Category Archives: Short Stories

A Perspective – The Prodigal Son

There are these moments in my life when I am left to think about that which I am, or that which I have been taught to be, or that which I think is right.  It is never my inclination to discount any of these particular thoughts, although I seem to have been blessed with a short memory for most of them.  The most painful of these thoughts, those that seem to have been the very definitions of the term “me”, are the ones that linger like an irritating cough interrupting my restful slumber.  

It seems to be that we humans do spend an awful lot of time wasting away our lives on these meaningless activities.  I so envy the tree as it goes about its life without justification or need to be anything other than a tree.  How strange would this universe be if a tree tried mightily to be more likes its Creator, or even had the audacity to question that which gave it life?   What if a tree could create for itself a condition by which growing upward was wrong?  It would struggle to bend itself toward the ground, its branches pushing upward as its mind pushed downward.  Or what if the sun itself decided that burning brightly and hotly was wrong?  It would struggle against itself to dim its light, and would change our universe forever.

I think about the lonely salmon whose sexual urges push it against the mighty stream.  Imagine if it were written that it was wrong, that not only the act of listening to its nature but also the nature of its act were both wrong.  What would become of the salmon, of its nature, of its purpose?  Imagine if salmon rejected those who saw fit to fulfill their nature.  Imagine the guilt those who simply had not the inclination nor the need to cater to those words of discouragement would feel.   Imagine the shame of “failure” it would feel.  Imagine the distractions it would need to seek to forget who it was.  Imagine the need for “salvation” that this fear would create, and the need to create the salvation as surely as it had the need to create the fear to begin with.

Fortunately for the salmon, the tree, the grass, and all creatures of the earth save man this need does not exist.  They are free to act as they were created to be simply because they have no need to be anything else.  What beauty is there in such a life’s purpose!!

I have had the create fortune of revisiting with some others the parable of the “Prodigal Son“.  This parable has not only inspired me to untold moments of thought, but also has provided me with a great insight to where I was during any one of these moments.   Regardless of where I was, I choose to only focus on where I am this moment in regards to not only the discussion but the parable.  I no longer seek the perspective of either son, the judged or the judging, but rather the father who simple loves without the need to be either.

There is a bit of each character in all of us.  There is a part of us that is the lost son.  We make mistakes.  We squander opportunity.  We suffer.  Then there is a part of us that is older son.  We work hard to please others.  We strive to do what we are taught is “right”.  We suffer.  There is also a part of us that is the father.  That part of us just observes and forgives.  That part not only forgives the parts of us that cause us to suffer, but allows the suffering in order that we may return to it.  We struggle mightily to “sin”.  We struggle mightily to stay on the “righteous path”.  We struggle so therefore we suffer, all-the-while the father in each of us just accepts, loves, and forgives.

How many of us can truly embrace who we are as either son?  How many of us can learn to be who we are without shame or guilt?  Very, very, very few of us I suppose.  So few that those who can are considered “special”.  God’s will does not involve “right” or wrong – that is man’s will – but rather involves doing.  That purpose we call “God’s will” is found in the son whose wild living finds him broke and hungry.  That purpose we call “God’s will” is found in the son struggling to remain true to beliefs.  That purpose we call “God’s will” is found in the realization that we need our “father” again, as well as in the act of returning to him, and yes as well as in the act of forgiving ourselves in the knowledge that we will leave him again.

It’s inevitable.  It’s the matter of humans Being.  When we accept our quest to grow toward the sky we limit our suffering in the transformation.  When we accept that the light we emit is the light we are intended to shine we limit our suffering in the creation.  When we accept that the swim upstream is not only necessary but who we are we fulfill our purpose without interference from who we think we should be.

Or not…because in not doing so we are fulfilling our purpose was well.  It’s all right, for the sun cannot shine without the darkness of the universe.  The song cannot be played without the silence that allows it to be.  Perfection…all of it.  Peace.
 

©2010 Thomas P. Grasso All Rights Reserved ☮ ℓﻉﻻ٥ ツ

Psalm 1:1

I can no longer hide the essence of who I am.  The basket I’ve used is no longer thick enough. To share this light with the world; to be the guide toward whatever it is you seek; to strengthen you when you require; to weaken you when you demand; to comfort you when you request; to cause you pain when you need to feel something is my greatest purpose. 

