Posts tagged “childhood

Myrtle Spurge…and moments of a day….

It is almost as if I had been a child again, out exploring unknown and unsanctioned regions, far from home and the general safety that accompanies being in a place so named, a place where there were expectations and things that could be anticipated, good or not.  I was out in an area that had at least an essence of wildness and things not seen before, things not encountered previously other than in imagination or wonder, in an area that was not touched by expectations or any anticipation other than the ones that compelled me to be there to begin with.  Memories of my childhood situated me along slow-moving streams where the water was clear enough to see crawdads sitting motionless and tucked up under various shades of brown and gray rocks on the bottom, where my arms would be unknowingly scraped and sliced with moving among the tall reeds and brush that I had to penetrate to make it down to the stream, standing along the inside of a bay where I imagined that I could see dolphins’ and sharks’ fins cutting through the smooth or choppy water while military jets soared overhead, and where my presence in that other world was a welcome escape from the one where things were known and anticipated.  I find images in my mind, too, of old country roads with black and red raspberry bushes growing in hedge-form on the other sides of ditches that separated grassy fields of Dandelions and Queen Anne’s Lace growing in wild profusion…a road leading to a ruined castle, or another one or two that carried me to a sportsplatz and a logger’s camp in the deep pine forest…roads and pathways that led to places crammed full of a child’s joy in being out and away.

Myrtle Spurge 1

I had thought of those things then and now as I recount the day that I noticed the bright groundcover on a berm that we had to cross to make our way down to the lake…two hundred yards or more between where we parked and where we were intent on going.  The tightness of the leaves and the tiny cups of bright green, the inhospitable looking soil where they seemed to thrive, and the image of the lake and the snow-capped mountains beyond…all things noted and tucked away…stored now with what must be emotions or sensations of peace, contentment, and real happiness…a word that I don’t often use because the gap between perception and experience has been so wide.  But that’s where those memories are now, the lake and the mountains and the myrtle spurge and the company of my son…they are enveloped in a spot of truly happy serenity back there in the memory files somewhere.

Myrtle Spurge 2

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When did the clock find the wind…again?

When did the clock find the wind…to sprint like this?

And how could we not see its fleeing?

There were baby hugs

And finger paints

Mid-day naps

And lollipops

Sand in her tennies

And potted beans on the windowsill

Pound-puppies and princess’s ponies

And bubble gum and pig-tails

Now she wants to drive

And her iPod is in her backpack

With her cell phone at her ear

Long curly hair ironed flat in the mirror

And she’s ready for the prom

When did the clock find the wind…to sprint like this?

When we were young, we noticed that it took forever for special days to get here; whether they were birthdays, Christmases, the last days of school, etc…they took an eternity, as marked by our child’s minds that registered time’s passing by those ultra-special days coming and going.

Now that the years have gathered, so many more things mark time…payday Fridays, her birthday, your birthday, her mom’s birthday, vacation, the first day of school, early-release every third Thursday, progress reports, report cards, the annual re-bid at work, a trainee for five weeks, the boss is gone for two, the weekend stand-by form on every Thursday, monitor each employee every month, we just checked your messages, it’s Thanksgiving and now it’s New Years and another move or not, and Christmas or winter break is passed and past, and one more semester until it’s done, and this process takes four weeks and that one takes seven, and the puppy needs his next set of shots and three more months until that movie comes out, another week to read the book, pay this bill on the 15th and that one on the first, and pay it again on the 15th, and the other one again on the first, and next month there are three paychecks for you and for me, so we look forward to yours and to mine and we pay extra on this one and it’s time to trim the bushes again, and the bug-guy is here again, and it’s time to change your oil and rotate the tires again, and it’s her birthday again then mine and her mom’s and my mom’s and school’s out again for the year and then she’s 21 weeks along and they can do the ultra-sound and see if it’s a boy or a girl, and which type of paint and trim do we get and we’ll know pretty soon…it does seem to rush by, unbidden, just passing with speed beyond belief, sometimes like tempests and torn in the way, and images of youth and what used to be has gone in the swirling of leaves and thought and remembrance, our encumbered spirits and minds loose (not lose) those things of yesterday and try to gather them back again before they are ungraspable in their passing, gone in that spirit of has-been and collected somewhere up in the ether where lost thoughts and radio waves linger unhitched for evermore.

We used to think that our grandparents and parents were old or getting that way and now we find ourselves noticing the little lines by our eyes…and the ones that run down into our cheeks or spread like the sun’s rays from the corners of our mouths…we find that the singular gray hairs have multiplied into a profusion that creeps into our vision until it’s time to dye them again…or not…and the moustache had a couple and the chin several more and it’s no longer possible to trim that one or pluck it away as before…they aren’t going away…our memories hold when our bodies won’t…and our children are getting older…the lines on the door frame that used to be fun to mark once or twice a year are slowly catching-up with our chin and eye-level reaches…and we wonder where it’s gone…we wonder how it not only learned to sprint and spring away but to indeed flee and leave us watching…making yet more notes of its passing…she was only 11 months-old when we saw her the first time and she just turned 13 years-old…another was captured in a picture at almost three years-old with her arm in a cast and now she’s 26 years-old…and the first-born is crowing at 28 years…and those in between with babies and lives and house-payments and then….

And my friend, Byron, whose gentle soul found the words that title this writing, noticed in awe the beauty and unbelievable 16 years of his daughter as he took her to school one day last week…it struck him how she’s not that little girl anymore who used to crawl into his lap with a favorite book or doll and sit there playing with his chin…time has fled with that little one and brought a beautiful young lady to take her place…unbeknownst to anyone watching…suddenly she is here…and we wonder again…where did the clock find the wind to sprint like this?

Thank you, Byron.

***This is a Favorite Re-post from December, 2009….it was brought to mind again after seeing my friend Byron for the first time in nearly four years…and he told me that his daughter is now married and recently graduated from college.


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My Huckleberry…..

Little One in straw hat


“a little longer”…thoughts of a young father

“As I put her to sleep, holding the bottle to her small mouth, I listen to her breathe.  I feel her little movements as she struggles against the sleepiness that always wins in the end.  I hear her drinking from her bottle, first quickly as she is so excited to get her evening nourishment, but then slower and slower as the heavy weight of slumber pulls her little eyes closed in longer and longer blinks.

But tonight something different happens.  Tonight, as she drifts closer and closer to sleep, she reaches up with her hand, as she does often while drifting off.  But this time she rests her trusting hand on mine as I hold her bottle.  Not a brush, not a slip, not an accident.  Her hand rests on mine with purpose, with intent.  This is where she wants her hand, what she wants to hold.

Can’t this bottle be just a bit bigger?

Can’t there be more left in it for her to drink?

Can’t she stay here a little longer with her hand on mine?

