Frodo broke bread with fellow warrior Gimli in a town called Annapolis not long ago. It was Homecoming Weekend at the United States Naval Academy, and crowds were just beginning to thin on a blue-sky day that seemed perfect for a tilt of the sail on the Severn. The friends-in-arms had not seen each other since last they swung swords and battle-axes together outside the Black Gate of Mordor. The conversation was jubilant, and filled with vignettes about the battles won and lost when King Richard threatened freedom with short-haired knights and obfuscations of truth. The pall that hung over them could not be ignored, but it was dealt with just as if it were a foe massed in the field below, requiring tactics and courage to overcome.
Parkinson's Disease is not unique in its' insidiousness, but it is ego-shattering because it takes physical control away from even a warrior such as Gimli.
Gimli and his life-partner love their environs, and have become great devotees of the massive complex which trains new warriors, in strength and in wisdom, it is hoped. They follow the Naval Academy Football Team with season tickets and travel to many away games, even though their only off-spring is a dramatic actress and scholar. Although the Navy Team is often under-sized and under-skilled they have performed (pardon the pun) "admirably" against superior opposition, and Gimli, like Frodo, is a great admirer of effort against an opponent, regardless of the odds. The pageantry of it all ain't bad, either.
Driving away from Annapolis, the conversation somehow wafted to self-sacrifice, and courage. The warriors talked of the USS Indianapolis, and the great scene in the movie "Jaws," when Robert Shaw told his ship-mates, especially Richard Dreyfus, about having served on that ship in those days. Without coaching, Frodo started to repeat the dialogue in his best gnarled impersonation of Shaw. Gimli, immediately, replied with the words of Dreyfus, and they continued back-and-forth while Sam and Gimli's life-partner sat silent, and fascinated.
Frodo spoke of the boy from Boston, a baseball player, who bobbed lifelessly in the sea, with half his body no longer there. Gimli started a seaman's chant, "I had a little drink about an hour ago, and it went straight to my head. . ." Then the car was silent, and each rider was left to contemplate what it was that made those words and pictures so visible in separate minds.
A week or so after Frodo and Sam had returned to the Shire, the "Midshipmen" of the Naval Academy paired off against long-time rival Notre Dame University on the gridiron. Navy had not beaten Notre Dame in more than forty years, but hope does spring, especially when Notre Dame truly sucks this year, at least comparatively. Frodo imagined, although he does not know, that Gimli was in the stands in South Bend, staring back at the "Touchdown Jesus" which is such an imposing, if not ominous figure for opposing teams.
On that day however, God was on the side of the Navy. Some gifts, no matter how small, are all the proof necessary for those who believe that truth, and honor, courage, and wisdom, are rewarded in many and varied ways. Gimli will always stand tall when the battle is finished, and Frodo will always be richer for his comradeship.