Chalk Drawings in the Rain

Standing there alone, at the precipice of nightfall, the air turns cooler, daylight appearing a little dimmer and the shadows begin to fade away slowly. One moment his silhouette is beside him, it draws longer before simply dissipating in the pale, late afternoon ambient light, along with all the other shadows. It used to be so clear; his relationship with his kids, the expectations’, the experiences. But now they seem to be dissolving like a child’s chalk drawings in the rain.

It’s strange when you get older and your children do too, it’s not the same for you both. For one the days run by like a fast moving bus leaving one to yearn for what they may have missed and for the other they seem to draw on forever, full of opportunity, excitement for what may come, adventure and anticipation. For the parent there is a sense of loss, for the child freedom.

You knew it was coming, all the older folks say it’s so, that the time you have with them passes by so quickly and we take it for granted. That time passes by like a mid-winters day, and soon you’re wondering what happened, where did it all go, why do you feel as though they’ve forgotten you. You forget what it is like to be a teenager, cruising around with your pal’s, the freedom, no one looking over your shoulder.

Your daughter has a boyfriend, he gets more time than you now, she looks at him with that same lost essence in her eyes that she once had for you…when she was like five. It hurts, you feel betrayed, left behind, alone. They all grow older; your son leaps out the front door in his letterman jacket and the keys to his future, and his little tender hands not in yours, tugging you along. Finally the youngest glances back at you as she runs off to join her team mates on the field, it’s not fair you think, you used to throw her in the air and now her fellow ball players celebrate with her, they chant and cheer her on and they are louder than you and the sound of your voice diminishes as it gets carried away in the fall air.

Breakfast is lonely now; it feels unnecessary, like an old outdated custom. Like an old book you once loved to read over and over but it just seems like the words aren’t quite as bright as they used to be, the pages are more fragile and worn and the cover has seen its day in the sun, it eventually finds its way onto a shelf higher than the rest, it may be pulled out now and again but the air between its pages will grow stale and it’s binding dusty. Like all great books, once celebrated its now simply remembered.

You taught them, aimed them in the right direction, and gave them the tools they’ll rely on when they are all on their own. You are happy for them, and are yourself excited to see them flourish, grow and become adults. But somewhere along the way you forgot to prepare yourself, I suppose that’s what happens though, you love them, cherish them, teach them and watch them step away.

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Faces

Have you ever gone an extended amount of time without seeing someone?  Maybe they live far away and all you do is talk with them on the phone, maybe they are distant relatives and you see them once or twice a year, or maybe you haven’t seen someone because you grew apart, one upset at the other; and your hurt too much by their words and actions, or maybe you both decided it is better to go your separate ways.

Yesterday I went to my dad’s shop.  I drove into the parking lot and his truck was parked in the back.  The previous three times I had gone there in the past 9 months, he wasn’t there.  His lot was empty, his shop closed, and my heart still broken.  We haven’t seen eye to eye for quite some time.  My decisions don’t exactly measure up to his plans for me.  He couldn’t understand my logic or my life’s path.  So, there was silence.  A long silence.  And a distance grew between us even though we were only 20 miles apart.  So I would take out a piece of paper, write a note on it, “Dad, I miss you. I love you. Wish you were here so I could say hi.”  I taped it to his front door, sat in my car for a few minutes, cried, and then drove away.

During those months of silence my heart ached.  It ached out of loneliness and sadness.  It ached for losing my father, for thinking I wouldn’t hear his voice again and see his face, or feel his skin on my skin.  It’s a devastating thing, to have family torn apart, ripped at the seams that once were sewn in place so  carefully.  With my little sister across the world and speaking badly about me, my older sister second guessing my decisions, and my dad upset with me, it left my mom in the middle.  By no means was she happy with my decisions, but nonetheless we tried to remain somewhat in touch, somewhat civil.  I’m sure some will ask why?  Well, because, we are family and there is love between us, and when nobody else talked to me, I tried to mend things with my mom.

I remember there were times I cried, I sobbed, I couldn’t control my emotions, and the tears just poured out of my eyes.  I couldn’t stop the pain and hurt that I felt inside and I wondered how could I go on without speaking to my parents.

But on this day, my dad’s truck was there.  Part of me was nervous, and excited, and part of me fearful.  It had been 9 months since I saw him and now was the moment I had been hoping and waiting for.  I knocked on the front door of his shop, my heart pounding.  I put my forehead onto the glass and peered in, I saw him walking towards me.  He unlocked the door and opened it.  We both smiled at each other.  Father and daughter face to face.  I looked at him, his face old, tired, thin, his hair gray, he seemed to have shrunk, I was just about as tall as he was now, his back hunched over slightly, and his belt seemed to hug his body tighter.  I was certain he had lost weight. Time doesn’t stop when you grow distant, it keeps going, people get older. Faces change and age is more easily seen. He will be 68 next month and after months of not seeing him, he is looking like an old man.

I said, it’s good to see you.  He said it’s good to see you too.  As he started to talk about his work and walk into the shop, I asked, can I give you a hug?  He paused, turned to me and we embraced.  It was short hug, he patted my back and let go, that sort of hug was not unusual for him.  But then I said, a longer hug, please.  I held on tightly to him, my arms wrapped around his body, not wanting him to go.  After a moment, he softened, and we hugged, for real.  He started to tear up, as did I.  I whispered I love you and I have missed you in his ear, and he said I love you too.  As the hug finished we stepped back from each other, I looked at him, and couldn’t believe how much time I have lost because of not seeing him.  But on this day, I was grateful for him, for the time together, and for being near him.

No Place for Regret

I have seen the dark things that wait in the shadows of the alleys we fear to go into.

I have held in my hand the most delicate of innocence.

I have spent too much time wandering in places where light cannot reach, the empty, frightful places.

And I have breathed in deeply the thinly veiled air of success.

When it is my day to step beyond the horizon, I will look forward to it; I will run to it,

I will not fear that place for it is my destiny, but I will not go with thoughts of regret.

I have lived my life; I have peered at an antediluvian sunrise with its intense, rich colors.

I have stood naked in the rain letting it wash over my body and cleanse my soul.

And I have touched love; I have let it pour through my fingers in abundance, raised it to my face and bathed in it.

I will not go from this world into the next without knowing what it felt like to hurt, to feel hunger, to experience strife and conflict of my very being, to smell the rot of guilt and then be raised by of prideful humbleness of integrity.

I will celebrate all that I am and have been, for had it not happened the way it all did, I would not be me.

I do not desire a statue or a monument, I do not require a plaque to feel accomplished, I yearn only to remain in the hearts of all those I have loved and who’ve loved me. To be shared through an embrace, a cherished hug between friends, a kiss between lovers and in the kind grip of interlaced fingers and the warmth of two hands.

Look at your brothers and sisters, your friends, your parents and your lovers, your grandparents and your neighbors, stare into their eyes and know that love is there, even if they don’t, it is always there. Rejoice in that, accept it, treasure it and value it over all else.