That’s all I want, just let this moment last a little longer.

Her bottle empties and I replace it with her binky.  Her hand moves as I shift her body, cradle her, and rock her the rest of the way to sleep.  With her bottle empty, she surrenders herself to the sandman.  Her eyes close, her breathing slows, her body stills.  Her hand is no longer on mine as it was.  Such a small gesture and yet she has no idea.  She knows not what this means to her Daddy, what joy it brings to my heart.

portrait of a baby in black and white

***

                She wakes up and begins her day, chattering on about breakfast, about her Mommy, about her games and shows.  She is happy, as she is most days.  There are no owies or runny noses or naps.  She moves through her world freely and with more and more independence.  ‘I can brush my own teeth, I can put my plate in the sink, I can get dressed, I can, I can, I can.’  The day nears its end, as all days do, with bedtime stories and ni-nights and kisses and hugs.

But this day is different.  This is the last of this era.  This is the end of this stage.  Tomorrow she goes to school.  Tomorrow she meets new people, learns new things, begins new routines, needs help from someone else.  This bedtime I know all about her day, what she did, what she saw, what she said.  When she lies down to bed tomorrow her stories will be new.

Can’t this day be just a bit longer?

Can’t there be more words in this story?

Can’t she stay here a little longer with her world in mine?

That’s all I want, just let this moment last a little longer.

The story ends, she gives and gets her hugs and kisses.  She rolls over and lets me believe that she will be going right to sleep, but knowing she will be up imagining what tomorrow will be like.  Excited and anxious and scared.  Her days are no longer only mine as they were.  So precious these moments but she doesn’t know.  She knows not what this means to her Daddy, what joy it brings to my heart.

to hide away

***

                Busy as always, so much less time to spend in the house these days for a young adult.  She learns more every day than I have in years.  The world is still opening up to her as she stretches her legs into the adult world, learns to live, to work, to be responsible.  I get to see where my efforts have paid off.  I get to see where she could have been guided better.  But that’s only when I get to see her.  New friends with new faces and new stories and experiences and places and people.  It seems that most of the time there is considerable effort to keep up and by the time I do, the whole story is new and different and I’m not caught up anymore.

But in this rare moment, something is different.  She sits beside me as the evening winds to a close to share her day.  She isn’t busy with friends or work or school, she is busy spending time with me.  She wants to be with me, she wants me to hear her, she wants to hear me.  I listen as she unfolds her busy day before me and allows me to participate, because today I am part of her busy day.

Can’t this conversation be just a bit longer?

Can’t I say more to keep her from going to bed?

Can’t she stay here a little longer with her story in mine?

That’s all I want, just let this moment last a little longer.

She begins to yawn, her eyes grow redder as her body tells her it’s time for sleep.  I tell her goodnight and watch as she leaves to her room.  She carries on to bed thinking nothing different of the day.  Another day closer to where she’s going.  Another day further from where she started.  Something as simple as time spent with someone, but she doesn’t get it.  She knows not what this means to her Daddy, what joy it brings to my heart.

***

                She walks to the door as she prepares to leave.  She is always going places, new places, old places.  Places I’ve been to, places I haven’t.  Some places maybe she’ll take me to, places maybe that I really want to see.  We gather around the door, talking about when she’s coming back, who she’s going to be with, what she’s going to be doing.

But this time it’s different.  She’s not coming back, unless it’s to visit.  She’s going to be with people I don’t know, people I won’t know.  She’s going to be doing things that I won’t have any involvement in, or even know about in some cases.  Today she’s going to her house.  That used to mean the same thing as when I was going to my house, but not now, not this time.  She is going to her own house.  She is leaving my house and going home.

Can’t we stand here at the door just a bit more?

Can’t I find something else to load into your car?

Can’t she stay a little longer with her home in mine?

That’s all I want, just let this moment last a little longer.

She walks out the door and gets in her car.  I get one last wave and she blows me a kiss as she drives to her new house, her new home.  I watch as the car winds down the street into the distance.  Even after the car is long out of site, I continue to watch down the street as if I can watch her make it home safely, as if I can see right to her door from mine as I always have.  She grew up here with me, I watched her grow, but it’s not something she is able to appreciate yet.  She knows not what this means to her Daddy, what joy it brought to my heart.

***

                I walk with her as I have so many evenings, arm in arm.  There is a cool breeze that blows through the trees and causes our hair to stir.  We always just walk, nowhere in particular.  To the end of the street, up the road, around the block.  It never really matters, we always know where we are going back to.  It is wonderful when she comes to visit and spend time, talks about her life, her job, her friends.  Sometimes we can walk together without saying a word at all.

But it is again different this time.  This time we walk with a destination.  It is not a far walk, but it is the furthest walk I have ever taken.  My destination is near the end of the aisle, at which point I take my seat and let her walk the rest of the aisle to another arm to place hers in.  It is not as if I won’t have another walk with her, arm in arm.  Our next walks will be different, about a new chapter.

Can’t the aisle be just a bit longer?

Can’t we slow the pace of the walk?

Can’t she stay a little longer with her arm in mine?

That’s all I want, just let this moment last a little longer.

I give her away, just as she asked me to.  Tears in my eyes, I smile at her.  I sit down and watch her speak words of love to her best friend.  She stands there looking as beautiful as the day she was first mine.  We still take walks, arm in arm, and still talk about life.  We even talk about the very walk that began her newest chapter and my role in that walk, but I can’t expect her to understand what it means to me.  She knows not what this means to her Daddy, what joy it brings to my heart.

***

                Visits at her house are always wonderful, visits with her at any place are wonderful.  She has grown into an amazing woman.  I get to see her world as she decorated it around her.  There aren’t words for my pride when she introduces me to her friends.  To be important enough that someone she knows will, should, gets to meet me.  To be this far down the road and still hold the honor of being an important figure in her life feels like a rarity.

But this visit will be different.  I am not meeting her friend or neighbor or coworker.  I am meeting her daughter.  I am holding her daughter.  I am rocking her daughter.  She watches me as I stare into her face through another.  The flood of memories, of emotions, of beauty overwhelms me.

Couldn’t she have been this small a bit longer?

Couldn’t I go back to do this all again?

Couldn’t she stay a little longer as my baby?

That’s all I want, just let those moments last a little longer.

She takes her baby daughter from me and I get the joy of watching her stare into the eyes of her precious daughter as I once did.  The most beautiful transformation takes place right before me as I look at her and realize that now, after all this time, she understands, and will forever.  She knows what this means to her Daddy, what joy it brings to my heart.