You have torn from me that last great veil!  You have ripped from me the security I once sought with all my being and fed it to the wolves from which I once ran.  You have denied me the simplest pleasure while chastising me for seeking the greatest sin.  For who has that bell tolled if not for me?  Seek and you shall find without the slightest guarantee that what you find is what you were seeking in the first place.

With outstretched hands I beg of you.  Do not spare me from the slightest pain.  Do not keep me from the darkness.  Do not hamper me from the fall I must endure.  Allow me to bask in the darkness and embrace the suffering so that I may know what it is I am here for.  Allow the cup that you pass to press upon my lips.  Allow the nails to do their work.  Allow the taunts and unconsciousness of those around me to cause my wings to flutter uncontrollably.  It is for that you have created me; it is for that I have created my self; it is for that we have created each other.

©2010 Thomas P. Grasso All Rights Reserved ☮ ℓﻉﻻ٥ ツ

Silence – The Relationship with Self

I frown at the thought of mothering yet another pitiful episode of the mad wonderings in my mind that create a sense of insanity outside of it.  Still, when faced with the combined sense of being misunderstood and misunderstanding I cannot seem but help to give birth to such a monster.  Gone are the thoughts of rosy sunrises in which we hold each other tightly.  Gone are the cascades of kisses thrown around as if they are candy during an Halloween parade.  Enter in this scene a morose feeling of incompleteness and solitude combined with fear and a sense of ineptness only experience in both could understand.  I don’t sense you have this experience and therefore do not have this understanding.  I am happy for that, for I love you with all of my heart and do not wish such a pain to be burdened by you ever in your life.

So I sit in silence.

Riding the wave has never been so hard.  Caught between the break and the riptide I am slowly losing my way from the shore.  I claw at the water to no avail as the sand and stone fades from memory into nightmare.  I drift away into the nothingness from wench I came, into an abyss so dark as to suggest it cannot exist.  To what do I owe this moment?  Is the “self” I was being so bad as to justify the hell it has been cast into?

The answer is silence.

I once heard a voice that seemed to inspire me.  I once felt tears that seemed to move me.  I once heard cries that caused me to look inward.  Now all I hear are echos from my own mind.  The voice now rejects me as if I were poison.  The tears now sting at my soul and keep me from being able to open my eyes.  The cries now are gone and have been replaced by nothing that matters.  I sit here, a soul of wholeness amidst the broken chains that bound me.  The chains only rattle, they do not hold me.  The links fall to the ground as broken shards of a heart once kept whole by the anger that imprisoned it.  It’s funny how the bars of the prison can keep the monster whole until the bars fall and the beast explodes, no longer existing but as a fraction of itself.  

Its roar is now silent.

Oh little boy, scarred by those who claim love, brought into the darkness by those who claim to know the light, who do you latch hold of when the coldness comes?  Who is your savior when you sin against your fairy tale?  Who is your executioner when you are no longer needed to be whole?  Time, my friend, will answer these questions.  Time, my son, will teach you truth.  You will come from solitude and be taught who you are only to find peace in the absence of everything you were taught.  You will rebel against who you are in the hopes of finding who you are.  You will cry, you will scream, you will grasp at nothingness until nothingness is all you know.  You will hear a voice that inspires you, you will cry tears that heal you, you will hear cries that cause you to look inside of you.  Through all of this noise you will see the honesty in its absence.  Through all of the clatter and instruction and direction and conditioning you will see the beauty of the what comes before and after the thunder.

You will smile.  You will love.  You will know silence, and in silence you will know your self.

©2010 Thomas P. Grasso All Rights Reserved ☮ ℓﻉﻻ٥ ツ

Ranting…

I hesitate to write what I am feeling.  What effects will come of such honesty?  A discussion here, a glance there…then it all falls back into place as it is.  My world will spin eastward regardless of what I do to change its direction.  It’s like I am a hungry soul left to the whims of charity, a charity that gets bored with the effort and moves onto something else.  I remain hungry…they feel fulfilled.

There is a lesson here somewhere, the challenge is to find it.  To tolerate those who are not tolerant…to show desire where none is shown in return…to feel full when in the midst of a fast.  Those seem to be nothing but the introductory classes to a doctorate degree, the scratching of the surface to a bottomless glacier the shavings of which melt too quickly to be noticed.  I find the time to find the time but not to do much with it.  How sad.

