11 years ago today, I became a writer.
This was my first piece:
The Exquisite Slips And Slides Of Life
You take his hand as he toddles across the living room. You take his hand as he walks across the street. And then one day his backpack is strapped over his shoulders and he slips his hand from your grasp and he walks through the playground toward the door. Your heart shatters. You remind yourself you’re on view and you gather your tears as you inhale and you slide into your car and you leave the lot.
And then one day you’re walking and he silently slides his fingers into your hand and your knees buckle with the gratitude that he hasn’t forgotten who you are and he remembers what he means to you. And your heart breaks. You remind yourself you’re on view and you gather your tears as you gently grasp his hand. And you exhale in the moment of the exquisite peace.
You take his duffel from his hand as you wait for the announcement of the flight. He’s not holding his favorite stick. He’s not holding a fistful of his brother’s hair. He’s not holding a baseball bat. He’s not holding a fishing rod. And you reel with the knowledge that soon he’ll be holding a gun. And you hold him tight without a care of the view or the cost of the tears. A shake of his hand and a kiss on his cheek is all you’ll have to hold.
He tells you of his duty and you remind yourself of your duty. You dutifully wish him farewell. You watch him slip out of your sight as he slides out of your life. You silently scream as you walk out the terminal door. You tremble as you fumble for your keys. You slide into the seat. The sadness crushes your lungs and you experience a grief that no man should have to endure. But you endure. You haven’t other options. You promised him you would the first time she slipped him into your arms.
He doesn’t always remember anymore.
He doesn’t always remember a name.
He doesn’t always remember that score.
He doesn’t always remember the song.
He doesn’t always remember those facts.
Sometimes. But, not always.
But he always remembers the window pane and the emptied dirt road that lined the fallow field.
He always remembers the twilighted living room and the darts of a fluorescent kitchen light that interloped their dark.
He always remembers the yellow and blue kerchief he tied around his neck and the merit badges his mother stitched on his blouse.
He always remembers waiting for his fellow troops.
He always remembers the afraid.
He always remembers the wanting of home.
He always remembers the drowsy.
He always remembers the scratching of a salt-shaded beard.
He always remembers the repetitions and the self-recriminations.
He always remembers all the quitting.
That he remembers.
Unsighted by surplus, their needed went unseen.
Needed to be included. Needed to be invited. Needed to be considered. Needed to be amongst.
Pandering our utmosts
(Photo courtesy of amazonaws.com)
Between saddened and deadened.
Between capable and captive.
Between desire and despair.
Between restless and arrested.
(Photo courtesy of focusonthefamily.com)
Okay. No edit. Just blurt.
About a month ago I laid in bed and realized I was fucking up. I realized the choices I made were wrong and that I had blown opportunities. I missed important moments or even worse – I had terrible reactions.
See the thing is – and we all miss this and when I type this it’s going to sound so goddamned trite – but all moments are finite. You only get one chance to say you’re sorry and you only get one chance to catch someone when he trips and you only get one chance to offer friendship to someone who feels lonely and you only get one sentence to defend someone who’s abused. It’s all so finite.
And about a month ago I saw my tally. And I knew I had blown it. All of it. I knew I was not the man I should be. And I was afraid it was too late. And so I panicked. And sure. This is about death. My death – my heart – my parents’ deaths. Sure it is. But it’s also about a forgotten word: responsibilities. Goddamn it. We’re responsible. If you think personal happiness is the goal than it’s time you remember that your hands were meant for more than to please yourself. Your hands were meant to serve.
So. I decided to go out with the best report card I could possibly earn. And I haven’t been all that successful. Well, because in so many ways I really suck. But I’m trying hard. I am.
Tonight was a great night for me. Today I decided I’d stay home and watch the game with my Dad. And make no mistake. I hate sports. But – he doesn’t. You want baldass truth? I spent a childhood in my room listening to games and judging them banal and the spectators as limited. But I knew how important this game was to my Dad and so I stayed home and I watched it beside him. And I’m thrilled I did. We shared moments – finite wonderful moments – of such joy. Of such communion. Tonight was all about made memories and camaraderie with my buddy: my Dad. So. The Vikings won? My Father cared. And I care I could share a moment of joy with a man who’s giving me infinite love. Earnest? Do you know me at all?
(Photo courtesy of gannett-cdn.com)
She fleshed gluttony: too talkative, too loud, too desperate. Although she feigned conversation with her companion, she delivered her monologue to her captive audience. We weren’t captivated with interest; it was need. We needed procedures. We waited in the waiting room; we were bound to listen. I looked over my iPad to see the source of her disturbance. She sprawled across her seat and rested from shin to shoe on the tiny table provided for toddlers. The table toddlers touch. Her shoes soiled their play surface. I was too sick to take a stand.
So many vivid memories.
Leaving Junction City Kansas after Dad’s work week and heading toward Saint Paul. Climbing into the backseat of a two-toned salmon and white Chevy and watching my Father’s jacket collar as we motored along US Route 77.
Small tots taking turns riding in the rear window. Fitting inside the space between the trunk and the roof. Jiggling in reply to the textures of the pavement. Looking for the Big Dipper. Watching the lights of each town grow with each approach. Singing the same circus song and counting the same colored cars and remaining silent in the midst of pinches and tickles. Scrunching against the accusations of being on someone else’s seat.
The sides of the highway littered with small white crosses. Crosses to mark places. Accidents. Fatalities. The crosses were punctuated by signs: “narrow bridge” or “narrow roads.” Feeling fear as my Father drove that winding strip of highway. Closing my eyes and praying for protection as my Father passed a car driving the opposite direction. Speeds limited to 75 mph.
Stuckey’s Pecan Rolls.
PJ’s with socks at the end of the legs. Tiny union suits. Wrapped in blankets and tugging for a share of the warmth.
Bologna sandwiches on Wonder Bread passed overhead from front seat to back.
A motherly mantra: “I’d just like to make it through one trip without milk spilled down my back!”
Yesterday I drove the highway between Chicago and Saint Paul. I wanted the silence of solitude. No radio. No chatter. I wanted the rote of the road. The shoulders of the highway were littered with debris: 27 carcasses of deer. Skins sprayed with orange painted Xs. I remembered the crosses. I chewed a stick of jerky and remembered my memories.