***

                As I see her approach me, I reflect on all the times I have truly watched her as she experienced life.  As she lives life.  I watched as she placed her small hand on mine in a trusting hold, as she moved from my world into hers, as she kept me in her story, as she stepped out of my home and into one of her own, as she held her arm in mine for the longest walk, as she transitioned from a woman into a Mommy.  She sits beside me and smiles at me as I always loved her to do.

But this time is, different.  I am watching her approach me for the last time.  I am watching her for the last time.  As she sits in the chair beside my bed, she places her hand on mine.  As I drift off, I feel her hand as she softly weeps.  Her hand is on mine with purpose, with intent.  This is where she wants her hand.  What she wants to hold.

Can’t this life be just a bit longer?

Can’t I have her by my side tomorrow?

Can’t I have tomorrow?

Can’t she stay here a little longer with her hand on mine?

That’s all I want, just let this moment last a little longer.”

© 2013 – Caleb Michael Brill


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fishing…an attempt, anyway……

Little One fishing at Silver Lake Flat, American Fork, Utah


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talk to me….

talk to me.....


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Little One in black and white

Little One in black and white


Did you just call me a slob…again?

We were sitting on the couch, my little one and I, with his mom on the love-seat across from us, watching a movie.  We had a bowl of popcorn between us, and as my little one reclined into one of the pillows, he took handfuls of the popcorn and not so delicately or accurately plied the fluffy stuff into his mouth.  When the majority of the bowl was gone, he started playing with the pieces of popcorn, alternately flicking them into his mouth or smashing them in his palm and then licking-up the pieces like a dog.  We paused the movie occasionally to ask or answer a question, to run to the bathroom, get a refill of one of our drinks or the other…and then continued watching and eating and enjoying the movie and each other’s company.  The further into the bowl we got, the more broken pieces of popcorn there were on the little one’s blanket, pillow, pajamas, and surrounding couch area.

I reached over to pick-up some of the crumbs and broken pieces to put them back in the bowl…and made a mistake….

“Do you think you’re making a big enough mess, you little slob?”

Quiet.

Did you just…call me a slob?

My little one asked this with a quivering chin and downcast eyes as he picked a piece of popcorn off of the blanket beneath his chin and placed it anxiously into his mouth.

“Well yeah, look at the mess…hey….”

There were big alligator tears and an immediately running nose and the sobbing of words and half words that I couldn’t understand between his crying and the movie and his mom and my questioning and….

“Hey there…I was just playing….”

Why…did you…call…me that?  What was…why are you….

And more tears…and my heart was breaking at his breaking heart and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and oh….

“Hey, Buddy, look at me,” as I patted his foot, “I was only playing…you’re making such a mess here…hey…look…I was only playing.”  I reached over and dragged him to me….  “Hey…I call your mom a slob too, sometimes…when she makes a mess…I wasn’t trying to be mean….”

And his chest was shaking and he was wiping tears across his face and his mom brought over a Kleenex to blow his nose…and I was holding back a smile in my amazement and tears in my sadness at how I had just crushed his little heart…his daddy calling him a slob.

“Hey there…why are you crying?  I was only playing….”

I…don’t like…being…called names.

“I’m sorry…I’m so sorry, Buddy.  I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings or upset you…I was just playing with you.”

I accept your…apology.  Sniff….

An important aspect of my little one’s life and existence, at this point in his eight years (now eleven), and possibly for many more years as he learns to decipher and remember the various meanings of our vast array of socially constructed and freighted expressions and intentions and nuanced meanings, is his acceptance of things as they are presented to him.  He doesn’t see the gray or shading in many of our words and intentions.  The idiosyncrasies of our speech and the subtle and not-so-subtle meanings of our paired words sometimes escape him, even when we’re joking around…they mean, to him, what they literally mean.  In my playing, I forgot about the concreteness of his brilliant little mind…and the tenderness of his easily broken heart.

Oh…how it hurts sometimes….

*****

This is a Favorite Re-post from April, 2010.


Thomas, say the prayer

Footsteps echo down the hall and a belt buckle jingles as a drawer closes and cigarette smoke wafts from somewhere outside and in a memory maybe, a goblin walking, a haunt, something.

Thomas, say the prayer.

What?

I said say the prayer.

But I don’t usua….

That’s right, I do, but since you’re so perfect, you get to say it tonight.

My cheeks burned like I’d been smacked just sitting there…but then that had happened, too, during a prayer that he was saying, just reached over and hit me full in the mouth as he offered the blessing to his god and the god of our family…and my mom sat there on that Sunday afternoon much like she was sitting here on this one, whatever day it was…just sat there with her head bowed and her eyes closed, folded hands near her forehead, waiting…listening to her man…witness to the results of her betrayal, one that she wrought on some morning or afternoon after we had sat here at the same table, those two or three evenings ago as the house was quiet in sleep and we alone were awake, sharing moments of conversation and…shared trust….  I looked at the side of her face for a couple of seconds while my little sister looked across the table at me and wondered how I was suddenly so perfect…wondered why such sarcasm was brought to the dinner table when there had been no hint of anyone’s wrongdoing before we had all gathered there, me in my seat and all of them in theirs where they belonged…where we all belonged in someone else’s imagination of family and unity and the way things are or ought to be…beneath the decorated sign on the wall that said as for me and my house we will serve the lord.

I stumbled across prayed words said by rote, empty requests and thanks for whatever and bless the hands which prepared it, in jesus’s name, amen…and the words were there and the prayer said and dinner commenced and mouths moved only to eat and I looked through the back window at the gray concrete wall that separated our yard from the alley and the cemetery beyond with desert behind that and more…a slag heap of desiccated wreaths and green plastic covered stands all in a jumble as the ceremonies had passed and the tears had been shed…loved ones gone and buried and I wondered in my seat…cracks in the gray wall and mourning doves cooing beneath the young palo-verde…yellow feather-petals dropping lightly in the warm breeze, landing on the top of the wall and tumbling, scurrying away, floating to the yard below and remaining stuck in the un-watered grass, brown against the waning sun, forks scraping on plates, and water forming and glistening on the sides of glasses in the too warm air, becoming heavy with breath and rolling downward in a single droplet avalanche to pool on the polished wooden tabletop.

Kind of tuned-out there for a while, keeping my eyes forward, watching his hands and hearing him swallow, feeling the tightness of the tiny dining room, a nook really, feeling the desk and cabinets behind me, lightly pushing against the carpet beneath and the dog rang the bell at the back door to go out into the yard and do her business.  I rose from the table and took those steps to the door and went out with her, stood there against the porch post and looked up at the dry-rotting wood of the overhang.  No voices came through the door and I caught glimpses of arms moving in the window…I saw eyes behind their glasses behind the window watching me watching the little dog walk down the brick pathway towards the back gate, sniffing at the grass beneath the bottom edge, wondering at what might have recently passed down the alleyway.

