good times; we loved the place. My wife still goes out there occasionally, but is really put off by filth and human debris, and always ends up cutting her visit short.

  • Jessie June 30, 2019, 1:44 PM
  • lpdbw June 30, 2019, 2:59 PM

    Oh, my friend I’ve never met in person…
    I know you bear the weariness of loss, grief, and survivorship.
    I am not a believer, but I live on the fringes, and my friends would tell you that your call will come, in its proper time, and not before. That until that time comes, you have work to do. Some mundane, like living day-to-day. Some unconsciously positive, such as giving a random stranger the joy of praying for you, or allowing us to love your mother through your writing. Some more difficult, like facing new days when, sometimes, it looks joyless.
    But there is joy remaining. Sometimes it is hidden in the shadows. And sometimes, what looks to one person as an inadequate “Best I can do” is not just enough, but a banquet spread out for the enjoyment and enlightenment of others.
    And speaking as one who struggles with my strings, sometimes the joy is seeking the tune, not finding it.

  • hooodathunkit June 30, 2019, 3:01 PM

    You could’a asked for a Cadillac, and Mr. Prayer-guy would’a obliged. Chances of getting either are the same. So what’s up? What do you really, realistically expect?

  • ghostsniper June 30, 2019, 3:27 PM

    “I’d like to get his confirmation about my mother.”
    You’ve got MY confirmation. This very moment she is the best she’s ever been. In another moment she will be even better. Believe it.

    ““This is the best I can do. The very best. Isn’t it enough? Isn’t that enough to have love.””
    If that is true then she needs to lie down and die right now. I believe something else. I believe everyone can be better, all the time. I believe everyone should always keep trying, to be better, at all things, all the time. Life isn’t a destination it is a journey, and I know everyone has heard that thousands of times, but the journey isn’t hands free nor is it a spectator sport. You must participate, like your life depended on it, cause it does. When you stop living you start dying.

    The same is especially true for love. It’s not something you get one day, and then just live happily ever after. Finding someone that loves you like you love them is just the beginning, the down payment. Anybody can do that part and most people do. More than once. If it doesn’t last you should discover what you have learned from the experience. And improve. You can’t change others but you can change you and that’s the best you can do. After the down payment there is the lifelong payment plan. What, you though you could pay the down payment then cruise care free the rest of your life? Not hardly. Now the real work begins.

    In the army they had a term, “If you can’t get out of it, get into it.”, and there’s a lot of life wisdom in those few words. Those 10 words are probably the best thing I got out of that institution and they have spurred me on hundreds of times over the decades since when all I wanted to do was give up and throw in the towel. Instead, I thought of those words, dwelled on them and spread meaning and came back with renewed fervor to slay the obstacle that was trying to make me fold. I got into it, and it too was cleared from my path.

    My marriage and my emotional commitment to my only wife will be over when my life on this earth is over. I can’t get out of it, and after all this time I don’t want to. I’m not certain I made that commitment when we got married in 1984, but somewhere along the way I guess I subconcsiously did and it’s been that way ever since. It’s been bumpy at times, very much so at other times, and there were many times when I wondered, “Why don’t I just cut her loose as she clearly is not deserving of me.” I always came to the same conclusion. I am better with her than without her. I am a better person with my commitment with her a success than a failure. A failure will nag at me, all the time, whether I think so or not, and drag me backwards in ways I am not ever aware of. I prefer success over failure. So with each mile marker, with each occurrence where her and I didn’t see eye to eye I got “Into it”. I found ways to improve me. Eventually I became aware that I was leading by example. Many examples. Hundreds. She too had consciously or unconsiously chose to “Get into it”. Whether by her own thought process or in part, but observing me. Doesn’t matter, we both win.
    The coffee shop artist woman will never find love outside herself until she discovers her own values and life goals and she won’t find then while hanging in coffee shops and bars. They don’t live in them places. They live inside her and she must cultivate them. They live in all of us.

    At about 6:20am this morning with the temp already in the mid 70’s I sat on the porch with Shannon laying by my feets touching me. She always has to touch me. I saw her staring out between the railing pickets idly, panting, knowing I was going to prepare her breakfast shortly. My wife, and our son and grand daughter here on a week long vacation snoozed. The world right now belonged to me and Shannon and the early sun faced us and presented the day, which would not be filled with rain like so many so far this year.

