The last time…

 

The last time I drove down this road, I wasn’t alone.

Darkness led the way on that final ride.

In the back seat, you labored to breathe as fear mixed with pain.

Not much was spoken, only a few words. 

And one request.

I would have said so much more.

Had I known.

It would be the last time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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He walked…

Yesterday, January 21st, it finally snowed here in New York, the first measurable precipitation since a freak October blizzard crippled the area last year.  Not a storm of epic proportions in the Northeast but a reminder that winter still lurks, waiting to spread its icy warmth on the landscape.

My truck slowly warmed up in the driveway as I put myself together for the drive into work.  In my tote bag, a black woolen hat, favorite scarf, gloves with a gaping hole in one finger and travel mug filled with steaming hot coffee…I headed out the door, ready for anything.

Arming myself with four-wheel traction, I hit the road, noticing how peacefully quiet the trip was; no other cars were slipping and sliding along.  It was Saturday and it seemed like everyone was hunkered-down at home, enjoying the snowfall, sheltered from the 18-degree temperature that made your fingers go numb instantly.

Almost everyone.

Out of nowhere, as I slowly drove down a hill, a small elderly man was walking along struggling to step in and out of snow piles left by plows.  He had no gloves or even a hat to shield him from the brutal cold, just a red-checkered jacket and thin pants tucked into boots that seemed much too large for his feet.  I slowed down as I passed him and quickly pulled to the side to stop.  He approached my truck and I asked if he was okay, offering him a ride and a chance to get warm.

At first, he seemed confused, even disoriented but accepted my offer without further hesitation.  Once inside,  I thought about driving him to our local police station but first gave him the hat, gloves and scarf that I brought along with me; he was shivering badly.  My tattered gloves fit him perfectly and as he gingerly put them on, he seemed to warm up quickly.  I questioned him about where he lived, hoping that I could drive him back home. He refused, asking instead if I would take him to a local church, saying that he walked there daily to light a candle for his late wife.

The conversation turned to how much he missed her and his feelings of being a burden to his only daughter with whom he lived.  Somehow, I sensed that his walks every day were an escape as well as a chance to be closer to the wife he still grieved over.

Pulling into the church parking lot, I offered to wait and drive him home but he again refused, telling me that his daughter picked him up each day by eleven o’clock.  I wrote out my name and cell phone number on a slip of paper and gave it to him, along with some loose change, as he got out of my truck.  He started to take off the hat and gloves but I stopped him and insisted that he keep them.  Smiling, he thanked me and gave me a “God Bless” as he closed the door and went towards the church.

For the rest of the day, I could not get the old man off my mind and my co-workers kept insisting that I should have contacted the police.  Consumed with guilt by the time work ended, I climbed back into my truck only to see that the paper I had given the man was lying there, on the seat.  I was positive that I saw him tuck it into his pocket when I dropped him at church.

Shrugging it off, I stopped at a store before heading home and as I parked, I noticed a woman walking out with a hat and scarf similar to what I had given the old man earlier that day.  As I got closer to her, I watched as she pulled gloves out of her pocket, one with a hole in it.  It got the best of me and I made it a point to walk by her and make a comment about the cold weather and about how she was smart enough to be bundled up as I crammed my cold hands into my pockets. She smiled back and told me the gloves had belonged to her father who died several years earlier.  I told her how sorry I was and shared that I had a hat and gloves exactly like what she was wearing but didn’t elaborate further.

The woman proceeded to tell me that her father had left home, after an argument.  Even though it was snowing, he insisted on going  on his daily walk and stormed out of the house wearing just a red checkered jacket, lightweight pants and boots.  His head and hands were bare.  She tried going after him but her car wouldn’t start and phone lines were down; she had to walk to a neighbor who drove her to the police station.

The old man’s lifeless body was found, hours later, just outside the doors of a church.  Clutched in his frozen hands were a black hat, scarf and gloves and a few coins that he planned on using to light a candle in his wife’s memory.

Standing there, with a shocked expression on my face, I asked the woman when her father died.

She replied…”January 21, 1997,  fifteen years ago today.”

Flicker of Inspiration Linkup #34: S-s-shuffle!

Your goal this week was to create a piece that featured a sudden shift – a change in mood, a twist in the plot, a major character revelation, etc.
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Leave out all the rest

I dreamed I was missing
You were so scared
But no one would listen
‘Cause no one else cared
After my dreaming
I woke with this fear
What am I leaving
When I’m done here?
So if you’re asking me
I want you to know
When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some
Reasons to be missed
And don’t resent me
And when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memory
Leave out all the rest

From the moment I first heard it in the movie theater, this song, “Leave Out All The Rest” from “Twilight”, captured my soul.  Haunting words and music that run through my mind as I rush through these golden years frantically trying to put my little world in order.

I don’t know if it’s just me, at this stage of my life, wondering about what I’ll leave behind.  Not material things, mind you, but the quality of memories in the minds of those closest to me, the people I’ve loved in my lifetime.

So much of what we speak about, on an almost daily basis, involves time.  It seems we never have enough of it and painfully watch as it speeds past us with each passing year.

I worry about the mistakes I’ve made which might overshadow any of the positive things I’ve accomplished.  Let’s face it, when someone dies, everyone gathers to celebrate that departed life, in some fashion.  And then, time passes, softening the sorrow and sentimental imagery.  Painful thoughts, like sharp pricks of a pin, bring reminders of unhappy times, causing people to deliberately not think about that name engraved on a slab of marble.  That name, which once represented a loving human being, all too often, ends up being forgotten in a crowded field of hallowed ground.

We clean out our closets and attics, ridding ourselves of needless accumulations.  As our mortality stares back at us in some mirror, we rush to mend broken family fences or renew old friendships, keeping a wary eye on that mystical hourglass of time.  Why don’t we have this fear when we’re young enough to change things and mold our lives in a more positive direction?  This so-called wisdom we achieve in later life could be put to so much better use when there is an expanse of time still to be enjoyed…and fulfilled.

I want to be remembered, not with tears but with smiles.  Spare me any resentment and not allow my memory to harbor thoughts of anger or emptiness.  Any of this would mean that my time on earth was wasted.

For now, I’m working very hard on reasons to be missed.

 

workshop-button-1…a prompt from Mama Kat’s Workshop…What song would you choose as your anthem? Why? 

An anthem, typically, is a song of praise, or gladness but can also reflect a point-of-view.   This song did just that when I first wrote this post a while back.  Still does.   A reflection of my life and feelings.  Enough said.

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