My footsteps were loud in the dry brown grass as I crossed the yard walking toward the back wall, toward the tree stump that was my perch when I stood and gazed out into the alley and cemetery beyond, my haven and place where I didn’t need them anymore, where my heartbeat slowed and I learned not to care, to remove myself…they didn’t talk back out there, didn’t have glaring condemning eyes stuck in their empty faces…they were taking care of other things, being away…with echoes of a conversation ringing, bouncing in my head…why doesn’t he pray about it, ask god to help him stop…that’s what you guys say we should do…ask for his help…he’s done it since he was a kid and you don’t understand what it’s like…but it doesn’t seem like that should matter…isn’t he supposed to be stronger than our cravings…isn’t he supposed to help us overcome whatever it is that we need his help in overcoming…of course he is…then why doesn’t he…?


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sleeping baby girl….


it’s just pumpkin bread….

The memories from that long-ago linger in a cloudy form, without even the substance to suggest that they are wraith-like in their residue, they are probably more like a knowing, the recollection of a notion, a processing of things talked about over the years, an echoing of words like “remember when,” as they existed in their primary forms before those words became what they are today in the contexts in which they still live in conversations among those who use them like that…they are memories, maybe without a sensory connection, as ideas often are, but memories still, and they cast about in my mind as things that exist as a coming-after in the defined sense.  I can imagine forms for them, aromas or flavors, maybe even textures…maybe even with accompanying sounds; I can imagine those things and assign them meaning with the words that populate what I describe as memories….

There is a different body walking about the given room, reaching up and down into cabinets whose doors were opened with knobs or handles or none at all…spices and tins or trays, oil and powders…eggs from the fridge, but no butter.  She brought the old spaghetti bowl out from its place, emptied pumpkin from a can, sifted flour and shook out the salt…cloves cinnamon nutmeg sugar water and soda from a yellow box…dates from a palm tree and nuts from another, a sharp knife and a cutting-board now, they hold my reflection as I move about, a silver mixing bowl with a rubberized exterior that makes it hold still on the counter top…other memories and another face, the bowls were a holiday present, the knives, too, slicing dates and sifting the flour and dry ingredients with a whisk in that bowl…cracked eggs dropping and the oven is getting warm…degree marks rising in number form and I can see his face, a smile as I rinse my hands and dry them…and later words echoing that said, no, not yet…not after what happened last month…it’s still too soon…and the whisk rides the inside of the bowl in a circle oblique, the dry and wet ingredients lose themselves becoming one…the knife scrapes the dates off the board…and my mom walks into the other room…she wore an apron then, a time from another time with powdered sugar on a plate, the decades draw into their pasts and remember themselves and bring us along…we see distance and separation of events and people and know that things exist as they do because of how they ticked in the clock of that time past and they echo so in the chambers of our hearts because of the tears we’ve cried into them…like unfired clay returning to its form, malleable when broken again, mixed with those flowing memories and made whole again…to be broken and broken again to be made whole and whole again…and again…until we purpose to fire them against such happening…and then they are hard and resistant to such effects…and more durable still…and flowing memories just run off, they pass without touching…gone and away.

The timer above the stove beeped in its way after 90 minutes, and hope and expectation were fulfilled after a few more, those more passing to cool and hold, to firm-up against the removal from the pans that held them in their transformation from a flavored soupiness to a rich and thickened bread, a consummation of effort and memory and ghosted images that found their substance as their sensory forms were released from their lodgings in my brain and lived again through opened doors once hidden and closed against time and emotion, against a time and loneliness that caused their own transformations….

It’s just pumpkin bread…but it’s not.


I’ve seen you before, again….

I saw your face and thought of a name, but was it yours, I wondered, and couldn’t say for sure.  Was it at work, in the clinic, in front of the vet, or down the road at the gas-station, the gym, or…?  I know, I remember now…it was when you were getting out of your car that day with your little ones in the grocery store parking lot and I hesitated before pulling into the spot next to you because your kids were standing there with big eyes looking at the car, my car, that was coming at them.  I just sat there in my patience and waited for you to grab their hands or usher them in some other way out of “my” spot.  You looked up and glared at me and angrily waved at me to drive on in.  I still waited, as I do, for you to get the little ones’ hands, to offer them your security, that sense of “Daddy’s got you, so it’s OK” before I continued in with my car.  You were swearing at me when I finally parked and you were walking away, little ones in tow.  As my car alarm beeped in my leaving, your words of “What the fuck are you looking at?!” bounced into my ears and around in my head and I couldn’t imagine “what the fuck” you were talking about.  I shouted “Hey!” and you yelled “What, bitch?!” and I said “I was waiting for your little ones to move.”  You suggested that I stop being such a fucking idiot and just park my goddamned car as your little ones’ eyes went from you to me as they were being tugged bodily up through the asphalted parking lot and into the store where the air-curtain above the door whooshed and splayed at their hair and yours and mine as I followed, not following, per se, just going in the same direction.

And it’s you I see again one day, inside of another store, with you waiting in line for the lady to ring-up your stuff and me walking past to go into another aisle.  Your kids aren’t with you and we, consequently, have nothing to talk about, but you see me and I see you and I remember very clearly where I know you from.  I see you looking after me as I turn into the aisle and my face is calm and your brow is furrowed.  “Where do I know you from?” you’re wondering, maybe, as you were wondering, still, when I left the opening to the aisle and was gone again.

Today, literally, these years later, I still see your little ones’ eyes.  Their tiny, large brown eyes looking at me through long and curly lashes and framed with clean black hair.  I see them looking at me behind the windshield and then walking through the parking lot, seemingly at and after them and I wonder at their wondering.  I see them looking up at you and your full brown angry face and silver black hair, first one and then the other, and then back at me.  I see their little arms tugged in their tiny t-shirts as you hauled them out of the parking spot and across the lot and into the store.

I see them still….

This is a Favorite Re-post from October 2010.


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Eyes, too….


I saw Superman, again….

I saw Superman walk down my hallway today and he didn’t and doesn’t care what you think about him.  He was a white-boy with dread-locked hair that’s long enough to tuck behind his ears and he smelled like the stink and rot of unwashed bodies in tight and closed places.  I’ve smelled his kith and kin in hovels bare and small.  I’ve sat and listened to their stories of life and things passed-by and wondered at their truth and then found that it didn’t matter, those things and they, well…they became true in the telling.  And today, as he shuffled past me in his coke-bottle glasses with scratches and old and yellowed tint from age and sun and wear, the arms hooked over ears with huge and fearsome gauges stuck in the lobes causing holes that would be large as a ring on my thumb, he shuffled past in that mess and whatnot with torn jeans and ravaged converses as he huddled his face into the small baby of two months or less and whispered his whiskered and loving words into his tiny self.  He whispered kind nothings and stink and I didn’t smell his breath, but neither did the baby as he lay there cuddled and warm against that chest in the torn and fake-leather jacket and was loved by him in all that it meant to him.  That baby there was cherished in those moments where he existed in my life and Superman had him and rocked his world…and I hope he remembers that love when life comes on him hard and rough as it sometimes will…I hope he remembers that his Daddy loved him, then.