I am just ranting at this point…the frustrations of having to be the yin to the yang…wait, perhaps I am trying too hard to change the yang to be more like the yin.  Just let that fucker go…see it float away like a hot air balloon over the horizon.  Now that would be an awesome trial.  To not need you or your thoughts of me or your thoughts of others.  I nearly laugh at the idea not because of its humor but because of its simplicity.  How can something so simple be so difficult?  

Well, off to keep scratching and hopefully stop caring.  Not sure what this does, but certainly sure of what it doesn’t do.

©2010 Thomas P. Grasso All Rights Reserved ☮ ℓﻉﻻ٥ ツ

The Stone Cutter

I received this story from a Facebook friend and was so touched by it that I felt it worth sharing.

The Stonecutter
Author Unknown

There was once a stone cutter who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life.

One day he passed a wealthy merchant’s house. Through the open gateway, he saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stone cutter. He became very envious and wished that he could be like the merchant.

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever imagined, but envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. Soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. “How powerful that official is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a high official!”

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around. It was a hot summer day, so the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the sun!”

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. “How powerful that storm cloud is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud!”

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!”

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, feared and hated by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it – a huge, towering rock. “How powerful that rock is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a rock!”

Then he became the rock, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the hard surface, and felt himself being changed. “What could be more powerful than I, the rock?” he thought.

He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stone cutter.


Just a lovely story, uncompromising in both its simplicity and its message.   


©2010 Thomas P. Grasso All Rights Reserved ☮ ℓﻉﻻ٥ ツ

>Where the Pitman Rink Use to Be (an ode to friends and memories)

