‘Or’ seems to be the winningest word around here lately.
When I was twelve, my family and I took a journey to Canada. ‘Journey’ is fancy for ‘trip’. Canada is foreign, with narrow, cobblestone streets, and different monies. I felt fancy just being there. There’s an incredibly vogue word nowadays for one of my dad’s best qualities. He was a “foodie.” He traveled for food, sought out the most select ingredients to cook with and even toyed around with the idea of opening a restaurant. While in Canada, my mom and dad arranged to have a date night at one of the best restaurants in Victoria. They lovingly ditched us one block away from our hotel at a KFC. This was a time before cell phones. However, we had a map drawn on a napkin, specific directions, a buddy system, a curfew and knew the restaurant they would be at. So no cell but close enough.
My brother, Eric, and I finished first and decided to head back to the hotel. Andrea and Mark decided to stay for the delayed potatoes and gravy. Once back to the hotel, we turned on a movie and waited for the others. About 10 minutes later, Andrea came in. Alone.
“Where’s Mark?” I asked.
“I thought he was with you” she said. I can feel the heaviness of those words even now.
Mark was 8 and good at being 8. His mind wandered almost as much as his wiggly body wanted to. He had decided he was finished after all and jumped up to chase after Eric and I. Only problem was, he didn’t know which way we went.
I pictured Mark with his bright eyed, technical headed, random version of reality. Maybe a butterfly had caught his attention, or the sunset or a shiny bike.
Was it this way? Or...
Was it that way? Or...
My first thought: Mark is dead. My second thought: Mom and Dad are going to kill us.
Damn. Just damn, damn, damnity, damn.
Mark was lost. He was 8 and lost. He was 8 and lost in a foreign country. Andrea immediately fell to the ground in a heap and sobbed. I didn’t know what the Canadian version of ‘911’ was. I ran to find mom and dad with Eric hard on my heels.
This was bad. Very, very bad.
Entering a fancy restaurant as bare-footed children is strictly forbidden, even in Canada. I dodged the hostess and evaded the manager as they chased me through the romantically lit room. I found my parents in the corner.
“Mark is lost” I yelled.
Every parents worst nightmare. Their response was immediate and passionate. The “Mounties” were called and a search organized.
“Go back to the room and don’t come out until I come get you” my dad said.
There was zero room for argument, but I needed to know something.
“Dad, is he gone?”
My dad took my face in his hands and said something perfect. “Or he just took a wrong turn. Don’t believe everything you think.”
A wrong turn. I could live with a wrong turn because wrongs turns are still turns. Mark would, at least according to the napkin map I still held in my hand, keep turning and make it back here eventually. He'd recognize the stone hotel building with an awning... right?? I took Eric back to the room. Andrea was losing it. She was crying about how he was dead and it was her fault. I gave her the best words I had right then. “Or he just took a wrong turn.”
My dad walked in the room with Mark twenty minutes later.
He had in fact just turned the wrong way. Crisis averted. Grace given. Miracle acknowledged. Prayers heard. None of us let go of Mark that night. Also, my parents only got to eat their appetizers.
I've thought of this experience while listening to my kids seemingly endless bickering last week. “I hate him! I wish he didn’t exist!”
“OK. Or maybe you are just frustrated.”
After Harry missed the 3-pointer in overtime that would have won the game. “I’m just not a basketball player.”
“OK. Or maybe you just missed a shot.”
“Math hates me!!” Evelyn screamed.
“OK. Or maybe you're just three problems away from understanding smudged digits.”
My personal favorite."I'm a failure."
"OK. Or I'm a really great try-er."
'Or' is a grace word. Heaven knows I need all the grace. So there is a lot of 'Or' up in here.
The point is, don’t believe everything you think.
There is always an ‘or’ option. Always. Just always.
My nephew, Sam. He's autistic Or he just sees and experiences the world differently than us.