Updated: Jul 15
During my first year of life, an old lady came to the house to meet me. She brought a frozen lasagna for my mom, and lottery tickets for my dad. My dad was never the gambling kind of man, but he humbly accepted her gift, and invited her inside.
“It smells like love in this house. Yes, love and diapers. I brought a candle. Here you go, Ron, light this for me.
“Yes, ma'am,” he responded.
She was our pastor's sister, and making a good impression on our pastor was very important to mom and dad. They loved their church, or at least, they pretended like they did. Their act was so convincing that they started to fool even themselves.
The aunt was known for being just a little strange, but she had persisted, for months, on ‘blessing the child’; what that means, no one knew exactly. There were rumors of her burning sage, and chanting ancient Hebrew, when she ‘blessed’ babies.
It was known that she had a phase in her twenties where she left the church and lived out of a van with a long-haired man with a mustache. They rumors were that she ‘fried her brain on psychedelics’. That’s what the church family could gossip about around their coffee and pastries on Sunday morning.
“The devil got to her. She’s a hippy now—Jesus save her.” The lady pretended to pray for dramatic effect.
“She took off with Chester. God knows he’s tempted her in all sorts of ways. That man was never wearing a shirt whenever I would see him. You could smell him from a distance.”
“The devil got to him.” She said, with complete confidence.
“The devil got him and her.” They confirmed together.
They drank their coffee, and nibbled at the pastries.
Then, when she was 33, she returned to the church in the middle of the Easter morning service. They say that she was in a white dress—that was ripped up—looking like she had been in a fight with a barbed-wire fence. She started chanting in ancient Hebrew, and her brother, the new pastor at that time, escorted her out.
The chatter around the coffee had plenty to talk about.
“Is he going to let her in here every Sunday?”
“She was dirty, and I don’t care, except that I’ve volunteered to clean the church this month. It’s more work for me, and I know she wasn’t thinking about that when she barged back in here. She doesn’t know how things work around here.”
She became an outcast to the church family. She would show up every Sunday, in a nice dress, and sit in the back, quietly.
She smiled a lot with her eyes closed.
She never spoke to anyone about her past, and no one asked.
Time passed, she got more accepted, and started to assume the responsibilities of ‘the pastor’s sister’ as she would say, proudly.
And that is why she was at my parents house on this day. There to ‘bless’ me. I would’ve been nervous, if I had known what was going on.
She pulled out some sage.
“Here, Ron, light this.”
“And then wave it around, like this!” She slowly waved her empty hand around our kitchen. He mimicked her.
“Alright, that’s enough, Ron. Let’s see the child.”
My mom brought me into the kitchen and I immediately started screaming.
“He’s normally so mellow!” My mother pleaded.
“Shhh, shhh, shhh, here child. Shhh.” She reached out to receive me from my mom. She passed her to the lady.
I stopped crying and stared at her. I looked right into her eyes and she looked right back into mine.
Her face got real serious, and the silence was profound, as she stared into my tiny brown eyes.
One minute passed. Then two. Then three.
“He’s being so—”
Another minute passed in silence. I was mesmerized by the woman. She smelled so familiar to me; and her eyes were deep, tough, and kind. She was a riddle to me.
“What a child . . . What a child. Unbelievable. He understands the power of belief. His eyes already hold wisdom. And I see patients. He is powerful beyond measure. He’ll never understand his influence on this world. This is an extraordinary boy . . . He is capable of everything. Support and love him when he disagrees with you. He will challenge you two more than any young boy would. He will go through his own challenges when he sees this world, but if he heads toward the light, he’ll be okay. The temptation he’ll have . . . I can’t imagine . . . He’s the last Alchemist. He can turn lead into gold, and he can inspire hope in this dying universe. I’m so sorry you have to go through this . . .”
She passed me back to my mom. I started to cry again.
“Don’t tell anyone about this. Don’t try to grow him in a certain way. Treat him like a normal child. Let him play. Don’t be overprotective; I can tell that you are that kind, ma’am. Let him live. Let him suffer. Let him see it all. He’ll need it. Let him struggle; let him learn that way.”
“Sure. We can do that.” My mom looked terrified. My father didn’t seem interested. He blew out the candle.
“He’s either going to be an incredible man, or a terrifying one . . . They’ll think that he’s a shaman, but he is just a boy. He’s just a boy . . . I don’t envy him.”
She turned around, and without another word, she walked out of our house.
The lights flickered in the kitchen.
“Was that the Devil, or God?”
Yes, dad. Yes. It sure was.