The ThornBy Edward A. Rinderle
by Ed Rinderle
It began as a tiny prick, barely noticeable. In fact, if I directed my mind anywhere else, it would disappear, and I could not recover the feeling. Not that I'd want to.
It all started years ago when my then fiancee, Paulette, and I were spending a weekend getaway at a beach resort called The Deep Blue Sea in Oceanview, California. Oceanview is just a 2 hour drive up the Pacific coast from our home in Sierra Madre. We had left home in our faithful eight-year-old Hyundai sedan, early enough to beat the traffic. We arrived in Oceanview just before nine a.m. We headed straight for Captain Jack's, a lovely little restaurant on the sand. There we dined on a variety of fresh-caught seafood. I've long loved any opportunity to get fresh fish or crab for breakfast.
After a sumptuous meal, we took a walk along the beach. At first, we followed a wooden walkway, enjoying the breeze, the sound of the surf, and the sights of the fishing boats closing up shop for another day. Soon we abandoned the walkway, taking off our shoes, and running hand-in-hand toward the beckoning surf. We dug our toes into the sand and splashed in the cool water as it lapped at the shoreline.
Around noon we headed to the Deep Blue Sea just a short distance away. We checked into our second story room, and it was a beauty. King bed, dark wood furnishings, seascapes on the walls. A breathtaking ocean panorama from our balcony. We took our time unpacking, savoring every moment in this special place.
After grabbing a quick bite in the resort's dining room, Paulette and I returned to our room to don our swim suits. Then we left the resort to join a small group for a boat ride around a neighboring island. The views of the island's lush forests were mesmerizing. We were thrilled at the sight of a waterfall not far from the shore. A humpback whale made two appearances just a few yards from the boat. We ended up in a little cove where we took to the water for a closer look at some of the local tropical fish.
The boat trip was amazing, but it left us quite tired. So, we opted to stay at the resort and return to their dining room for a dinner of fresh local seafood. Later we spent some time on our balcony, sipping mojitos and watching the sunset. It was a magnificent day all around.
Then the Thorn made its first appearance. Just a few little pricks over the course of an hour. The pricks left me agitated, and my sleep was restless. The next day was nice enough – good breakfast, another walk along the beach, a drive around downtown Oceanview, stopping in at a few shops. Then a pleasant drive home. Overall it was a very good trip, but the Thorn had taken the edge off.
Months later, as our wedding day approached, Paulette and I were beside ourselves with excitement. Preparations were going well. We had sent out invitations, rented a venue, chosen the cake, and arranged for the buffet and musical entertainment. The future spread out before us like a vast canvas on which we would paint our lives. Life was beautiful. Except . . . except for those little twinges that I was coming to know so well. It was the Thorn, reminding me that it was still there.
The wedding went off without a hitch, and our first years together were all we had imagined. Breakfasting together before a day at our respective jobs. Returning home for cocktails and dinner as we shared news from the day. Taking care of the yard and various household chores. Sharing each aspect of our everyday lives. We also took breaks to go on 3- or 4-day trips to neighboring beach towns or to the mountains. It was hard to imagine how life could have been better.
Then, gradually at first but increasing in intensity, the Thorn reared its ugly head like never before. Turning bright days into darkness once a week, then twice a week, then most of the time. The Thorn became my nearly constant companion for the greater part of three years. As a result, our relationship became so strained that we thought we might actually need to take some time off from each other. But then, the Thorn's prickly presence waned. I couldn't help but think that it had just been jealous for a while but had finally gotten over it.
Throughout the remaining years, the Thorn popped up here and there at random. I could never quite see it coming. But as time wore on, the frequency of its presence became almost predictable. It seemed that whenever a day was going well, I could expect its appearance to descend on me and put a damper on an otherwise good time. Before long, I found words from my distant past beginning to haunt me: “There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me!” Satan, eh? Perhaps so.
Weeks have passed. Today I rose from bed with expectation filling my heart. Paulette and I had a free day ahead and had made plans for a drive in the country. But up popped the Thorn, earlier than usual. By mid morning, the day was in shambles. I dragged myself back to bed as depression descended. Satan had returned once again with his message.
Buried in the blackness of my mood, I happened to lift my eyes to the bedroom window. Outside, I saw the birds flocking to the bird bath in our yard. How many times had they paid me a visit to cheer me. Blackbirds, doves, small birds and large . . . even my favorites, the woodpeckers, came for a drink and a frolic in the cool waters.
I called to them through my tears: “Hello, my angels. The Thorn has skewered me once again, and the pain just refuses to subside. Can you please help me?”
Then there came a voice that seemed to fill the room: “My grace is sufficient thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
A prayer of thanks rose from my heart, and I fell asleep, at peace.