This installment of A New Perspective For Today is the first written by a guest invited to contribute. Daniel Schantz is a husband, father, author, retired college professor, speaker and mentor to many. My husband and I both had the pleasure of studying under the direction of Mr. Schantz, as did my father. Years before, my grandfather and Mr. Schantz attended college together in Michigan before making their way to Moberly, Missouri. To say that the Beaverson and Schantz families have history is probably a bit of an understatement.
Today we share Mr. Schantz's story of a stuffed monkey, and how that simple object changed the life of one young girl.
An Eloquent Monkey
Frankly, I am not fond of monkeys. They affect me the way spiders and snakes affect other people. The flying monkeys in “The Wizard of Oz” and the rogue monkeys in Robin Williams’s “Jumanji” were menacing to me, and I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see them.
There is one monkey, however, that I do like. It’s a little monkey that sits on our living room floor, next to my wife’s blue velvet chair: a brown, stuffed creature, with fluffy red hands and feet. Its eyes are gold metal buttons which sometimes glow mysteriously in the night, from moonlight coming through the window. The little ape is grinning impishly, with oversized, red lips. He is somewhat ragged these days, from “affectionate” handling by the grandchildren. The right arm is hanging by a couple threads, and the fabric is split in places.
The monkey was given to my wife, Sharon, by her father, Edsil, when she was fifteen years old. Sharon was his only child. After she was born, the doctor said to him, “I’m sorry but your wife won’t be able to have any more children.” Edsil took this hard, because he badly wanted a son, not a daughter. Now he would never have that son.
Perhaps Sharon sensed this, because there was always some distance between her and her father, growing up. Consequently, she found love from her dolls and from the neighbor children, when there were any neighbors. But since most of them had brothers or sisters, it only reminded her that she did not.
Sharon’s father was not affectionate. Maybe he just didn’t know how to express it, or maybe he was afraid it would be unmanly to appear “sweet” or “kind.” Sometimes Sharon wondered if she meant anything at all to him. True, he was a good provider, and he was a godly man who taught in a Christian college, so she was never really afraid of him. But the one emotion he did know how to express was anger. He had a stressful job, and battled ulcers much of his life. He was Irish—easily irritated, with a hair-trigger temper. Although he was a redhead, like Sharon, he went bald while he was still a young man. When he was angry, his whole head would turn beet red and his eyes would turn black and beady. With just a few harsh words, he could cut Sharon to the quick. Sharon would flee to her room in tears.
If Sharon’s father was tight with affections, he was even tighter with his money. After all, he grew up in poverty, during The Great Depression, and it marked him for life. He never made much money as a teacher, so he never , ever bought anything on impulse. It was the one un-bending house rule: everything had to be budgeted in advance. He was simply not the type of father to come home with a toy from the dime store.
So, why he came home with this stuffed monkey for Sharon will always be a mystery. He had been gone for a week, at a meeting in Kokomo, Indiana. Exactly where he bought the monkey, we don’t know. Maybe from the amish? Or in a toy store? Or perhaps from a roadside flea market? But for some reason he was utterly charmed by this goofy little jungle doll , and he bent his own rule to buy it for his daughter.
When he presented the gift to Sharon, she was shocked. “Oh, my, this is for me? Thank you, Daddy, thank you.” She was dumbfounded to think that he had remembered her while he was far away from home. She hugged the monkey and said, “His name will be Kokomo.” She gave the creature a place of honor on the pillow of her bed.
Perhaps because he saw how happily Sharon received the gift, Edsil continued to give attention to the stuffed toy. Every day, when Sharon came home from school, she would find that he had placed the monkey in a different place or position. One day it would be lying under her bed, peeking out at her. The next day it might be on her vanity, staring at itself in the mirror. Or it might be standing on its head in the corner. It was fun for Sharon to guess where it might be each day, when she got home. It made her feel good to know that her father had thought of her during the day, and these small, attentive gestures helped her get through those tumultuous teen years that can be so lonely for girls.
Her father had finally found a way to express his feelings, without having to be mushy or un-masculine. As time went on and Sharon turned into a woman, he mellowed and became more of a friend to Sharon, and by the time he was laid to rest at 84 years of age, he was a much kinder, sweeter man.
Kokomo sits by Sharon’s chair, some 60 years later. He is good company, when she is having her morning coffee and muffin. When she watches the grandchildren playing with Kokomo, it brings back memories of her dad.
Every night, Sharon passes by Kokomo, on her way to bed.
“Goodnight, Kokomo, sleep tight.”
“Goodnight, Sharon,” she hears her father say.