. here is a story of the power of generations of love, the wisdom of looking and the convictions of never giving up.
Dotting I’s and Crossing T’s
Xavier trudged through some rather unpleasant garbage that had spoiled in the heat of the day. Looking out across the horizon of garbage at the trash dump, he watched the sun beginning its descent of the evening. Never in a million years would he have believed that on this day, he would be faced with the most daunting and impossible of tasks. Yet here he was, ankle-deep and soon-to-be knee-deep in garbage as he searched for Patches, Lucy’s first teddy bear and the one she had since the day of her birth.
Earlier that week, Lucy’s mother accidentally threw the teddy bear away in the midst of trying to clean up the attic. At this very moment, a rather distraught Lucy was being distracted by her mother with a day of shopping while Xavier and Lucy’s father desperately searched the trash dump for the teddy bear.
Xavier stepped forward, tearing open the trash bag at his feet. Finding this stuffed animal was never going to happen. And searching for it now seemed more like an excuse to say that he at least tried.
Perhaps it was that thought which made him sick to his stomach. Lucy was hurting right now and instinctively, Xavier was affected by it. He glanced over at Lucy’s father, seeing the same look of pre-determined defeat on his face as well.
Lucy’s father was a reasonable individual, but one had drilled Xavier more thoroughly than a military sergeant the day Lucy introduced him. Dotting the Is and crossing the Ts was merely the beginning formality. Having gotten to know Zeke, Xavier knew well the importance of finding Lucy’s teddy bear … no matter what the cost.
Fatigue eventually got the best of both of them and they had sit down for a moment.
“How ya doin’, Sir?” Xavier asked.
Zeke sighed and grinned.
“Just about as good as you, I suppose,” Zeke replied, seeing the same pride-wounded look on Xavier’s face. “I remember the day I bought that teddy bear for her.”
“On the day she was born, right?” Xavier asked, sitting up to stretch out the cramp that had formed in his lower back.
“Yeah,” Zeke said, smiling as he reflected on it. “I remember Lily had spent about 12 hours in labor and after Lucy was born, they both fell asleep pretty quickly. Lucy didn’t even cry once.”
“Yeah,” Xavier said, realizing once again how much Zeke loved his daughter.
“I went down to the hospital gift shop and there that teddy bear was sitting on the shelf, turned in such a way as if it were facing me – awaiting me to walk over and buy it,” Zeke said in reflection. “Thank you for helping me look for it, Xavier.”
“Are you kidding me?” Xavier asked with surprise. “Thank you for helping me look for it.”
Zeke folded his hands and smiled honestly, recognizing that Xavier truly loved his daughter.
“What did she look like when you first saw her?” Xavier asked. “When you walked into that room with the teddy bear.”
Zeke smiled sweetly.
“Her hands were balled up into tiny fists and her eyes were closed, but not squinting. When the attendants checked her vital signs she breathed deeply for them, almost as if she knew what they wanted. She was a little angel,” Zeke recalled. “I remember when I first held her. I cradled her in my arms and she opened her eyes. She couldn’t see me yet, but I could see directly into her soul and what shined back at me was the most blessed thing in this world.”
“What was it?” Xavier asked.
“In her eyes, I could see her mother,” Zeke replied.
Xavier’s mind drifted back to the last thing that Lucy whispered to him before he and Zeke drove to the trash dump.
Embracing him as if her heart depended on him to continue beating, she gazed up at him with the look of a lost child in her eyes.
“Please find Patches, Daddy,” he recalled her voice saying.
Xavier stood to his feet. There was no way he was going home without that teddy bear. Perhaps the truest lesson of dotting Is and crossing Ts could be learned by something else Zeke had once said to him:
“Don’t ever give up.”
The search for Patches continued.
“Oh my Lord. You two stink,” Lily said from the kitchen table as she watched Xavier and Zeke walking in the front door.
Apparently, their scent preceded them.
“Go, Xavier. Take a shower,” Lily said, covering her nose as she pointed to the bathroom down the hall. “You’ll find your laundry in the bathroom closet.”
“How is she?” Zeke asked Lily as Xavier headed to the bathroom.
Lily sighed. Guilt entered her mind, knowing she was the one who accidentally threw her daughter’s teddy bear away.
“She’s upstairs sleeping. She was kind of … sad,” Lily answered, getting teary-eyed as she recalled the day’s shopping trip. “I didn’t know what to say to her.”
“It’s nothing to be upset about, Princess,” Zeke said, walking her back to their bedroom. “You can’t go back and undo an accident.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” Lily sobbed softly as she sat on the edge of the bed while Zeke stripped out of the clothing he was in. “You’re not the one who threw away your daughter’s most prized stuffed animal.”
“No, I’m not,” Zeke replied, slipping into a t-shirt and pair of pants before helping her to her feet. “And we don’t have to worry about it anymore. Come with me.”
“Why don’t we have to worry about it anymore?” she asked as she took Zeke’s hand.
“I’ll explain on the way,” Zeke answered as they made their way out of the bedroom and to the staircase.
