A Bigger Rope

July 20, 2022 – My brother had emergency surgery last night and is in ICU Room 807 at Atrium in Macon. In the few hours I’ve been here he’s had ten people taking care of him. A team of six health professionals, including two doctors, came to develop a comprehensive plan.

The care being given is impressive enough to bolster my hope this is the beginning of better days. He’s been sick for months and has a long way to go. There’s a faint light at the end of the tunnel which we pray isn’t a train. I believe Jimmy will eventually be fine, but I’m not sure about the guy washing windows. He needs a bigger rope.

If you see me suspended on one of those contraptions, report a kidnapping. The idea of going up doesn’t bother me, but thoughts of an unplanned descent are frightening. I’m inclined to agree with the fellow who said if God intended for man to fly he would have given him wings.

That eighth-floor room is the first place I’ve had a bird’s eye view of a sky-high window washer. Before that encounter most of my knowledge came from an episode of The Three Stooges. They often flirted with danger, but at least their rig had big ropes.

I was seated in a corner, keeping quiet as Jimmy rested. A loud thud got my attention, its source unknown. I heard the noise a few more times then saw a man with a squeegee cleaning glass. His buggy had been banging the wall on the way up.  

It wasn’t until he lowered the platform I realized he was relying on two ropes which weren’t fully grown. I would not have trusted them to hold up a porch swing. My thoughts went back to that classic line in the movie JAWS. “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”

The daring young man must have safely finished the job because he dropped out of sight without a scream. I had thought it best not to distract him, so I didn’t shout at him through the thick glass. As I left the hospital that afternoon the equipment was gone, except for two skinny blue and white ropes dangling from the roof. Thankfully, the sidewalk showed no evidence of a catastrophe.   

Maybe tomorrow he’ll return and we can have a short chat. I’d love to know where he finds the courage to dangle precariously in the air. I don’t know if he’s brave or crazy but wanted to ask how he could place such confidence in malnourished cords.

Trusting those skimpy ropes struck me as a bit foolish. Someone prone to bad puns might say he was putting his life on the line. But in the quietness of the ICU I started thinking about how easy it is to trust things that can unexpectedly fail. Health is a good example.

A nurse asked me if Jimmy was my father. I got a chuckle out of that and he will later, but now is not the time. Weight loss and a three week beard makes a man in a hospital bed seem older. 

That reminds me of a story Daddy told years ago about a silver-haired man sitting on a porch in the north Georgia mountains. With a long beard and leathery skin he and his unpainted shack looked like relics from a distant era. A tourist pulled over to speak, thinking he might take a picture and maybe hear some flavorful lore.

For someone with such an aged appearance he was surprisingly lively, so the traveler asked him the secret to his longevity. “Been a heavy smoker since I was kid,” he said, “and most of my corn comes from a jar. Plus I’ve always loved chasing after younger women.” 

Such an unlikely response shocked the tourist. “If you don’t mind my asking,” he politely said, “how old are you?”

The old man paused to scratch his beard and take a draw from his pipe, like he needed to do some figuring before he answered. “If I live to see my next birthday,” he finally replied, “I’ll be 39.”  

It’s easy to misplace our trust, to rely on things that can fail. Some failures have minor consequences while others are severe. Some only affect this lifetime, while others carry over to the one that follows. 

Next time there’s a matter where placing trust in the right thing is essential, where it’s critical to make a good choice, I hope I’ll remember a lesson that came from watching that fellow as he washed those windows. Sometimes we need a bigger rope.                   

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1 Response to A Bigger Rope

  1. Ellen Hunsucker says:

    Good one, Neil, but a reminder of difficult days for you! Did you ever get to talk with the young window washer? Maybe it was because he was so young, that he could do such a risky job!


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