The Bible through My Bubble
I wriggled beneath the sheets, propped semi-upright against two pillows as my father scanned the bookshelf; his fingers poised deftly in mid-air.
“What would you like to hear, Sweetie?” he asked as he pulled out the large, purple leather bound text. “Ah, how about this then – it’s one of your favourites,” he feigned, just a bit too brightly. I peered through the misted plastic tent that enshrined me, at the book that hugged his hip as he adjusted the bedside chair. Anticipating the beautiful pastel illustrations within The Rainbow Book of Bible Stories, I held my breath. Page 14 was the one that held my fascination.
“Can I hold it, Daddy? I want to see it. Just for a minute?”
“Another time maybe,” he smiled gently, opening the oversized volume which stretched the length of his lap. I could make out hazy figures of Adam and Eve surrounded by pairs of animals in a lush forest. Beams of sunlight streamed through giant, ethereal fingers gently splayed above the rich landscape. Squinting, I marveled at the protective hand of God cradling the scene so lovingly. My dad began to read, his voice muffled against the hissing of the oxygen tank, feeding into my little plastic world.
I knew he was trying to appear relaxed, though a shadow of worry intermittently flitted and skittered behind his dark eyes. I knew that the thick, ragged, rattling breaths I drew were the source of his concern. And I knew that beneath the subtle-but-anxious glances, the fervently whispered snippets of hallway conversations, and the constant slipper-soft nighttime checks, there lurked a quiet, unspoken dread.
He was a Canadian Forces fighter pilot at the pinnacle of his career, flying a brilliant red T-33 jet. At just 24 years old, Dad had been selected as the famed Red Knight, dazzling North American audiences with his spectacular aerobatic displays. He was a modern day gladiator. Fearless. Watching from the tarmac, his mother silently prayed, and wept, for his safety – the Holy Bible, her constant companion…..and perhaps, now his.
We had been posted to Moose Jaw where I began Kindergarten in the fall of 1964. By spring, I was hospitalized, undergoing a mass of tests for the source of a persistent lung problem. “Bronchitis likely…. or Pneumonia, perhaps,” they assured. But nothing could have prepared my parents for the staggering verdict that came soon after. The base doctors confirmed that I had Cystic Fibrosis. If lucky, they offered hopefully, I could live to see my 20th birthday. With the blessing of his Commanding Officer, Dad made an emergency trip that week, flying to the east coast for an oxygen tent – the bubble that was now my home.
I would later discover how the diagnosis had impacted my dad. His aviation log book meticulously chronicled each flight; aircraft type and tail number, time measured in quarter hours, its destination and purpose. It stoically omitted, however, mention of anything non-aircraft related. Yet there, printed cryptically beside the entry for April 13, 1965, “Corinne diagnosed as Cystic Fibrotic.”
Much like the streams of light emanating from a gentle hand over the pastel figures on page 14, I believed that prayers were radiant beams – projected upwards. I believed that parents praying for their children sent the brightest beams of all. And I believe still, that in that sky where my dad so effortlessly soared, God beheld, and answered, a mother’s prayers for her son, and a father’s prayers for his little girl.
The log book entry on May 20th proclaimed fervently, “Corinne – confirmed NOT C.F.”