(Im)mortality

When we’re young we are immortal. At least that’s how it feels to us at the time. Nothing we do can hurt us, and everyone around us is also immortal.

Having children changed all that, and mortality crept in at an alarming rate. I’d just got used to the fact that we’re not all here forever when it started. You know what I mean. We’ve all been through it by now; people that we love start dying. The list of people isn’t important but those people were, at least to me.

It starts as a trickle but somehow before you can blink it’s a raging river of loss. There’s a realization at some point that the torrent is unlikely to recede; the fact is that as we get older, those around us will just keep passing away. Sometimes you can “push through” and deal with the loss. Other times you are devastated. Right now I’m devastated.

I miss my friends, school chums, family, spouse and parents that died. I miss their voices and their wisdom. I miss their silliness and their love. I miss so many things that are now just memories, or perhaps a two-dimensional capture of a moment in a picture or a video. To want them here again is, I suppose, normal. It’s in moments of loss that it all comes tumbling back though; not just the person you’ve just lost but all of the others, memories brought back to you one after the other.

I am lucky. I have a beautiful, supportive family. Our kids have amazing potential and will grow into wonderful adults and parents, continuing the cycle of life and bringing joy to those around them. For a time they’ll be immortal too, and that’s just fine with me.

Potions

He could feel it; the poison running through his veins with a burning ferocity that was consuming him from within. How ironic he thought, that the bottle was marked “Love Potion No. 4”.

He’d had no luck wooing the girl he’d been dreaming about for years, and so he had made his way to the French Quarter where in a dingy backstreet store he had explained his plight to perhaps the oldest woman he’d ever seen, and left a short time later with the small blue-grey bottle.

Trembling with excitement at the prospect of finally having his love he had donned his best outfit just in case she knocked on his door immediately afterwards, and settling down in his favorite chair he had consumed the elixir in one swallow.

The draught did exactly what the old woman had said it would do – it united him with his love, but how was he to know that her car had gone into the river just two hours earlier?

 

Lillie McFerrin

Happiness

What he wanted most in life was to be happy. He’d told himself this so many times over the years that the words had long ago lost any real significance. It was more of a mantra than an objective nowadays.

The thought behind the oft-used phrase seemed innocuous enough and indeed it was a laudable goal that he sought, but he had never really done anything towards achieving it; he was a dreamer, a man seemingly unable to master his own destiny.

“Not this time” he thought to himself. This time it would be different. Yeah, sure it would be different, just like the other hundreds of times. Only this time he was right, he just didn’t know it yet.

He had known her for months. He’d noticed her some time ago but she seemed entirely out of his league and quite frankly unobtainable. He thought back, remembering their interactions; friendly, even warm but nothing that he could say would have constituted an advance, or even an affirmation of his unspoken affections.

She knocked on his door one day on some pretense, and he dutifully offered her a cup of tea. To his surprise and strange delight she accepted, and what followed was the start of the happiness he had been seeking. It was all so very innocent; tea and a chat. It wasn’t anything they did or even anything they said, it was the manner in which they said those things; the ease with which they opened themselves to each other, fearless and true. Their brief exchange left him breathless and desperate for more.

More did come, quickly and powerfully, feeding that deep need for happiness in new and unexpected ways. The happiness that he had been looking for for all those years paled in significance to the happiness that he found with her. He was finally complete.

The touch

He was sleeping soundly, spread-eagled across the big bed. Naked except for a cotton sheet, he was comfortable and content as he slumbered. The sounds of the night could be heard through the open window; crickets calling, a cicada in a nearby tree, sprinklers. The moonlight shone through the window, illuminating his form through the thin sheet.

He stirred slightly, his body moving in response to an unknown thought. The quietest of words ensued from his lips, their meaning known only to him and to his dream state co-conspirators. His hand clenched and then relaxed, more hidden words, and then he was peaceful again.

She came to him in the dead of night. Stockinged feet and heels in hand as she crept up the stairs to him. Looking through the open door she could make out the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed slowly but deeply. The sheet silhouetted his shape as he lay on his side. That shape excited her. She could feel her desire swell up inside her as she gazed upon the man she loved like no other.

Silently she slipped her now unzipped dress from her shoulders and onto the floor. Without a sound she slid her hands down long, slender legs to remove her stockings. Soon she too was naked, save for a silver necklace. The moonlight played on her body as she walked gently towards him.

She climbed carefully into the bed, slipping easily under the sheet that she now shared with him. Mere inches from her lover she reached out and touched his lips, the lightest, gentlest touch. He stirred once again, head turning instinctively towards her. She responded, lifting her head to meet his lips with hers. The slightest caress as the kiss brought them finally together. She moved her body in closer to him, soon they touched for their entire length.

He became aware of her. Eyes opened and they connected. He wrapped his arms around her. “Hello wife”, he said.

 

After the fire

It had been devastating. The fire started small, as these things do, insidiously growing, creeping, swallowing everything it touched. In the blink of an eye it had consumed the house, taken a life and destroyed memories, hopes and dreams.

