Sun-Drenched Road

The small blonde-haired boy is alone in the back seat. His brother won’t arrive for a few more years. He watches the sun-drenched California countryside out the window. His parents are in the front seat, talking quietly as they drive. They stop at a full-service station (look it up!) along the sparsely-traveled dusty toad.

The boy realizes he needs to pee, so he slips out of the back seat and heads around the side of the station to find the restroom. When he emerges, he looks around for his parents; but the car is gone. He stands there for a moment, stunned and unsure what to do next.

A short distance away is the attendant, lolling on a chair against the wall. He looks at the boy and drawls lazily, “They left ya.”

“Of course they didn’t!” he thinks to himself. “You’ll see.”

This is, of course, my own memory. Where most of my memories are especially wonderful, or are traumatic in some way, this one is simply, oddly, peaceful. As I look back on this particular moment in the story, I always imagine it like the scene from Raising Arizona (if you haven’t seen it, you simply must!) where the robbers suddenly realize they have left the child behind: squealing tires, anguish, yelling, pounding the ceiling.

His parents’ car came screeching into the parking lot, gravel skittering, doors flying open. They ran over, embraced him, and chided him for not telling them he was getting out of the car.

The small boy looks out the window at the sun-drenched California countryside going by, and he is content.

Deep grief

A photo. Happy, smiling faces.

Suddenly I am plunged into water that blinds and deafens me, wrapped in a cocoon of memory. A wave has crashed over my head, bearing me down, down, to a dark cave where lurks a brooding presence. This presence embraces me, not unkindly, as the anguish pours and surges.

My children. Happy, smiling. Full of life and promise.

The silent deafening roar of the wave peaks as I spin and tumble, insensate.

I don’t even remember these moments. I missed so much.

The tears flow, mixing with the salty embrace. Mute inchoate wails echo amidst the rush of water. I am wrapped in unseen arms until the wave passes.

I gently float to the surface, coming back to the world.

The photo is still here. I wish so hard to run back and gather them into my arms. I want to say I’m sorry, that I did the best I could, that — what? Their happy eyes and smiles seem to offer ready forgiveness — as do they, here and now, I remember.

Mournfulness and gratitude war gently within me until I am spent. The wave has passed, receded to its deep cavern.

I breathe and put away the photo. Somehow a bit of the pain has transmuted — into what? Acceptance, perhaps. Thankfulness, perhaps. It may be that I will never empty this cave of its reservoir of grief, but perhaps I will be less fearful of its power.