On a cold wintry day such as this would, I sometimes wrap myself in a quilt and look out at the snow crusted lake, ice banks formed along the shoreline. I would drift back to when I was younger, much younger, and how much I hated the cold. Funny how it doesn’t phase me in the least now, living in the frozen tundra of winter in upstate New York.
Rainy spring afternoons would often bring about thoughts of childhood and wondering how I survived half of what I attempted. I got lost in the woods once, near my house, my younger sister and several of my cousins. I was the oldest and I decided that we were going to go on a nature walk. The relatives were in town from New York City, another lifetime ago for us and I was anxious to show off my nature skills. I was 8 years old and my cousins ranged from 5, 6, and 7. There were six of us.
I figured that I would just leave signs at the turn of every tree, a particular rock or a bush would be my markers. The only thing nature girl didn’t realize is that returning back from trekking through the woodlands all the aforementioned markers looked the same.
I knew that we were lost, but somehow it didn’t seem to bother me. I knew someone would find me, and sure enough, I heard my father’s voice loud and clear, calling for me through the thick underbrush and fallen pines.
Walking back towards the house, he suddenly stopped and asked me his patented question to make me realize I had taken a wrong turn.
“Why did you do that?” he asked me simply, as if there was some great truth pulling at me that had to be answered that day. But he knew the answer.
“I dunno” I answered just as simply. “I just felt like walking.”
This morning’s beautiful sunrise brought forth another memory, of a time when I was younger than now, but older than then.
With my three year old son in tow and money in my pocket, I jumped in a van with a friend and we drove to Phoenix, Arizona. Had one of my children done this today, I would have surely killed them; but I paid no mind as to what my parents might be thinking or feeling. I was full of myself and the wanderlust and longed for adventure.
A growing hub of work and society back then, I found work in a hospital and made lots of friends. The sunrises were spectacular but I knew that this was not the place for me. I knew I was lost but it didn’t seem to bother me.
“Why did you do THAT?” he asked once again, looking for some clue as to why I thought the way I did.
“I dunno” I replied again. “I just felt like driving.”
Of all the times I needed my father, I thought he wasn’t there. Growing older I realized how much he said without saying a word, just asking a question now and then. He was always there, whether I wanted him to be or not. He saw some of me in himself, I suspect, and quietly bragged to anyone who would listen how his oldest daughter had chutzpah and wasn’t afraid of anything. Maybe it was because I was too naïve to be afraid; maybe I was just stupid. My father gave praise sparingly, so I reveled in whatever he had to offer.
His birthday is July 9th and he has been gone 10 years. I miss him more than I thought I ever would.
As I sit out on the deck and watch the sun rise high in the sky, I realize it has nothing to do with the weather conditions at all. He is sitting next to me, watching me and still trying to figure out what makes me tick. My memories are of him and my mother, my siblings and my cousins, the ones I almost lost in the woods so many years ago.
The cell phone purrs quietly next to my chair and I pick it up to hear the voice of my son, all grown up now, the one who had once gotten in a van and drove to Colorado. All grown up now with a wife and two daughters, I know he is where he is supposed to be.
I swear I could feel my father sitting next to me, smiling.