Thursday, May 24, 2012

Year of the Nephew: Sir Oliver

My nephew, the king of puzzle solvers. Here's a lateral thinking puzzle for you:
Happy Birthday, Thirteen!

A man walks into a bar, and asks the bartender for a drink of water. The bartender pulls out a gun, points it at the man, and cocks it. The man says "Thank you" and leaves. What happened?
  1. Question: Could the bartender hear him? Answer: Yes
  2. Question: Was the bartender angry for some reason? A: No
  3. Question: Was the gun a water pistol? A: No
  4. Question: Did they know each other from before? A: No (or: "irrelevant" since either way it does not affect the outcome)
  5. Question: Was the man's "Thank you" sarcastic? A: No (or with a small hint: "No, he was genuinely grateful for some reason")
  6. Question: Did the man ask for water in an offensive way? A: No
  7. Question: Did the man ask for water in some strange way? A: Yes

Conclusion: the man had the hiccups, and his reason for requesting a drink of water was not to quench his thirst but to cure his hiccups. The bartender realized this and chose instead to cure the hiccups by frightening the man with the gun. Once the man realized that his hiccups were gone, he no longer needed a drink of water, gratefully thanked the bartender, and left.
You probably already figured it out at about question number 2, didn't you?
Here's a puzzle I have been working on for 13 years; maybe you could help me figure it out.
How can one person generate such light around him that it transcends fear, transcends doubt, transcends distance? How can one person make the world seem like a better place, a place of hope, just by being himself?
You were born in Regina on the Monday of the May long weekend. We were all having a barbeque on the lawn at your cousin Matt's home when we got the phone call. Another boy? I must admit groaning to myself. However, plans were made to go to Regina and visit the newest addition to the nephews.
I remember the first time I saw you. Your eyes threatened to swallow up your face. They were so enormous and so blue and, even at just a few weeks old, they seemed to be trying to look into mine and tell me something. I firmly believe that's when we had our first conversation. No words, just eye to eye. I felt like you could read my mind and that I could catch a glimpse into yours.
One of the first actual word conversations I can recall our having was when I was visiting you in Regina and your Mom, Elliot, you and I were out shopping somewhere. You were with me, sitting in the front of a shopping cart, chattering about something or other and I was looking down into your eyes. The blue in your eyes was changing to almost a golden colour now, but flecks of the sky still lingered, adding magic and wonder to everything you gazed at. As you talked away you looked down and your incredible eyelashes swept the curve of your little-boy cheeks.
"Oliver, where did you get your eyelashes from?!" I exclaimed.
"From ThuperThtore," you immediately responded, tilting your face up toward me, smiling like only you could, no guile in your eyes.
As you grew older your eyes took in everything around you. You could somehow see the safest place to cross a road, the best angle to throw a ball, the shortest line, the most perfect bouquet of flowers.
Your eyes started to speak for themselves too. They reflected your intelligence, your logic, your quick wit, your ability to think on your feet.
You excelled at whatever it was you set your sights on. Sports, music, acting, reading, schoolwork - you shone brighter than your peers.
And yet you were so good natured, so witty, so entertaining, so enjoyable to be around. Even when you were pouting you could make it seem charming.

