and so it came, the morning the old man had been dreading for weeks. he wiped his eyes clear of the tears that now, he realized, came so easily, and put away the breakfast dishes.
at the door appeared a young man who served in their stables. he was there to let the old man know that the preparations had been but before he said a word, the old man nodded his acknowledgment. the boy bowed slightly and was back out the door.
“papa!” he heard yelled loudly as a boisterous young boy came running through the house, a distraught woman chasing after him.
“isaac!” she called, breathing heavily. she was no longer young herself, her greying hair and aging skin reflecting a life long-lived. she was waving a shirt in the air and it was then the old man noticed that his young son was topless. despite himself, he managed to chuckle.
he told no one of what his God had asked of him, could not bring himself to even utter the words. it seemed just yesterday they were promised of the coming of this young son, his only son, and today it would all be over.
their travel into the wilderness went smoothly. his young son bounced with youthfulness and excitement. he knew only that they were going to make a sacrifice to their God, a usual practice, but the day also savored of potential adventure, and the young boy could not help but shreak and giggle on the slightest provocation. the old man rode at the front of the party where the tears could flow freely and out of view.
when they came to the base of the mountain, he stopped them and dismounted his donkey. the young stable boy prepared to as well, but the old man waved him off. he picked his young son up and tossed him over his shoulder, as they had done many times before. young isaac giggled and squirmed until, just a few steps into the path, his father put him down and let him run ahead.
the old man reflected on the years with his little son, the promises he was sure he had been given, but that now felt questionable at best. the promise of a future, of the joy of sharing life with isaac and his children, of seeing his family grow and live beyond him.
deep down something broke and he had to stop and wait for the rush of emotion to recede. at that moment, his young son came running back and wrapped his arms around his legs, squeezing them hard in an embrace. the old man bent down slowly and touched the young boy’s face. in his eyes the old man saw his wife, the nose mirroring his father’s, the soft round mouth that resembled his own. Dear God, he screamed out inside, what have you asked me to do?
they continued on to the spot he had reserved, and the young boy eagerly gathered sticks and branches to compile into an altar. the old man moved slower. he began to wrestle with the idea of backing out, of not completing this task asked of him. fear rushed through him, and doubt. while he knew in his head that his God could easily bring the dead back to life and that he would not ask something without good reason, he wondered at his heart truly grasping that concept. he wondered at losing the only thing he had on earth he had ever desired, and loved most intensely. he wondered if the grief would ever subside.
soon enough, the altar was ready. the boy began to question what they would be sacrificing, as there were no animals present. the old man squatted to the ground and pulled his son close, breathing in the sweet smells of sweat and soap. he closed his eyes and kissed the boy gently on the forehead. his mind was made up.
“our God will provide,” he said with a forced half-smile, and lifted the boy to the altar.