I returned the baking pan filled with freshly-baked brownies. She had given me a tuna casserole in the same pan the night before, the day of the funeral.
I first met her twenty-two years when she raced across the street to help me up after I fell over picking up dog poop. She lived across the street from us, a young mother of two.
“Are you ok?” she asked. It turns out I wasn’t. The fall resulted in a hairline hip fracture. When I got home from the hospital, she brought over some lasagna in that pan. I returned the pan a week later with a funfetti cake for her two daughters.
That was the first time we exchanged the pan.
It was an ordinary pan; nothing special with the exception of the miles it travelled across the street. With each tragedy in my life, she would bring over a casserole or pasta dish in the pan. I would return it with a baked good.
We stayed out of each other’s business —barely spoke in two decades of being neighbors — with the exception of concern and gratitude marked by the pan.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been a better neighbor,” she said through her tear-soaked face as she accepted the brownies. But I disagreed; she had always been just the right amount of neighbor.
“You have gorgeous eyes,” she blurted out when we first met.
In an instant, she remembered she was just my nurse and was there to take my vitals. She blushed a deep red, clearly embarrassed by the thoughts in her head being expressed out loud.
She looked at the floor and fumbled with the BP cup.
I leaned in and whispered, “I think my blood pressure is going to be high and my pulse quick today.”
I love Winter.
It is the season when the sun sets early and the darkness gives me permission to relax and dream early.
I grew up dirt poor and am still amazed at how I was able to get to where I am today.. not rich, but not in the gutter either.. I have my freedom, a little bit of money in the bank, house nearly paid off, two educated kids with hardly any student loan debt.. I’m not cold at night nor hungry in the daytime. I think to those peers who all started on third base and think they’ve achieved much and realize how much of a hole I had to claw my way out of just to get to first base.
And I am very, very, very tired yet feel like I have not accomplished all I wanted to.. I always thought there would be more time…
But then I think that maybe what I have done so far is enough.. maybe I started off early with such ambition because at this point in my life — even though I am still quite young — it needed to be. Maybe it was never going to be about me, but about making sure that the two kids who were my entire world for so long were going to be ok.. maybe fortune just skips a generation so that the next will be prepared to do more things at leaps and bounds…
This all sounds like giving up, but maybe it is more like realizing deep in my soul that this is the real story.
I have no idea what that is other than a meta-memoir of a man who lived every day of his life in an ordinary, average way, thinking there was always going be enough time to deal with that later when the kids started school, then when they graduated high school, then when they graduated college, then when the house was paid off, then when… and he looked up one day and realized he had built a legacy on absolutely nothing of any discernible value other than the moments of living that could not be sculpted in any way to build anything of substance… not even a pile of sand…
“What excites you,” he had asked me a few month ago. “What gets you up in the morning.”
I didn’t have a clear answer then but I do now.
My passion has slowly been replaced by obligation. I do this because I said I would and you expect me to.
That sliver of time between the darkness and the dawn when the dream seems attainable. Just need to do it.
And then you realize, “Who would walk the dog?”
The only thing more terrifying than the first night your children come home from the hospital is the day it all ends and they leave you, excited and giddy about starting their new lives and never notice you standing on the porch with tears welling up in your eyes, terrified about how you will live your new life without them underfoot and fighting the urge to cling to them and hug them tight like they were rag dolls.
But you don’t because you are the parent.
Sorry for the spoiler.
I have friends who start blogs when they are looking for something. A job, themselves, a new lover, a place to be, somewhere to fit in, stuff like that.
They blog passionately, frequently and intensely. Sometimes the posts lead down a path of discovery and sometimes they seem to wander aimlessly.
But eventually the blogging stops.
And my heart aches. I know that they have found what they are looking for and I will probably never hear their voice again. I’m happy for my friends, but also painfully sad at being left behind. I fight that because it is a selfish feeling. I can tolerate almost any other insult except being accused of being selfish.
I am very happy for you, but I miss your voice. I will miss the future you and treasure the voice you have left in my head.
I worried today that I have not written anything here because I have nothing to say.
But that is not really true.
I have nothing to say that I want to say in public.
But I have a lot I want to say.
Just not here.