***This is a Favorite Re-post from October, 2010.


How much longer…?

Innocence smiles large as the boys rescue The Cube and ride their motorized scooter and roller-blades about the cul-de-sac, announcing to me in passing that they are on their way to destroy Megatron.  Hood up on his sweatshirt jacket, my little one is on the roller-blades and moves awkwardly about, wheel-walking, not rolling, strange dance of plastic and clatter rushing off to secure some imagined zone.

The December sky is gray with fat and heavy clouds; an occasional breeze or gust of wind ripples the overgrown palm fronds and the garbage truck is making its Tuesday afternoon rounds in the neighborhood a couple streets in the distance.  My grandson is on the motorized scooter and is wearing orange, star-shaped sunglasses to shield him against the glare of battle in his efforts to defeat the Transformers’ foes.  My little one’s enthusiasm for the game is waning as a little trio of afternoon walkers enter and make a circuit of the cul-de-sac – a young mother-girl pushing her baby in a stroller as grandmother walks with her Down’s Syndrome old-man of a son in a straw cowboy hat who marvels at the Samoyed who is sticking his nose and white head through the hole at the bottom of the neighbor’s backyard wall.  The cling-cling of the bicycle bell and the metallic crash as the bike crunches into the sidewalk and the garbage truck is still a few streets away.

“Can we go in now?”

“Don’t you want to play two-player on the Nintendo?” he says, as he kneels in the rocks and examines a pigeon feather, “Don’t you want to?”

“No, not really.”

“Dad, can we go inside in 15 minutes?”

Ok.

He likes to orient things and events and know when they are going to happen.  It helps him predict his world.  He’s happier and less anxious that way.  It settles his mind as the blanket of gray clouds part and roll into white balls with gray bottoms and a mini-bike just ripped and popped down the street behind us, throwing angry and irritating ripples and waves through the neighborhood air.

“How long has it been, Dad?”

What?

I’m reading my new book, The Good Soldiers, between glances up and into the cul-de-sac and at the Transformer warrior-children and vehicles entering for deliveries or exiting for errands and whatnot.

“How much longer?”

“The post is loose on the scooter, Grandpa,” as he sucks the winter snot back into his nose and as the little one, his uncle, my youngest, talks to his dog through the side-yard gate….

“Hi Wilson,” sing-song, puppy-talk, baby-talk, talking-to-my-dog-through-the-gate-talk, sing-song “Hi buddy!”

Crunching gravel, walking scuffing, scraping, and dragging shoes through the landscaping stones.  Ping! Ping!  Ping!  Ping!  Ping!  A piece of gravel rock on the basketball pole.  Ping!  Ping!  Ping!

“How much longer, Papa?  How mucho longa?”

I’m on page 27…For now, no one touched the tape dispenser.  Eventually, Cummings would begin swatting flies just hard enough to stun them, stick them to a piece of tape, and drop them alive into his trash can, which would be something that did have an effect.  “I hate flies,” he would say each time he did this.  What?

“Is it time yet?”

Did you park your bike and scoot it all the way over so Mom can open her door after she’s parked the car?

“I will.”

Ok.

“Are you done Blakie?  Hey!”

“What?”

“Do you want to go in now?”

Cling! Cling! Cling!  “Beep beep!”

“There’s a warning.”

What, Blake?

“There’s a warning.”

What kind of warning?

“There was a rain drop.”

Oh, ok.

And the garbage truck is getting nearer and the little one is dragging his toes across the driveway and he’s got a Kool-aid moustache as he grins at me and says “What?”

“How many more minutes?  Dad?” as he stands on the apache-red boulder rock in his one-legged pose with his arms raised like a stork’s wings…from The Karate Kid…and a game of chicken in the roadway as my grandson comes at him on the motorized scooter…and repeated “Yaaaaah!” screams and “How much longer?” asked with a Pink Panther French accent this time.

“Hhow mush longherre?”

One minute.

“Ok……Blakie!!  It’s time to go in!”

***This is a Favorite Re-post from December, 2009.


Friends


faces on the wall….

The man sat in the dark and thought of the pictures on the wall and the eyes that looked out from their frozen images of faces and whatnot in the chemicals that held them in such places from their making until they left in some manner or other, moved to another wall, moved to another house, passed among the things that leave when he would leave on that unknown date and then.  The eyes that could bore through their selved-images into the eyes of the man who sat in the chair with heavy lids and pondered those things as night wound into itself and him and the sounds of day’s passing had become the creaking and yawning of the presence of its neighbor and twin, the one who exists on the other side of the thoughts of himself.

Picture frames glowing or reflecting the light that sneaks in through the windows from the posted light in the yard, that one thing that illuminates the darkened corners where what was present in the day has crawled into itself and themselves and exist only in shadow form or memory, but not sight, as they are hidden in the black and gray of their shadowed selves.  Those eyes accuse and remember in their fixed gazes and the man stares at the blank middles of the frames at what he knows is there but cannot see for the passed and past day and the dark inside the four edges covers but doesn’t hide the faces he knows.  Night doesn’t cover his heart and his wandering soul and it doesn’t relieve the ghosts that walk in his mind and in the fibers of the carpet and lay like a film inside the paint and wooded textures of stair railings and benches, those things that capture sounds and emotions as they are fleeing in their shouted births and deaths of echoes and remain.

Hollowed eyes and grins and thoughts and cheekbones and lips that lie in a stuck rictus, like painted and dead clowns and he doesn’t know who is inside, who is behind those portals of life and then, and he turns away and closes his eyes and hears the ringing in his ears as the cat talks not walks down the hall and a hidden beam somewhere in the wall creaks or sighs as the house wonders at the man in the chair in the dark, wonders at his thoughts and sitting there while others sleep and dream and think of nothing in the passing of the stars and moon in their circuits as the heater kicks on and whines through the vents and blows in its blowing and warmth of breath and stops with a shudder and how, as the man’s foot twitches as sleep tries to pull him deeper into the chair as his heart beats and beats and his eyes open at the cat’s passing and scratching on and of the one corner of the rug that has its frayed spot and spot as the eyes on the walls sleep in their openness and hide their thoughts in front of him as he looks away and remembers a younger self that fled a smile in furrowed brows and pursed lips of anger and rot, his eyes scorned and shaken and cast away and aside and down and away from any who would look.

