I was showering last night, naked, when I heard banging on the bathroom door. It was not the normal rap or tap one might hear while in the shower. It was the kind of banging that makes one stop in his tracks and say, “yeah?”, worried there’s something wrong. I wasn’t at home, mind you, and, mind you again, I don’t even have a home. I was half-worried someone was going to yell through the door, “Hey! Who’s the homeless guy in our bathroom?” It’s probably similar to how Harrison Ford felt in The Fugitive when he was nervously shaving his beard off in that random bathroom. I’ve been staying with a young family named the Sedmaks for the last week, in Falls Church, Virginia, and they have been gracious enough to Austin and me to allow us to stay in their home for a while (that’s right; Austin and I are still somehow together, this time in a different city), while I job search and while Austin waits for his job in Honduras to come through. It was one week ago when I met Vince, the father of the family, and it was in the same day that my living arrangements fell through and I called him and asked him if Austin and I could stay with him. He had prayed with me that afternoon and told me in earnest that if I ever needed anything I should call or come over. He was serious.
“Yeah?” I said in a deep, loud, tentative tone.
“Waannn!!” someone yelled, but it was muffled, as if his mouth was covered, “Wwwaaannnn!!” At this point I knew it was Reed, the 12 year old son, sweet-talker, and instigator of the family. As a man, my first instinct was to wonder whether there was an intruder in the house that Reed was fighting off. Janee and Vince weren’t at home, which must have been the moment the intruder was waiting for. If so, I thought, nice job, Reed, staving him off and fighting him all the way upstairs to find me, the obvious person to go to (not Austin) if there is ever a threat to someone’s physical safety, and especially if that intruder has combat training. I turned off the water and got out as quickly as I could to save the family.
“Wwwaaannn!!” he yelled again, “wwuuu waaafff to wweellp mee!” I swung open the door to find Reed, bound and gagged. Someone had used duct tape to tie his hands behind his back and put tape over his mouth. Now I understood why the banging was so dramatic; he must have been using his head or his shoulder. “Pwweeaase taake the tape off!” his words were becoming clearer, “Sllowwwly!” he said, widening his eyes to communicate how important it was that I didn’t rip it off. So, I did, slowly. Reed ran back downstairs, claiming that I needed to follow him to the scissors. What ensued was not an epic battle to save the house, consisting of 2 hits (me hitting the intruder and the intruder hitting the floor), but a 3-way battle royale between Reed, 12, Spencer, 10, and Molly, 17. Spencer ended up giving Reed one of the biggest wedgies I’ve ever seen; Reed continued to vow that he’d take revenge; and Molly just ended up being really annoyed with the whole thing. I still don’t know who did the duct-taping, but I’m pretty sure it was a direct result of Reed threatening to duct-tape everyone he saw that whole day.
Wrestling is a normal occurrence at the house, as is kitchen counseling. Janee, the hospitable, thoughtful, and all-around wonderful mother of the clan, is a great listener, and loves to encourage. Yesterday afternoon as Janee cleaned up the kitchen, Austin and I talked to her about our lives (we do chip in, by the way). The subject was our insecurities and fears. Janee’s message was true and pertinent, “In that moment, Jon,” she said, stopping her duties for a moment to focus, rag in hand, “you need to realize you’re being insecure, name the insecurity that you’re feeling, and you need to pray. Pray for the Holy Spirit to come and give you security.” It was exactly what I needed to hear. From the moment I met Janee a few weeks ago, her only instinct is to encourage and help me. She continually racks her brain for people I should contact in the journalism/writing field. She introduced me to one of her friends in the kitchen last weekend, and it turned into an interview with a friend of a friend. A few days ago she even said she was in bed at midnight when it hit her, “Ah! Jon needs to talk my friend, —!”
Later that night it was Vince’s turn in the kitchen. “Guys, I just think we limit the Holy Spirit,” he said, responding to Austin’s claim that there’s no way his Honduranian girlfriend, Keila, could ever get a visa to visit the States, “if that’s what you really want, Austin, pray for it, and see what He does.” Then we started talking about relationships.
“Jon, I want you to put this in the blog,” Vince told me, “how long, how many months does it take for someone to go through the process of getting a driver’s license?”
“I don’t know,” I said, “several months.”
“Right, several. And long does it take to get married? I mean, you can get married, or have kids anytime you want. Which is more important? I think we ought to have a law that says you can’t get married until you’ve had six months of marriage counseling. Seriously.”
Austin loves to do Vince impressions and always says he’s like Larry David, because he’s always got some issue with somebody. On Sunday, I went with Vince to the Apple store to help him buy an iPad (my contribution to the household has been largely technological, while Austin helps with homework and carpools the kids. Austin said yesterday, “it’s funny how I’m kind of the mom of the house, and you’re like the tech-dad.”). As we were leaving the parking garage, Vince handed the parking attendant his ticket.
“Hi, how are you?” Vince said amicably.
“Hello, sir, that will be three dollars,” the attendant answered.
“Boy, that sounds like a lot,” Vince said, just minutes after buying a $700 iPad.
“You could have gotten your ticket validated in the store.”
“Really? Well, they didn’t tell me that… What’s your name?”
“Emile,” the attendant answered. Vince noticed his accent and skin color.
“Where are you from, Emile?”
“Well, Emile,” Vince said opening his wallet, “everybody seems to have their own system. The guy’s in the Apple store; the parking attendant has his own system. But nobody seems to be listening to my system.” Emile laughed.
Right then it clicked. I had just helped Larry David buy an iPad. We drove off and Vince continued, “You see, Jon, we live in a world where nobody talks to each other. I just want to talk.”
I’ve only known the Sedmaks for a short while, and I had only just met Janee and Vince when we started staying with them last week, but it is amazing how quickly I’ve gotten to know them. And it’s because of their transparency, their willingness to let someone in, and just talk. Here’s to hoping the Sedmak’s rub off on me. Except for Reed; he’s crazy.
BTW: if you play Words with Friends on your iPhone and you get a game challenge from “little shine”, it’s Spencer. But don’t take it easy on the 10 year old; yesterday he played a 48-point word on me. All he talks about now is how he’s beating me and how I’m never going to win. “Guess what, Jon,” he always says nicely to set me up for the boom, “you’re gonna lose!” No more Mr. Nice Guy, Spencey.