I’ve discovered both how long, and how short my story is. I know how much can happen in a moment, but also that, in the end, all moments will drown in the waves of time. I know how you can miss a forest by only looking at the trees. I must deal with my importance, and my insignificance, and try to find a balance between the two. I get lost somewhere in the middle, knowing that what I do and what I say and what I feel is both eternal, and fleeting.
The Old Man’s Story
I still remember how her skin felt beneath my fingers. Because I am old now I have had a chance to look back and understand things I never understood before. I can appreciate these moments, keep them from slipping away from me. I have no regrets. My only sadness is that both my wife and my son are gone before me. My wife was a good woman. She went in her sleep. When I think of her, I think of her young. I remember her smiling, soft to touch and light to laugh. The way I married her. The way we were to each other inside, and out.
My son’s death was less so. He was a pilot for a cargo company. He flew all around the world. On a return trip from South Africa one night near Christmas he ran out of fuel about fifty miles east of Nova Scotia. He was forced to land his plan in the freezing water of the Atlantic Ocean. He jumped into the water without his suit on – those heated suits built to save you. He couldn’t get his on in time. Because. The cockpit was too small. These things aren’t supposed to happen. But. Then. Everyone can say that at some point or another.
The rescue boat was near. He called to them, “Throw me a line! Throw me a line!” but by the time they did and pulled him on-board it was too late. He had been in the water for far too long. He died of hypothermia and drowning – unsure why there were two causes listed for one outcome.
It was hard. The way I was raised it is the son that takes your name, continues your legacy, lives on after you with your grandchildren and your inheritance. Everything will now be left to my nieces and nephews who live on opposite sides of the country. But it was hard mostly because I missed him terribly, and I still do. In his bedroom, in the old house on Eustis Street where the trees have grown so large they hang over the sidewalk; you know these houses have been here for such a long time.
A long time. And such a short time.
This isn’t meant to be a sad story. More just a reflection. Something that happened. It is assumed that when you tell a story like this it is sympathy you’re looking for. But that isn’t the case. After living as many years as I have you start to understand that things sometimes just happen. And there isn’t much you can do to change them. And there isn’t much use in letting them define you. But it is important to remember, and to reflect, as you move forward. Pay attention to those moments so they don’t slip past you unnoticed.
Because. It’s up to you how you view your life. I used to think things happened to me. And while I know now that things just happen, the way you react to them is always up-to-you.
I write this with a smile on my face. Thinking about the years I had with my son, and the many more years I had with my wife. I think about the way she felt in my arms and the touch of her skin to my fingers. I think about the job I had making toys for McConnell Toy Company. And. I think about the warm Christmases and birthdays when my toys were given and received. There is joy in both. Giving. Getting.
I am a sentimental old man, and these are ramblings that I doubt have worth for anyone else. They belong wedged somewhere between the wedding and birthday photos I still keep in the basement. Memories that I will pass along to nieces and nephews who won’t recognize most of the faces that are so very important to me.
But while Robert Frost might have written “Nothing gold can stay…” everything is gold if you view it that way.