Tuesday, February 2, 2010


On what was an exceptionally cold winter day, a young man traveled by city bus to a nursing home to visit his grandfather, who at the age of seventy-three, had suffered a severe stroke. His wife had suggested he wait until the cold snap was over or at least until the roads were clear enough to drive. He had told her he had a dream about Pap Pap, his dad’s father, the night before, and he felt the Lord wanted him to go right away. As he stepped off of the bus onto a large pile of snow left by the plow, he said a prayer that God would help him communicate with Pap Pap. As he neared the nursing home, he saw a police car, with its lights flashing, parked at the entrance. He quickly said another prayer as he entered the building. When he got to the counter where he had to sign-in, he asked the receptionist what was going on. When she saw the name of the resident he was visiting, she asked him if he would please follow her. She led him to the Director’s office, where he was met with the kind of handshake one would get when receiving condolences. The solemn look on her face added to his angst.

She told him that an intruder had entered his grandfather’s room and killed his grandfather’s roommate. His body was discovered about an hour later by the morning aide. She told him the police were unsuccessfully trying to question his grandfather about the incident. She asked him if he would like to try. He said, “Of course. I will do what I can.”

As he entered his grandfather’s room, he was amazed at how many people were crammed into a two bed room. When he asked who they all were, he was told, but all he heard was noise. He could think of nothing but Pap Pap, and how horrible it must have been for him to witness such a hideous act. As he rushed to hug him, the officers parted as though he had the same power that parted the Red Sea. As he held him, he heard what he would later describe as a moan or possibly humming. Whatever it was, he did not recognize it. When he stood back up, he saw a single tear slowly moving toward Pap Pap’s ear.

One of the detectives asked if he could, in some way, communicate with his grandfather. He remembered his dad telling him that Pap Pap had tried to write something with his left hand, but no one could make sense of it. The officer immediately called for someone to bring him a pad and a pencil. After what seemed like hours of questions, and his grandfather making a mark for yes answers, they pieced together what Pap Pap had witnessed. The killer, a white man in his fifties or sixties, turned out to be the son of the murdered man. Pap Pap had recognized him. As they reasoned among themselves, they decided another piece of evidence was the fact that the killer must have known of Pap Pap’s inability to speak, and therefore, did not see his witnessing of the cruel betrayal to be a problem. After all, how was a paralyzed mute going to identify him? They agreed that his medical condition was what saved his life. Pap Pap groaned loudly, and moved his hand as though he wanted the pad and pencil again. When he was finally finished writing, he had written, what appeared to be, “flcip.” The young man remembered his dad had also seen the mysterious “word.”

After the police left and the nurse’s aide bathed and dressed his grandfather, the young man pushed his wheelchair to the little chapel. Pap Pap had faithfully gone to church three times a week for as long as anyone could remember, so he was sure he wanted to be there to pray. As they entered the room, his grandfather began moving his left hand, and did not stop until he realized that he wanted to write something. He quickly rushed back to the room and got the pad and pencil. When he returned, he found Pap Pap looking at a picture of Jesus on the cross, and tears flowing down his cheeks. He held the pad for him to write, and he wrote “flcip.” In his damaged mind, he was writing the name of his Lord. He had done so for his father, and also upon hearing the police say his illness saved him. Now he understood, Pap Pap wanted Jesus to get the credit for his good fortune. When he told Pap Pap that he knew what he was trying to say, he would have bet the farm that he saw him smile.

Pap Pap died the following winter, and both his obituary and his headstone began with “flcip!”

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