    The roof beam across the porch has a variety of things hanging from that we have put there over the years. The large wind chime with 2″ dia pipes that sounds like a church we used to live close to when we were first married that played them every sunday morning. The double hummingbird feeders that our temporary San Diego guests, Greenback and Redneck just can’t get enough of. And the tall narrow faded blue birdhouse with a rusty scrap time roof and an equally faded yellow sunflower encircling the entry hole. Everyone of the 12 years that old birdhouse has hung there since I built it has raised a new family in the spring and this year they were 2 Blackcap Chickadees. They have flown the coup but frequently come back to the ol’ homestead for a peak.

    Look, a squirrel! No kidding. There are many new squirrels this year, many more than usual. And they are unusually naively bold. This one jumped off the side of a black oak and landed on the railing down at the far end of the porch about 40 feet away. I saw it but Shannon had not, she is still letting the rising sun hypnotize her. The squirrel bounds along the top of the railing toward me and I sit as still as a corpse. I’m dying for a sip off my mud but I dare not. The next few moments are more valuable to me than any coffee could ever be. It keeps coming and I know not is it is a male or female. Squirrels always look a little bit like cats to me. But very high strung ones. Very nervous, high blood pressure. Being prey animals they are hard wired that way, ready to flee instantly all the time. It was now right in front of me and about 18″ above Shannon’s head and she still wasn’t aware of it. I imagine her eyes were partly closed and she was lulling like she frequently does. But noses don’t lull. Unlike eyes, noses have no on-off switches. An obnoxious vapor expulsion is just as foul at night as day. The young squirrel and I stared at each other. It was less than 4 feet directly in front of me. I had 2 eyes on it and it had one on me. It was as curious of me as I of it. But I’m sure I was more appreciative of it’s presence. I can only wonder why it came to me like this. We poised idly for probably about 2 mins, and I marveled at it’s texture, the detail around it’s eyes, the transparency of it’s big bushy tail – an amazing creature, before it sent was discovered. Shannon lurched upward and the young squirrel spun in it’s axis and was 10 feet down the railing before she was fully upright. One half second later Shannon was doing 30 miles an hour but the squirrel had enough of a head start that the race was already over before it began. Secretly I cheered the squirrel, not letting Shannon know. She’d be crestfallen is she knew. Shannon’s job is to scare the squirrels off the bird feeders cause they scatter the seeds everywhere and then there are none for the birds. She does a good job and it’s an endless job cause the seeds are endless and the squirrels “never give up”. Ever. She’s not allowed to hurt the creatures, for they are for me to enjoy, but she is allowed to scare the daylights out of them. So far she has scared hundreds and not hurt any.

    I watched the squirrel jump off the railing and land on the side of the oak it came in on and scamper way up, maybe 30 feet of so and then sat on a branch, safely out of Shannons reach. Shannon stood there staring at it for a moment and then sauntered back to me and layed down, touching me. I picked up my cup and took a long sip. A slurp really, and then another. The sun was a little higher now, and a little warmer, and in a while it would be too hot for the porch. The was no other place I’d rather be right then. Believe me. Lois is doing well

  • Julie June 30, 2019, 7:19 PM

    Ghost, when you wax poetic you are marvelous.

    Gerard, I know that Ghost is right about that. I also know that God answers our prayers of the heart, usually in ways we never expected, but often (if we are paying attention), in spectacular fashion. I pray you get that phone call, and that confirmation, whatever form they take; when you do, I pray that you may keep these things in your heart, and be comforted, until that joyful and terrible day when you can see her again not through a glass darkly, but fully and face-to-face.

  • Nori June 30, 2019, 10:25 PM

    Comments above are the rare earth sprinkles on the tin roof sundae of AD.


  • ghostsniper July 1, 2019, 4:55 AM

    Jeez, that thing’s barely readable. Where that Olive iz? I wanna put her on the payroll! I think 10x as fast as I type.

  • H July 1, 2019, 6:51 AM

    Little Feat might maybe have had something to say about somebody approximating the painter.