Xavier had stripped down and jumped into the shower, not taking any time to even allow the temperature to warm up before he began the quickest shower of his life. What kept passing through his mind was that look in Lucy’s eyes – the last vision he had of her from hours ago.
Xavier hopped out of the shower, quickly drying off and grabbing a t-shirt and pair of jeans from the Xavier shelf (as Lily called it) in the bathroom closet. Somehow and some way, more and more of his clothing wound up at Zeke and Lily’s house. As Lily found it all, she washed it and stored it in that closet.
But his wardrobe was the last thing of importance on his mind, just then.
For as much as it was merely an old teddy bear that had gone missing, it was the sentimental symbol of Lucy’s life – the one and only possession which had been with her every step of the way since her birth.
Xavier ran up the stairs, zipping his jeans up and appearing at the doorway to Lucy’s bedroom where Zeke and Lily stood, watching their daughter fast asleep in her bedroom from childhood.
Zeke handed him the plastic trash bag and he slowly walked into the bedroom as Zeke and Lily made their way downstairs.
Xavier looked around the bedroom, seeing the aged movie posters of Johnny Depp still hanging on the walls – from The Pirates of the Caribbean to Alice in Wonderland and everything in between. He smiled recalling how Lucy had told him her mother kept that bedroom exactly as it was the day she headed off to college.
The nightlight in the wall socket across the room cast a soft white glow across her bedroom. He followed the trail of light as led to the ceiling and back down to Lucy’s dreaming silhouette under the covers.
Sitting on the side of her bed, Xavier reached to the small nightstand and turned on the miniature lamp. The shade cast a pinkish glow on her frame. Though she was peacefully sleeping, he could see the strain she had gone through, evident in the streaks her tears had left on her cheeks. That may have been the hardest thing to see, but he recalled the many times he held her as she cried and how he often told her that each teardrop would bring her closer to happiness in the end.
Xavier almost didn’t want to wake her. She was sleeping like an angel. Her hands were balled up into tiny fists and her eyes were closed but not squinting. She was breathing deeply and evenly.
He thought back to the way Zeke describe her at her birth and he smiled at how she had the same needs during sleep that she had always had – that sense of security and knowing that all would be well when she was awakened.
If only he knew for sure what to say at that moment, he would’ve been far more confident as he drew his fingertips gently down the side of her cheek.
She stirred softly, clenching her loose fists before whimpering.
“Shh, shh, shh,” he whispered as she slowly opened her eyes and gazed up at him.
She sat up into his arms, crawling up onto his lap and curling up into a ball into his cradle. Her vision was still blurry and she worked hard to wake up completely as she rubbed her eyes.
Blinking, she laid her head on his shoulder, not saying a word, but just gazing up at him. Her irises were still reflective of how lost she felt inside, but they showed her happiness for having awakened to him. It was as if she had found some piece of the puzzle of life she had been seeking – or at least that she had rediscovered that determination her father had instilled in her since birth.
“Thank you for looking for Patches, Daddy,” Lucy finally said. “It means the world to me that you tried.”
“Princess, I would’ve done whatever I needed to just so we would arrive at this moment,” he said sweetly, picking up the trash bag and setting it on her lap.
Unbeknownst to Lucy or Xavier, Zeke and Lily had crept back up the stairs and were hiding just outside the doorway.
“Oh my Lord. That bag stinks,” Lucy said in the exact same fashion as Lily had greeted Xavier and Zeke when they returned home.
Outside the door, Zeke began snickering until Lily reached up and covered his mouth.
“What is it?” Lucy asked, uncertain what was inside the bag.
She felt the squishy contents through the outside of the trash bag. Then suddenly, her eyes grew wide. It couldn’t possibly be. There was no possible way.
Holding her breath, partially for the horrid smell and partially for hope, she peeled the top of the trash bag down to reveal the smelly, dilapidated, disgusting, wonderful, dream-filled remains of Patches her Teddy Bear.
For a moment, she just sat there and stared at the teddy bear, uncertain if she was ready to believe it had actually been found.
“Patches is going to need the bath of a lifetime and a few stitches here and there, but I think he’ll make it,” Xavier said, still waiting for her to make any reaction.
Contrary to her non-existent response, Lucy was beside herself with happiness, but she was having serious trouble processing what order of explosion she wanted her emotions to go in. She lifted the smelly bear out of the bag and held it up so she could see it eye to eye.
“Mr. Patches, don’t you run away from me again, okay?” Lucy said to the teddy bear. “We decided a long time ago that we were going to do this whole life thing together. And it was wrong to pack you away in that closet, but I promise you I’ll never let you leave my side ever again.”
Before Xavier had a chance to stop her, she drew the bear close to her and hugged it as she let out a squeal of delight. Zeke and Lily walked into her bedroom just in time to see her add to her embrace with the teddy bear a second embrace with Xavier.
Her nightie was now a horrible smelly mess and so was the t-shirt Xavier just changed into. But none of that mattered to her because somehow, some way – Xavier had done the impossible. He had climbed to the top of a trash heap and found that teddy bear, making good on his impossible promise to her.
For the moment, all the “I”s were dotted and all the “T”s were crossed.
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