He Smiled At Me

The gymnasium was set up for a career fair at the high school for the Great American Teach-In. There were tables set up for participating companies, disciplines and even the U.S. Air Force from MacDill AF Base. I reluctantly signed up to help with the career fair since they said it would be 1-on-1 with students vs. classroom.

I don’t like crowds  and quickly became claustrophobic, especially with all of the chatter in the gym. Science/Technical isn’t a popular subject matter to the vast majority of students, so not many stopped by. Those who did were grabbed up by the other two at my table.  I sat quietly, tuned out the noise and watched the students mill about the gym. It was very apparent to me that the students were more interested in being out of the classroom than careers. Most students did “drive by’s” each table, picked up freebies, hung out with their friends until the bell rang.

Two and half hours was an eternity to me. A new group of students entered the gym. My two table-mates quickly found someone else to talk to. I saw the young man standing in front of our table. He was all alone and holding a U.S. history book almost as big as him. He looked uncomfortable and almost frozen in front of our table, unsure of what to do.

It pained me to see him all alone and uneasy. I saw his name tag, and said, “hello Michael”. He looked up, and said hello back, surprised that I spoke to him. I asked him how he was doing, and he said “ok”. I continued speaking and asked him if he was interested in the science/technical field. He told me he didn’t really know what he wanted to do. He told me he was a sophomore. He was shorter than me with a slight build; I surmised that he was one of the smaller boys, if not the smallest, in his class. I told him he has a lot of time to figure out what he wants to do.

Then I asked him if he liked history, and he nodded “yes” and relaxed a bit. So I asked him, “what are you studying?” to which he replied, “World War I”. I asked him to tell me what started the war, and he was eager to share. He told me that U.K., France and Russia opposed Germany and Austria-Hungary. I said that I didn’t remember the details but “why did the U.S. get involved?” He told me that we remained neutral until Germany invited Mexico to fight against the U.S. and would help them recover TX, NM and AZ.

Curious if he was abreast of current events, I asked him, “what do you think about what’s going in our world today?” He was very thoughtful and said that we need to look back on history and understand what lessons we learned. We need to think long-term and hopefully make a good decision for our country. I asked if World War II is next, and he told me the Great Depression is next. I told him, “as bad as our economy is now, it’s nothing compared to the Great Depression.”

Just then, the bell rang and it was time for him to return to class. I said, “you’re a very sharp young man. Thank you for talking to me and good luck to you.” And that’s when he broke into a full, tooth-filled smile. He held out his hand to me which I shook. He said, “thank you, thank you for coming today.”

It was an emotional drive home, mostly because I wouldn’t be able to share my experience with John. All afternoon, Michael’s smile kept coming back to my mind. Then, it dawned on me – John loved history, especially U.S. history. He always told me how he was a scrawny kid growing up, a loner, uncomfortable in crowds like me, like Michael. It was less than 10 minutes in the three hours I spent at the career fair, but it’s as if Michael stopped in front of me on purpose. He needed me to speak to him, and I needed to speak to him. It was as if John, my guardian angel, smiled at me through Michael’s smile, a tiny little God-wink for me.

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The Gray Cat With Blue Eyes

Wednesday nights, all of us place the trash and recycle bins on the curb. As I was rolling the trash can to the curb, I heard a “meow” from the garage. I went back for the recycle bin, and I saw the gray cat standing next to the car. I tried to call him out of the garage, but he kept walking towards the back door.

I crept down in the driveway and called to him again mainly because I didn’t want him to stay in the garage! He kept meowing and looking at the back door.  We’ve never been “cat people”; we have always rescued little dogs. I’m not really sure how to act around cats.  As I squatted in the driveway, I called to him.  He finally came over and gave me “cat kisses” on my hand and legs; he kept rubbing his neck and body against my legs. He put his head in my hand and wanted me to pet him and rub his head and back.

I started crying and talked to the cat through tears, and said “why are you here of all nights? I’ve been asking John to speak to me all day, and now it’s dark.” I have no idea how to take care of cats. I kept crying, petting him and letting him “kiss” my hand. Then I asked, “by chance, is your name John? Are you trying to tell me something?”

He kept returning to the garage and sitting in front of the door, and then he laid down in front of the car. At this point, I had to find a way to get him out so I could close the garage. I took the garage door opener out of the car and coaxed the cat outside again.  I started walking down the sidewalk. The cat followed me, and I closed the garage. He walked with me touching my leg as we walked.

I decided to try Mac and Bambi, hoping they would chase the cat away. I put Mac’s leash on, and he went crazy as soon as he saw the cat.  Mission accomplished — the cat ran away.  Mac and I went for a walk down the sidewalk about a block and then returned home. We went through the front door, and I tried to collect myself.

Now, Bambi was ready to go out, so I let her out the back door. As soon as I opened the back door, I heard the meowing. The cat had returned and was sitting on one of the patio chairs by the grill. About this time, my sister, Beth, called me. I told her about the strange encounter. Because she has had cats, I asked her what should I do?

I described the cat to Beth. He is mostly gray with white “boots” on each foot. He has white patches over his nose and white-striped “eye brows” that look painted on – three vertical stripes over the top of each eye. Across the bottom eyelids, it looked like white eyeshadow was painted across. Once Beth saw his picture, she said “I’ve never seen a cat with those kinds of markings.”

Beth said, “he might be hungry, but cats won’t eat dog food. Do you have any canned chicken?” I didn’t, but I decided to try Bambi’s nuggets. The cat ate every nugget in the bowl.

While Beth and I kept talking, I sat down on our glider. The cat crawled up on my lap and wanted me to pet him. She said, “cats don’t come up to people, especially ones they don’t know.” And then she asked, “what color are his eyes?” I know why she asked . . . John has blue eyes.

After a few minutes, the cat wanted to go back outside, so I let him out. And then Beth said the most beautiful thing to me.  Maybe the cat is a God-Wink and “maybe he knew you needed comfort and sought you out.”  She told me that cats don’t “kiss” people, but this one “kissed” me. She said cats rub against you because they want to be touched and loved, or maybe he knew I needed to touched and loved at that moment.

I haven’t seen the cat since he left the patio last night.  I believe Beth is right . . . the cat was a God-Wink sent to me last night.  I needed to know that my angel, John, is watching over me, he loves me, he misses me . . . as much as I love him and miss him.  Last night, I was blessed with a beautiful gray cat with blue eyes.

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