The life too quickly gone was one of significance. She mattered. She loved and was loved in return. Young souls were devastated by the loss, understanding neither the reason nor the significance of their sudden bereavement. Too much. Too soon.

The upheaval was monstrous and violent. To attempt to carry on as before, to pick up where we had left off was impossible and unwanted. Reality had changed, twisting on its axis at a perverse angle. What was up was now down, black was white, day became night. The clock stopped for a moment and then restarted, but now the tick sounded different. Each moment was its own unique self – unordered and isolated. Certain ordinary tasks or memories evoked a visceral reaction, others were totally devoid of emotion. To operate in such a strange environment took gargantuan effort.

The months since then have been at best surreal, at worst a misadventure of Dantean proportions. There has been light, burning so bright that it too might catch fire and eviscerate all in its path, but the light illuminates our path with goodness and hope for a future filled with joy.

Outside of the light the darkness reigns. It pervades the nostrils with the smell of decay and death. The darkness litters our path with dangerous obstacles and confusion, attempting all the while to deter us from our intended direction; to make us stumble and fall as we climb that mountain back to happier times.

The darkness will not succeed in its quest. It will not take us down to depths unknown, where fire again rages and pain pervades. The darkness will fail because it cannot overcome the light that binds the universe together. Love.

Love reigns supreme. The young lives so devastated are loved intensely and honestly. They are wrapped in a secure blanket that cannot be infiltrated by the negative. They will overcome this adversity. We will reach the light hand in hand. Love is the answer.

The sweetest note

Lily sat at the piano, legs barely touching the floor. Like almost every other day that she could remember she started with her scales, practicing, making precise movements with dextrous fingers as her hands played up and down the keyboard.

At 8 years old the piano was her most familiar friend. Intimate and loving, hard and unforgiving, she had an inextricable bond with this most expressive of instruments – a bond that reached down into the very depths of her soul and flowed out through digits that caressed the keys with consummate proficiency.

Ever since anyone could remember Lily had been a pianist. Sitting for hours each day working her craft, honing her skills and finding nuance in the most surprising places. People came from far and wide to hear her play, and she delighted them without exception.

Some called her a prodigy, others a genius – a true wunderkind but somehow she knew deep down that her god-given talent came from a different place, a place that few would ever be able to comprehend.

Lily’s parents had never understood her. They never knew what motivated her and they never would. Her world was isolated, devoid of light and speech, it was the tunneled singular-minded world of the savant. She would never run outside and play or later love a man, she would never see the sun or appreciate its warmth on her back. Instead she would forever turn to those 88 keys to express herself, and music most wondrous would ensue. To love in any traditional sense was beyond her but many would find love through her work, her passion, her reason to live.

Sitting on stage under the warmth of the lights, she felt an urgency grow inside her. The orchestra swelled, the excitement grew palpable, the audience was breathless. She set her hands on the keyboard. Seconds from now she would show her soul.

Fatherhood

Quite possibly the defining moment of my life was the instant at which I delivered our first child. Standing in the hospital room in scrubs, sounds of pain still ringing in the air, disaster everywhere but in the midst of it all, a perfect little life form in my hands. In that instant I truly knew love and I realized with stark awareness that life would never be the same. In that magical moment the drama of the previous hours was gone, replaced by peace previously unknown. My progeny lying there looking up at me.

It’s impossible to convey the feeling that fatherhood brings. You can use all of the right words; love, pride, protector, provider and many others but it just doesn’t do justice to the depth of emotion that you feel, and the dramatic change that occurs from within your inner being.

To love something so very much that you’d die without a second thought in order to save it was perhaps the most profound realization that occurred from this process. It didn’t happen instantly, but like a rocket ship it started slowly and never stopped accelerating until I felt that I would explode with love for her. Even now, years later I still think that I love her more every day. Is love boundless? Perhaps.

Fatherhood isn’t just about parenting, it’s about a state of mind; a paradigm shift from the selfish to the selfless. It’s not something that you can learn or even prepare for. It’s something that’s innate in man and that we get to experience if we are very, very lucky. To know fatherhood is to reach a little closer to the heavens than ever was possible before.

To dare to dream

A dream can take many forms. Sometimes the dream manifests from deep in your subconscious, devoid of all reality but full of powerful imagery and simile. Other dreams are of a more earthly nature, wondrous and rooted in reality.  Daydreaming is thoughtful and takes you on flights of fancy away from the humdrum and into the sublime. To dream is to escape reality for a short moment, to cast off the chattels of practicality and physics and to let the soul run free.

Whether you are soaring above the clouds or simply thinking of being with your lover, your dream can take you there. You may find yourself alone in a quiet place or subject to the cacophony of a crowded future city – the mind makes that world reality to you for a brief period of time.

To dream is to be alive.  To escape the boundaries upon which we are subjected is to see a world of idealism and beauty unconstrained by the bonds of practicality.

I dream that happiness is possible, that there can be resolution to any challenge, that love ultimately wins the day.

Perhaps one day my dream will become reality.