As if I’ve stumbled onto memory,
I’ve tripped in distant past,
A moonlight park, a player’s bench,
An eternal moment cast.
To leave that place I’ve never left,
A soul in disarray,
An old man stares at that moonlit ground,
Still to feel his youth’s dismay.
To know such place as hallowed truth,
Is to know much mental fear,
And to know such ecstasy as was on this ground,
Is to know that he was here.
I shall not forget the sweat and tears,
I used to set me free,
And time can’t change what Love had made,
Where the Pitman Rink Used to Be.
The old place is gone forever. Torn down as time wore it’s warped boards and chipped is rugged asphalt. Yet to me this place shall always exist. It may be important to share such fond memories with those who were so integral in making them. We are not guaranteed any moment past this one, so to share it is a priceless gift.
It surely is an anonymous place to most, and there must be a million such places effecting a million such people as me. Yet I can still remember meeting Timmy Broger down there, and the many different characters who used to play hockey “just for fun” on the weekends and after work. I can remember having to sweep the broken bottles off the place before we played, or in having to shovel the surface before a league game. But mostly I can remember the laughter of friends and the bonds that were forged there. I can remember Derek and John in all of their youth and the teams that we made not just to win, but to just have so much fun that we would never forget those moments. God I owe Derek and John so much for taking the time to build those teams and the memories that will forever walk with me.
Of course we didn’t always use the rink for hockey. I can remember moments burned into my mind forever in the joy that only friends could share. It is remarkable what perspective one can gain with experience, but to relive those moments in my mind is as almost to shout “slow down Tom, enjoy this moment for all of its worth!” In my old man’s eye I look through my youth at such special memories.
To you, my friends, who made one place a bastion for such remarkable memories I can only offer my love in return. There are other places like this with other friends; places where we go by now only in passing but hold such valuable memories. For me such places exist like the Woodbury Height’s McDonalds where I have some awesome memories. Skater’s Choice…The Oak Tree…Ewan Lake…the lake at Marshall’s where I not only skated by where Vince saved my life…the Spectrum where I not only saw my first hockey game but saw my first concert and, yes, Van Halen at least six times…the Pitman apartment…Evesham Skating Center…Down on Mainstreet…Spuds and Suds…Veteran’s Stadium where Nana took me to my first two Phillies games with her old lady’s group…to the late Frank Centrione who gave me two summers of awesome memories with Sam Casella…to St. Joseph’s Elementary…to the Joe Louis Arena where I saw my first Flyer’s game out of Philly and to the 50% of their fans who wore Eric Lindros sweaters…to Aunt Kathy’s house that showed me there was hope and love when I thought neither existed…to Underwood Hospital for not only stitching me up more times than I can count but for also helping bring three of the most beautiful gifts into the world…to the football field at Lamb’s Road Church and the Sunday Slaughter that was only bested by the Friday and Saturday night get togethers…
To those friends who made this life so special, I send you love for the great times I can look back on (pardon for the maiden names). To John and Derek who tolerated me in my presence as well as in my long-term absences and who could see right through me…to Cliff Henderson who not only schooled me about Hall and Oates but who also had the best video store in town… to Mike Parker who helped me up after a beat down in Salem…to Frank Durso who was always there with a ride and a wit and who always was looked for a remedy for being thin (silly as that sounds) as well as for a way for a Chevy to beat a Mustang…to Terry Fisher for trying to understand a mind gone haywire and for forgiving (usually) I am not sure I can ever repay you…to Jeanine Bilderback for being a great friend in a time when I felt so alone in the world…to Kristy Pace who not only exposed me to a new way of thinking but challenged me to think (as well as for getting me to the Joe)…to Robbie Hopkins for being so nice and sweet and giving and to exposing me to her friends who were just like her…to Aunt Kathy who I love with all of my heart who knows…to Chuck Coverly who was my first best friend and will be always there…to Vince Coates who saved my life in so many ways and provided me an escape from hell every once in a while…to Debbie Kidd who gave me a place of refuge on so many levels so many times… to Sister Assumpta who I still cherish in my heart … to Dave and Kristin Fritz who are just too awesome for words…to Steve Bobo and the officers of 6-6 who make that place such a joy to volunteer for…
To my father who I lost as a young boy and have found again as a man…to my mother and stepfather who raised me and provided me experiences that would allow me perspective Now…to my sister who shared with me some hell and I hope will share with me some heaven…to my in-laws who are my parents in heart and mind and who have showed me so many things in such a short period of time…to my niece and nephews who have so much to offer the world the future looks that much brighter…
To my children who found me lost and gave me some light to head to and to my wife Veronica who has softened me with the tough love I needed and gave me a mirror to which I could see myself; she has seen the worst of me and the best of me and still has decided I am worth the effort…
I love you all.
I may add to this list from time to time as memory allows. I send this out in the hopes that we all can share in a special memory and/or a special place in our hearts. If the smiles and warmth I have felt in my heart from the gift of memory you have provided me in this moment can be shared then what a special gift it is indeed.
As for now I leave with some lyrics from a Pearl Jam song called “Just Breathe”:
Yes, I understand that every life must end, aw-huh,..
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, aw-huh,..
Oh I’m a lucky man, to count on both hands
the ones I love,..

Some folks just have one,
yeah, others, they’ve got none, huh-uh

Stay with me,..
Let’s just breathe.

Practiced are my sins,
never gonna let me win, aw-huh,..
Under everything, just another human being, aw-huh,..
Yeh, I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world
to make me bleed.

Stay with me,..
You’re all I see.

Peace.

Two Choices (an email to cut and paste, sent to me by a loved one)

Two Choices

What would you do? You make the choice. Don’t look for a punch line, there isn’t one.

Read it anyway. My question is: Would you have made the same choice?

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning-disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:
“When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?”

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. “I believe that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.”

Then he told the following story:

Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, “Do you think they’ll let me play?” Shay’s father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

Shay’s father approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, “We’re losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.”

Shay struggled over to the team’s bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. His Father watched with a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father’s joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay’s team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?
Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay’s life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman’s head, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, “Shay, run to first! Run to first!” Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, “Run to second, run to second!” Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball … the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher’s intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman’s head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, “Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay”

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, “Run to third! Shay, run to third!” As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, “Shay, run home! Run home!” Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.

“That day”, said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, “the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world”.

Shay didn’t make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

AND NOW A LITTLE FOOTNOTE TO THIS STORY: We all send thousands of jokes through the e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people hesitate. The crude, vulgar, and often obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces.

If you’re thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you’re probably sorting out the people in your address book who aren’t the “appropriate” ones to receive this type of message. Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference. We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the “natural order of things.” So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice: Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?

A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats it’s least fortunate amongst them.

You now have two choices:
1. Delete
2. Forward

May your day, be a Shay Day.