He remembered the thick hand that smacked his mouth when his eyes were closed and thought the Divine was blind as the prayer was stuck in the swirl of ceiling paint as the black eyes bored into the smaller one’s eyes as his mouth throbbed and his heart ached and his mom sat at arm’s length away as her man’s hand smacked her child’s mouth and she kept her eyes closed as the sound echoed in her ears and she squeezed her eyes closed as she smelled the dinner cooling on the table in front of them and wondered how the paint could keep the prayer inside the ceiling as it rolled about and thinned against the summer air and finally withered and faded and was gone in the tears that rolled down his cheeks as hate breathes by itself in blank picture frames and white rocks cast along the way, tripping the travelers who dare not watch where they are walking, who are blind to the path and stumble in the dark footsteps that lumber ahead of them.

This is a Favorite Re-post from February, 2010.


Work and Play


Toys as Tools….

We all have our tool-boxes for our trades and professions…some of us might have literal boxes with the known tools of screwdrivers and hammers and levels and wrenches…bottles of oil that shoot smoke into engine compartments that help us find leaks in hoses, or figurative boxes with our paint brushes and palates, pencils and erasers, thumb-drives, bags with cameras and lenses and film (maybe), reference books, mortars and pistils, surveying chains, books of flight plans and maps, stethoscopes and syringes…or whatever.   And some of us have other things…like years and years of advanced education and hundreds of books…and hundreds of toys…things that stimulate minds to thinking…or relax them from their stressors…things that unknowingly open the doors of others’ minds so that those who are interested in helping them can finally see inside, can finally see the things that have been hidden for so long…because they didn’t know how to open those doors and windows on their own. 

My wife is one of those people who has a tool box that contains those many years of education and hundreds of books and hundreds of toys…and who is skilled at opening minds and helping the bearers of those minds to find ways of expressing themselves…helping them find ways of communicating even with themselves…and then drawing maps for the rest of us to follow when trying to understand those minds so we can enter and share their previously closed-off worlds.  She works with autistic children and their families…spends hours on the floor with brightly colored toys and objects, pushing, searching, compelling, and connecting with those little ones…gently pressing and urging them into opening their minds….

This past Saturday, I stopped-by my wife’s office to pick-up her laptop…and, since I had my camera with me…I took a few pictures of the toys that decorate her office, those “tools” that draw smiles and widened eyes on the faces of even the most reserved and stoic of fathers who accompany their little ones to their appointments, those tools that are often selected specifically for that particular little one to whom they would appeal.  I think it would be wonderful to visit such an exciting and even calming place if I was going there for help….and I can understand the little ones’ distress when their sessions are over and it’s time to leave such a fun place…a place where they think they’re just playing…but are actually building a relationship, learning the social rules of give and take, finding words they didn’t know they had, and allowing someone into their world, sometimes for the very first and significant time.

The children often take these figures and play-out little portions of their lives with the other settings in the office.  In addition to the doll house and fire/police station, my wife also has a sand-box and a little multi-leveled tree house that makes a great landscape for their adventures and re-enactments (the photos didn’t turn-out very well).


As she lay sleeping

From one day…so many years ago….

“The sun’s light has faded and gone with its setting more than two hours ago.  The star of stars ended its daily cycle behind our valley’s western mountains as it has done every evening now for what must be the past several million years.  Now, left in the twilight created by the nearly concealed bathroom light around the corner from where I sit, my eyes perceive this bedroom-world in hues of light and dark.  Only gray, black, and lighter gray can be divined by my night-adjusted eyes.  In focusing upon the slowly closing eyes of my little loved-one, they disappear with my concentration, but if I look to either side, I can see them clearly, rather, as clearly as the suffused light will allow.  My baby’s purple dinosaur pajamas are only a darker gray than the blackened, navy sweat-shorts that I am wearing.  She is singing ‘I love you’ in her fifteen-month-old’s dialect as she fights the valiant efforts of the Sandman.  Holding her on my lap, I can smell the fragrance of her baby-shampooed hair, just as she, maybe, can smell the scent of ground weeds and back-yard vegetation that lingers on my hands as I caress her ever soft cheeks and jaw line.  The contest is finished, and that enchanter of sleep, Mr. Sandman, is victor yet again.  His wooings are too much for the protestations of my little one.  She has succumbed to the calling of sleep, where, hopefully, she will rest the night through – so that my bride and I can do the same.  Good night, Fair One.  Sleep well and know that you are loved.”

And from another….

“The Angel sleeps in the lighted room, peacefully unaware that the sun is as bright here as it was in the out-of-doors where she spent the afternoon playing.  Looking at her sleep, I am captured by the essence of a baby completely at rest.  The tiny curls at the back of her neck are slightly wet and somewhat darker than the rest of her not so long crowning glory.  Lying on her belly with the two middle fingers of her left hand motionless now, still from their suckling, she is oblivious to my presence and adoring eyes.  Her feet are bare, thanks to her own playfulness; you know she is proud that she removed the socks, smiling with her eyes almost closed to slits…she sleeps.  Tousled hair and tiny ears adorn her face and perfectly shaped head.  Her right arm is thrown forward and up where it rests on her favorite blanket; miniature lungs cause her little back to rise and fall with sustaining breath; sleep my Little One.  Rest safely for another day.  Sleep at your ease.  When she is gone, my chest will be empty where my heart now beats.  I never knew I could love like this.  I never cherished holding a tiny form as I do now when I hold her.  I was reborn too late.  My soul is miserable for not knowing how to love my own then, as I do her, now.  Those ticks of the clock have ceased even their echoing.  I hope they will forgive me.”

*****

This is a Favorite re-post from March, 2010.


The boys

Hmm…this might be one of my first “serious” attempts at photography…from twenty-some years ago.  The boys and I went for a short walk out into the forest that was near our house and tried to get some decent pictures to frame for the approaching Mother’s Day celebration.  We got some nice individual shots of each of the boys and then this group photo.  I have caught more than a little bit of harrassment over the years for the serious looks…Mom said they should have been smiling.  I wanted something more natural…serious even.  I suppose it would have been more “natural” to have them playing and smiling and knocking each other off the rock….  Anyway, I was pleased with the result…thought it was actually a bit of an accomplishment to get the boys, from three to six years of age, to sit still long enough to capture them in a less animated moment.