Right from when you were a toddler, your eyes have seen more than just what was on the surface. As you grew older, your eyes discerned not just the good versus the bad, but the better versus the best. 
You were quick to notice when a friend needed a little more support, a little more gentleness, a little more love. You were able to deflect awkward situations masterfully with just a few well-chosen words delivered with your subtle brand of humour.
You were the one who named your, Elliot's and my time together every other month. From when you were quite small we had started to go on "dates:" every other month I would take you to Chapters for a book and a hot chocolate and a chat. But when you were eight, just five years ago, we were in the car driving to our date when you said, "I can't go on any more dates with you." 
"Why not?" I asked, dismayed.
"Because you can't marry your aunt!" you burst out with some anguish. It seems that you had told one of your friends that you were going on a date with me and that is what he told you in response.
"What about if we called it something else? Could you go then?"
After a few moments of solemn deliberation you nodded. "Yes," you assented. When I asked you what we could call our time together, you thought for a while and then said, "An event. We could go on events."
And that's what we've done ever since. You have shaped and moulded these events to what they are today: the Birthday Events; the Summer Event; the joint November Event when you, your brother and I put the final touches on the Christmas Event, which is - as you put it - in Service to the Parents.
December 2011: Resting up in preparation
for Service to the Parents
The other thing that happened five years ago is we had to bury your Grams. I will always carry with me the picture of your little face, contorted in concentration as you held up the centre of the end of her coffin. Your eyes were enormous, reflecting the weightiness of this sacred task. Later you said, "It was so heavy. I was so scared I was going to drop her."
Oliver, you evince so many of the subtleties that made up her true essence, and they can all be captured under these three points:
  • You love God
  • You love people
  • You love life
And when life is snuffed out unexpectedly - such as with your friend Josh - you are able to see the dreadful toll misguided decisions take on those who care for the one who acted in such a manner. Yet you still see the intrinsic beauty around you and the great worth of a person who thought that life as it stood was worthless.

If eyes are indeed the windows to the soul, the vista of your soul is multilayered and magnificent. And if you ever need a rest from all you see, if you ever need another set of eyes in helping you make decisions as you enter your teenage years, here is a promise for you from the Eyes that see above and beyond all that we can ask or think:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go. I will guide you with My eye. (Psalm 32:8)

A long time ago, you said to me, "If Elliot is the Point of your Heart, what am I?"

Do you remember what I said to you? It is more true today than it was when you were five years old.

"Oliver Charles Spilsbury, you are the Apple of my Eye."


  1. My dear, dear Karyn,

    How is it that you take so many of life's circumstances and situations and turn them into a time of celebration and love? Each of us longs to be loved by someone, without reservation; without judgement and without expectations. Someone who sees the good in us and builds us up. Your nephew obviously sees you as a treasure . . . as someone he holds close to his heart. How blessed and privileged he is to have you in his life.

    You make a difference in others' lives. I thank God you are in my life. You make my world a better place by just being you!!


    1. Rosalie, thank you for your words here. You, too, have made a HUGE difference in my life since I moved to Three Hills. I never forget that it was YOU who reached out to me as I sat trembling and alone in that pew that first Sunday. I can never thank you enough for the life-affirming words you poured into my soul that day. xoxo

    2. Of course, being this young man's grandother makes me agree with all that you have said! ....and I was there when Oliver Charles was born - all 8lb 9ozs of him - it was a wonderful "welcome to Canada" gift for me. I arrived here on March 23 to stay!! We are truly priveledged to have someone like you Karyn, to put what we can't, into words. Thank you.

  2. Wow, this young man has an amazing auntie-- what a gift you are, dear Karyn, and what a gift you have for writing

  3. Another teenager in the world -- ordinarily there would be some sarcastic inflection implied in greeting the news with "Great!", but not on this occasion. It really is great to be welcoming Oliver to the threshold of adult life -- the world needs men who understand more than one style of hat! It's all a tricky business but you'll cover it.You have been a pleasure to be around so far, and I don't anticipate that suitcase being left behind as you cross the platform and change trains: pay no mind to the great bumps -- that is just jumping the brooks that separate the squares. Hold on tight when you have to, and sit comfortably when you can: Let it be a great ride!

    Sadly I did not figure out the puzzle -- not even a sniff: I assumed it had to do with overdue bar tabs.

  4. "The eyes are the light of the body," says the Bible, and I must say that Oliver, so characterized by eyes and vision, brings great light to every single day. Oliver's eyes express worlds seen and unseen, shining insight and hope on every situation. He has been given the gifts of language, love and laughter as well, translating beautifully what it is he sees. Without light, without vision, we would perish. I am so grateful to, and for, this boy, this young man, Oliver, who at thirteen continues to shine! Thank you so much, Oliver. I love you. And thank you, Karyn, for seeing him so well!


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