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The Light Abides

Robert A. Fink

41fNgJk-pYL“Whoever loves his brother abides in the light,
and in him there is no cause for stumbling.”
1 John 2: 10

“The old days, they arrive back
in the oddest ways, suddenly taut,
breaking the surface, a salmon leap.”
Colum McCann, TransAtlantic (110)

Richard Parker is disappearing into the jungle.  I miss him already.

I was weeping because Richard Parker had left me so unceremoniously. What a terrible thing it is to botch a farewell.  I am a person who believes in form, in the harmony of order.  Where we can, we must give things a meaningful shape. . . . It’s important in life to conclude things properly.  Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse.  (Yann Martel, Life of Pi, Harcourt, 2001)

Richard Parker was a Bengal tiger with whom Piscine Molitar Patel (Pi) coexisted in a lifeboat for 227 days. Each kept the other alive. Now the boat had touched land, and Richard Parker jumped over Pi, leaving him trying to stand in two feet of water, struggling to find his balance, make it to shore. R. P. stretched in the air, “a fleeting, furred rainbow” above Pi, then with a few hops reached the beach, “his paws gouging the wet sand,” running “a hundred yards or so along the shore before turning in” (284).

His gait was clumsy and uncoordinated. He fell several times. At the edge of the jungle, he stopped. I was certain he would turn my way. He would look at me. He would flatten his ears. He would growl. In some such way, he would conclude our relationship. He did nothing of the sort. He only looked fixedly into the jungle.  Then Richard Parker, companion of my torment, awful, fierce thing that kept me alive, moved forward and disappeared forever from my life. (284-85)

For the past five years, the Light Standard has been my Richard Parker. I have been my Richard Parker. Five years. Almost every week of those school years, and especially all day Thursday and much of the night, we have invented each other. I was raised in a house of silence. I turned to books—the shelves of the Carnegie Library. I turned to dogs. I turned to the hundred acres of an East Texas farm—pine trees, red oaks, creeks and ponds, a dog much like Wrangler, my pal, my protector. Shy, distant families of wolves. I turned to any sport with a ball to throw, to catch, to meet on the sweet spot of a Louisville Slugger, recognizing in my fingers, my forearms, the shock of a line drive, the arc of a fast ball lifted to deep centerfield. I did not have to learn to laugh, to seek out laughter. I learned to love, but not how to say it, that word, as awful, as awe filled as goodbye.

Pi could say, “That bungled goodbye hurts me to this day. . . .  I wish I had said, ‘Richard Parker, it’s over. We have survived. Can you believe it? I owe you more gratitude than I can express. I couldn’t have done it without you. I would like to say it formally: Richard Parker, thank you. Thank you for saving my life. . . .  So farewell, Richard Parker, farewell. God be with you’” (285-86). Robert Adon Fink could never say, nor write anything so dramatic, so melodramatic. He would laugh, loud, hearing such words come from his mouth. If he wrote such a statement, he would crumple the page, fire a strike to the wastebasket. But he would mean every word.

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