Field Trip to Antelope Island

It’s always pleasing when a recommendation (direct or otherwise) from a friend results in a rewarding experience.  About two weeks ago, Fergiemoto commented on my Salt Lake City Seagull post and mentioned that you can see LOTS of sea-gulls on the causeway that leads from the mainland to Antelope Island out in the Great Salt Lake.  As I have lived in the Salt Lake area for just over a year and had not yet ventured out to visit the lake up-close and personal, let alone traveled the 40 miles north of the city to visit Antelope Island, it seemed like a good time to do so.  It was a rather chilly and windy February morning and afternoon, and while there were plenty of birds flying about and resting in the lake’s water, I have to admit that I didn’t take particular notice of the gulls…there were too many other things that captured my attention and begged for me to stop the truck and take their pictures.  Anyway…thank you, Fergiemoto, for your recommendation.  It was a wonderful day-adventure.  🙂

Antelope Island is about 15 miles long and 4.5 miles wide and is the largest of the six or eight or more islands that exist in the Great Salt Lake.  This photo was taken on the road that lies on the eastern side of the island and leads out to a farm/ranch near the north end of the island that was originally established in the late 1800’s.  Even though the island is smack-dab in the middle of a lake that has greater salinity than the oceans, there are more than 40 fresh-water springs on this eastern side of the island that serve as water sources for the natural and imported wild-life.   Aside from the prong-horn antelope, from which the island gets its name, there is also a herd of more than 600 imported buffalo, or American Bison, that roam freely over the island.  There are also long-horned sheep, mule-deer, bob-cats, coyotes, and many ducks, gulls, other water-birds, and raptors.  The state-park literature also reports that Bald-Eagles frequent the island during their seasonal migrations.

We didn’t spot this antelope until we were actually leaving the island.  As I got out of the truck to take the photos, I heard him making some barking-type sound…almost like he was calling to his friends to come back.  A cyclist who had also stopped to look at the antelope and listen to his calls said that this particular antelope was a male, as only males have the black cheek markings and a bit of a mane that runs down the middle of the neck.

I think it’s remarkable that we could be on an island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake and see buffalo resting in the tall and winter-dried grasses.

The boys were eager to get out of the truck and climb the rocks…having fun with their own little adventures and seemingly mindless of the chilling wind.  There was a bit of haze on the lake…maybe an inversion layer of vehicle particle emissions…or salt dust carried in with the winds from the desert south and west of the lake.  Those are the Wasatch Mountains in the background.

I’ve seen these deer in the mountains of Colorado and in the mountains and canyons of Utah and Arizona…but on an island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake?  Yep…

When I mentioned in my earlier post, Mass and Form, about trying to get a good profile shot of the bison/buffalo, this is the closest and best that I could get.  He kept moving in circles away from me….

Everyone had a nice time driving and walking about the island…even my 3yo grand-daughter.  This last photo was taken near the farm/ranch on the north end of the island.  You can see that the winter grass has been mown beyond the fence.


Under the Cherry Trees

The man stood in the doorway for a moment before grabbing the elongated brass handle to open the door.  He was looking at the house to the west of his and noticed how the image of the lowering sun was about to touch the roofline.  The slate roof seemed to dip in the moment of the sun’s contact, causing the illusion that the weight of the sun was bearing down on the roof, or maybe the roof was molding itself to the shape of the sun to give it a more comfortable resting place at the end of its long day.  The sun was bright, of course, but softened somehow in the closer atmosphere and haze of industry and pollen and life that existed above the horizon’s curving line, so the man stood there with unshielded eyes and continued to watch the sun’s dip into and below the roof line.  He turned away and the golden glow remained in his eyes as he looked through the door’s glass to find his son.  It was time for dinner and the boy was somewhere outside.

The door handle lowered without a sound and the door swung open quietly as the man pushed against it and walked out onto the back patio of the house.  As he passed the mustard-colored and rectangular-shaped charcoal grill, he noticed that it still smelled of burnt sugar from the last time he barbequed ribs.  It had been a couple weeks or more, but the scent still lingered.  The man was barefoot and noticed, too, that the cement of the patio was still warm from the day’s sun, but the grass was cool as he stepped into it and began his search for his son.  The man turned to the left from the patio and looked into the back-yard proper, gazing at the rock-fronted embankments that supported the tiered lawn that rose from the yard up to the street that ran behind his house.  As he walked toward the front of the house that faced the town’s park, he craned his neck to look further into the yard to where the boy liked to play around the young, conical pine trees that resembled miniature Christmas trees when they were dusted or coated with December’s snow.

The evening was peaceful, now that the neighborhood kids had left the park and gone home or wherever after playing soccer for most of the afternoon.  Looking toward the east and over the hills that fronted that side of the town, the man noticed the swallows darting over the park for their evening feeding and play-time.  Overhead, the clouds were pink and orange and white and darkening gray with the falling sun and approaching night.  Further north, he could still see the white line of a plane’s contrail that was still intact even though the plane had been gone for hours…just the singular, lined cloud was left in its passing.  The man didn’t see his son anywhere, not in this side of the yard and not out in the park.  He thought about calling-out for him, but didn’t want to break the quiet by raising his voice or yelling.  Instead, he retraced his steps around the house, passed the back-door patio, and toward the other end of the yard, the side that fronted their street.  The man walked along the low hedge that separated his yard from the neighbor’s and then past the gooseberry bushes and toward the side of the house where he could peek around the corner to see if his son was playing under the cherry trees.  His step was quiet in the cool grass and the moss that grew thinly among the grass where he was, but was thicker under the trees.

Because the sun had completely lowered itself beneath the roofline of the neighbor’s house by now, there was no chance of the man’s son seeing his father’s shadow intrude into his quiet play.  When the man slowly moved his head around the corner, he saw that his son was sitting cross-legged, facing away from him, and leaning forward with his hands busy at some task.  The boy had his tan and green army-men positioned in loose rows and partially hidden in the moss, or situated behind various military vehicles and broken sticks from the trees above him.  He occasionally leaned back or to the right or left to straighten a fallen man or to move a truck closer to the grouped men, enacting some strategy or maneuver of protection or attack.  The boy even rolled a golf-ball or lightly tossed a shiny, black cherry in the direction of the men, imagining that they were rockets or some other projectile, sometimes knocking over one of the men or coming to rest next to or on top of one of the vehicles, and sometimes not.  With the impact of the cherries or golf ball, the boy made his eleven year-old’s version of a soft explosion…a hushed “pkshew!” that he thought only he could hear.

The man smiled to himself as he watched and listened to his son.  He saw the purplish-pink stains on the boy’s white t-shirt and imagined the cherry-fight that he had had with his friends earlier in the afternoon…the cherry-fight that he wasn’t supposed to have had.  As the man attempted to kneel down into the moss and grass next to the house, his shorts scraped on the prickly stucco finish on the house and startled his son.  The boy was in mid-reach across his battlefield and gasped and dropped one of his army men as he jerked and turned around to face his father.

The boy’s heart was pounding and his mouth was suddenly dry.  “I didn’t know you were there,” he said.  His mind was racing back through his day, wondering at what he might have done wrong, wondering what little or grand sin had been revealed and was now set to ruin what he thought was an otherwise good day, and wondering why, if he hadn’t done anything wrong, his father was there on the side of the yard looking for him…and getting ready to sit down like he was planning to stay for a while.

