Monday, April 13, 2009
Jorel and the Stone Angel
Jorel Jacobs lives on Juniper Street with his parents and two sisters. He is of average intelligence and recently began speaking with a pronounced stutter. His mother asked the Head Master of Confederacy Elementary for speech therapy. Jorel objected, without stating a reason. He tried to vocalize his objection during the screening process but gave up after he could see it wasn’t worth the tremendous effort it would take to successfully produce the word “no” in any reasonable amount of time. His sudden onset of stuttering was a mystery to all. The family doctor said it might be the result of a recent traumatic event. He suggested it might be something he out grows.
Unknown to everyone but Winston, the family dog, there was a traumatic event in Jorel’s life. Jorel went sledding alone one day and chose a hill which sloped down into the village cemetery. Jorel wasn’t intelligent enough to anticipate the physics of sledding down a steep snow covered hill into a cemetery forested with upright tombstones. Nor was he clever enough to select a spot which offered the best odds of not striking a solid object on the way down. It doesn’t hurt to mention the fact that his sled was a sheet of colored plastic and therefore missing a steering mechanism. Jorel was smart enough to find a place free of trees. Trees were tall enough to get his attention and he knew trees were dangerous. Last summer he fell from one and broke his arm when trying to retrieve one of his sneakers thrown to knock Hairball out of the tree. Hairball, the cat, spent most of his time in trees to stay out Jorel’s reach.
Jorel was fascinated with machinery and its effects on animals. Hairball still suffers vision problems after spending time in the microwave. Luckily Grandma Jacobs was in the kitchen preparing her nerve tonic (tomato juice, vodka and a celery stick). She heard the microwave door close followed by the sound of a cat getting cooked from the inside out. Her nerves required a double dose of tonic that night. Jorel spent the next two days confined to his room.
Jorel climbed the hill, sat on the plastic sled and prepared to launch. He licked one finger and held it up into the air. He didn’t know why but he’d seen someone do it on the TV. He released the sled and immediately began moving down the hill. He made the sound of a police siren until a bump caused him to bite his tongue. The pain diverted his attention. He lost focus and didn't see the dark figure growing rapidly in front of him. His adventure ended abruptly when his head came into rapid contact with the stone angel which blessed the final resting place of Loretta Hempelwhite. Jorel lost consciousness and the angel lost a wing.
Jorel returned to the world a few minutes after impact. Winston was licking his face. Jorel’s memory was shaken so he followed Winston home leaving the sled behind. His mother was having one of her tupperware parties so she sent him straight to bed to keep him out of the way. He didn’t know where 'bed' was but Winston did - it was where he slept every night. Jorel found the bed and fell into it. He woke the next morning with his memory restored except for the sledding accident. He felt a bump on his head but couldn't talk about it because something else became more important. He couldn't speak without stuttering. It was apparent to his family that his personality was slightly altered as well. He was different. He wasn't loud, overbearing and boyishly cruel like he was the day before. He was quiet. One would think moody but not. Reflective seemed a better discription. Perhaps confused is the most accurate.
Today Jorel seems content. He rarely speaks because of the stuttering. Through practice he has perfected the art of speaking with his hands, facial expressions and writing. While others use words to convey feelings he finds other ways of expressing himself. He brings laughter to family meals with interesting arrangements of his food. Other times he uses a tablet and colored markers and draws impressions of the people around him. Jorel discovered a talent for art and is getter better because of the practice he’s getting. He is a caring, sympathetic boy because his life is focused on listening and not speaking. He can hear the hidden meaning in a spoken word and with a hug or drawing or a combination of both, speak with more meaning than someone blessed with the gift of tongues. His experience into silence has taught Jorel the value of being a good listener. He has learned to hear truth.
Both Jorel and the Stone Angel are different because of their encounter. Joel is a happier boy and the angel is missing a wing - a sacrifice to help a young boy see life with a new perspective.
It was a good exchange.
Here in our little village of Cloverdale our lives are written with ups and downs. We cherish the ups and, just like Jorel, pull ourselves up from the downs wiser and better people. The sun is setting and children are rushing home for supper. There may be time for some television after the dishes are done. Then bed and sleep.