    In the summer when it rains in the afternoon
    Heat running sweet from the earth to the moon
    Nobody’s gonna tell you what you gotta do
    In the Summer when it rains in the afternoon

    You’re a tattooed girl with the world on her shoulders
    A tattooed girl with the world on her shoulders
    A tattooed girl with the world on her shoulders
    Try to make it lighter
    Keeps on getting older

    At a certain time of day when gravity is light
    Still seems like things could work out right
    The hot dusty past is long left behind
    At a certain time of day when gravity is light

    You’re a tattooed girl with the world on her shoulders
    A tattooed girl with the world on her shoulders
    A tattooed girl with the world on her shoulders
    Try to make it lighter
    Keeps on getting older

  • Walt Gottesman July 1, 2019, 12:32 PM

    Hey Gerard,

    It seems to me that your mom would want you to get out and enjoy the summer. There must be many concerts in Norcal this time of year. Maybe you’ll feel her presence through music.

    My mom reached out to me through her favorite song which began playing on the car radio as soon as I got in and started up the engine. It was an opportune moment. Had just left the home of one of my cousins who had been talking about my mom, her favorite aunt on that side of the family. Felt that my mother was reaching out to me through that event. Made me smile. It happened two years ago, 28 years after she had passed on, but sometimes these things take time.

    With my dad it was much quicker. The day after his funeral I was sitting alone on the couch in my mom’s living room, thinking about him, when I felt two strong but gentle hands on my shoulders. My dad had served 20 years in the Army but was never rough with us at home. He was a gentleman to my mother and a good dad to me and my brother. There was no one else in that room, at least not physically. I recognized that encouraging dad-like gesture. He had always had my back in life. Felt that he was letting me know he still had my back.

    One of my cousins and his band from Hawaii, Kanekoa, is playing in Mill Valley, Roseville and Grass Valley on July 10, 11, and 12. On their website they quote a former Grateful Dead drummer, Bill Kreutzman (I don’t remember him, only Mickey Hart) as saying that Kanekoa is “the Hawaiian Grateful Dead.” They have a powerful sound. You might like them.

    May your beautiful mom rest in peace and may the peace of the Holy Spirit be with you,


  • pschieber July 1, 2019, 2:23 PM

    I read your sadness and grief on the loss of your mom. In Judaism the voice you’re waiting for is called the Bas Kol. It is unusual to hear, but every once in a while… Softly- like the first time a pregnant woman feels the baby move and remembers that moment the rest of her life.

  • Snakepit Kansas July 1, 2019, 5:57 PM

    I don’t think your Mom needs prayers or over concern. From all you have described through history, she received an irrevocable one way ticket up.

    Keep on writing. So many of us are better off for knowing you.

    Many people are unaware that they benefactors of else’s prayers. Friends, family, blog folks and even some people I do not like.

    You are only a handful of years my senior, but so many times you write things that congeal a set of independent thoughts and put them in order for me. The development over time of the relationship with my wife…

  • Vanderleun July 1, 2019, 8:32 PM

    Thank you all for your insights and your kind and loving words.

  • RigelDog July 2, 2019, 5:10 PM

    Gerard, I read this as a yearning for some more contact from the Most High, and for some sign from or about your mother in particular. I lost my mother suddenly, when she was only 59. I had a spiritual message concerning my mother three months before she died—but nothing since. The last Christmas we had together, I was sitting in a huge Cathedral waiting for midnight Mass to begin, thinking of nothing in particular when a voice in my head said, distinctly: “Get right with your mother.” A foreign voice inside my head, gentle, insistent, using a phrase I never used. When the holidays were over, my mother returned to Atlanta and I never saw her again. Since then, I have moments when G-d seems nigh, I have periods when He is distant. There are those moments where the world is numinous and those moments when the “coincidences” are too strange and wonderful to be mere coincidences. I have dreams that inspire and even a few that seem prophetic; I was close to my grandfather and he shows up in my dreams too, always in a benign and comfortable role. But I never hear from my mother and I almost never dream about her. There is a reason for that, I just don’t know what it is. Maybe it would be too painful. But I have faith that when and if the Holy Spirit wants me to know something, I’ll get the message. You have my gratitude for all that you’ve shared about Lois, and my sympathies—the world looks different after you lose your mother.

  • fewdoggs July 3, 2019, 10:18 PM

    She is there, just over the river. You will see her soon, but not yet, not yet.
    You have more to offer, G. You just keep getting better and better, friend.