“Well, I wasn’t here for very long.  What are you doing?”

The boy tried to swallow.  “Just playing…Army.”

“Weren’t your friends out here earlier?”

“Yes Sir, but they had to leave.”

“Which friends were here?”

“When?”

“You said your friends were here earlier.  Which ones were here?”

The boy looked across the gravel and grass driveway and out into the park where the swallows were still darting around.  He saw a couple boys at the water fountain at the far side of the park.  “I…don’t know,” he stammered.  “I don’t remember.”

“But they were just here,” the man said, “who were they?  You’re not in trouble, Stephan, I’m just asking which friends were here.”

“Hansi and Martin.”

“Isn’t Hansi’s father the butcher?”

“I don’t know.  I think so…maybe.”

“Isn’t he one of those older boys that you were playing with in the spring and got into trouble with?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t remember,” the father said, “when you guys stole the bratwurst and then went off into the woods and cooked it?  You don’t remember that?”

“No Sir.”

“What?”

“Yes Sir…I…think I remember.”

“Wasn’t Hansi one of those older boys?”

The boys had moved from the water fountain and were now kicking a soccer ball out on the field at the park.  “I don’t know.”

The man sat down in the grass and moss and leaned against the house.  “Stephan…look at me.  You’re not in trouble…we’re just talking…ok?  You can answer me,” said the man.  “Look…here,” he said, pointing to his eyes.  “You’re ok.”

The boy turned his head from watching the boys with the soccer ball and met his father’s eyes.  He didn’t answer him immediately, but just looked at him.  This was unusual for him; the boy…he felt odd, bold somehow…maybe even brave.  His father’s manner and voice were unsettling.  There was none of the harshness or sarcasm that he was used to…and his eyes didn’t look angry.  It looked like his father was really just asking him a question…not investigating an offense.

“Augie’s father is the butcher,” said the boy, “but Hansi was part of the group that did that, yes Sir.”

“Is that Hansi out there playing soccer?”

The boy looked at the two other boys out on the field for a couple seconds and then turned again to his father.  “No Sir.  Hansi had to go home.  He said it was almost getting dark and he had to go in for dinner.”

“Oh, ok.”

“Why?”

“Why what?” said the man.

“Why’d you want to know if that’s Hansi out there playing soccer?”

“Nothing, Stephan.  I was just asking…nothing.  Relax, would you?  And stop calling me ‘Sir.’”

The boy looked at his father’s hands for a couple seconds and then moved up to meet his eyes.  The eyes were still dark brown and still set deep into his father’s head, but the prominent brow-ridge seemed less severe as his eye-brows were raised in a gentle and almost inquisitive arch.

“What?  Just call me ‘Dad’ now.  Say ‘Yes Dad,’ not ‘Yes Sir.’  That seems wrong somehow.”

“Dad?”

“Yes.”

“Can I ask you something and not get in trouble?”

“Yes…ask or say anything you want.”

The boy just looked at him.

“I’m serious…really…anything…you won’t get in trouble.”

“What happened to you in the wreck?  I know you broke a couple ribs, but what happened…you know…inside your head?  Mom said it went through the front window, right?”

The man looked at his son…intently, gently…and picked a tuft of moss from the ground.  He moved his eyes to the moss and then asked, “What do you mean, ‘What happened in my head?’”

“You’re not like you used to be,” said the boy, looking past his father, but still watching him, trying to sense if he was going too far.  “You’re different.”

“Almost dying in the wreck like that made me think about my life; it made me think about how I was treating people…how I treated you and your mom…and I decided that I needed to be different.”

The boy looked out into the park again.  He didn’t want his father to see the tears that were starting to spill from his eyes.  “Just like that…you ‘decided’ that you needed to be different?”

The man looked down and watched his fingers as they slowly tore the moss apart and let it drop back into the grass.  “I guess so.  When I was laying there in the hospital with my neck in that brace and my face all bandaged-up and tubes sticking out of my lungs, I thought about how lucky I was that my heart was still beating and that I wasn’t hurt as bad as I could have been considering what I had been through.  It almost seemed like I was being given a second chance or something, you know…somehow…maybe…to do things right…if that’s possible.”

The boy turned back and looked toward his father, not meeting his eyes exactly, but looking through him at some point directly behind his head.  “If you could just decide that you needed to be different when you were laying there in the hospital, why couldn’t you have decided a long time ago that you would be different…why didn’t you decide when I was a littler kid that you weren’t going to be so mean…that you could talk to me instead of hitting me, or that I could talk to you like you were just my dad and not some…kind…of…whatever you’ve been?”

“I don’t know, Stephan.  I guess it took me almost dying to realize how much I love you…I don’t know.”

“Oh.  Well, that’s when I figured out that I don’t love you,” said the boy, “when you were in the hospital almost dying.  I always thought I did, or wanted to, maybe.  I thought that if I loved you more you’d be nicer to me, but it didn’t work.  So when Mom told me that you might die, I was hoping you would, because I knew I wouldn’t have to try to love you anymore.  It would be ok that I didn’t…and now you’re not dead and I still don’t love you.”

The man turned his eyes to watch the neighbor drive past in his blue Saab.  He followed the car until it stopped at the water fountain by the corner of the park and then turned down the hill where it disappeared behind the Vivo store on the opposite corner.  Then he turned slightly in the other direction and watched the kids chasing each other and kicking the soccer ball for a few seconds.  Finally, he looked back at his son and said, “Wow…I don’t know what to do with that, Stephan.”

“I don’t either,” said the boy as he reached for one of his army men.

“I guess I’ll have to work on that, won’t I?  Give you a reason to love me?”

The boy pulled a handful of moss and began to gently tear it apart and lay the pieces across his army trucks, camouflaging them against the enemy that was lined-up behind the moss and grass berm that he had built close to the trunk of the nearest tree.  He then absently grabbed a cherry from the ground and slipped it into his mouth.  He bit down on the sweet flesh and then used his tongue to separate the seed as he slowly chewed and swallowed the tiny fruit.

“Stephan?  I said I’ll have to work on that, won’t I?”

“I don’t know.”

The man slowly stood and then leaned over to stretch his legs that had been folded under him while he sat and talked with his son.  He said “Ok,” and then turned to walk back around the corner of the house.  After a couple steps, he turned around and leaned down so he could see his son better under the cherry trees.  “You need to come in now.  The streetlights are coming on and it’s time to eat.”

“I’m not hungry.”

The man raised his voice a little – “Stephan, I said you need to come in.”

“Yes Sir.”

*****

This is a Favorite re-post from May, 2010.


Crossing….