Two Beacons

G & D, these stories are written for you, an audience of two. My hope is to shine a light into a place otherwise unseen; a place of struggles, memories and dreams.

A place previously cloaked.

Some tales you’ve heard ‘round the dining room table.

Others during car rides, frequently on a jaunt to Dunkin’ Donuts. Those trips, I enjoyed. I’d persuade you to join me on a search for coffee.

Of course, I never really needed the coffee.

I needed time with you.

In search of time together I’d knock on your bedroom door and interrupt the teenage you. “Hey, I really need a coffee so I’m heading to D&D. Wanna join me?”

“Um, I’m kinda busy, Dad.”

I’d chip away. “Come on… 10 minutes. Tops.”

You’d roll eyes, “You know, Dad, you can make coffee here. We have a coffee maker downstairs. You know that, right?”

Sustaining the volley I’d offer a shrug. “I know. But somehow it tastes better when I’m with you.” I’d tilt my head and step closer. I’d lower my voice and lean in, “And how about you do the driving. Sound good?”

You’d smirk and take pause from what you were doing.

And we’d share a sliver of time.

Gathered together, these slivers formed a tool capable of carving an opening through which we both peeked. On my side of the opening, lancing light brightened an otherwise dark place.

Together, we shared stories of struggles, memories and dreams.

I told many stories, but not all.

Some stories remained hidden.

Until now.

Hidden stories live a solitary life.

Untold, they live in fear of extinction.

Years ago, my parents shared stories of their own. Friends and family joined us as a trickle of stories leaked out, spreading across a dining room table in New Jersey.

Many of my father’s stories, however, were left hidden.

Perhaps, too painful.

Less so with my mother.

Stories untold disappear; the unspoken chapters vanish as words are consumed by the mighty darkness.

Even stories shared tend to fade; dusty Polaroids with corners curled and colors drained.

Tales handed down through generations are washed by time’s patient tide. They fade, leaving in their wake a feeling of wonder.

And, once washed away, we’re left with a sense of longing, a pang of loss for having forgotten something so precious.

During a weekend phone call my sister asks, “Do you remember when…?”

I search the place where stories are stored. “Hmm… that sounds familiar. Was it when…”

Color drains.

Corners curl.

Resigned, I purse my lips, “No, I don’t remember …”

Left with a sense of longing.

The pang of loss taps my shoulder.

Today, so loss may not tap your shoulders, I share these stories with you; some told, some untold. 100 tales spanning…

my childhood during the 60s and 70s,

my out-of-control teen years,

adult poverty and the struggles preceding a shared love with your mother,

our family’s early years, when you were babes without words,

our recovery from a mighty blow,

the time you learned to read,

and learned to drive, sometimes during a jaunt to D&D,

when you asserted independence,

and emerged from childhood to bloom as adults capable of casting light.

These are the tales at risk of attrition, to be recalled in dwindling pieces.

Eventually to be forgotten.

Time’s patient tide leaves in its wake a feeling of wonder.

A sense of longing.

A tap upon your shoulder.

But not if I put pen to paper.

In 2001, we stood on sacred ground and hatched a plan. On bent knee I lowered my voice and leaned in, attempting to smooth sharp edges. “I’ll write down stories and then, when you’re older and you find them, well, then you can search through them to find a little piece of me, OK?”

You agreed.

Before you were born, a dear friend – now living in my heart and traipsing through these stories – whispered in my ear. “It is only when we are naked and vulnerable that we are truly alive.”

Considering the words of my friend, I removed a protective mask. And without my mask I found myself standing naked and vulnerable for all to see.

Pen was placed to paper so you’ll not suffer the loss of a previous world.

Pen in hand, I jumped from a cliff.

And rather than tumble to an unseen bottom I landed softly, my fall cushioned by the extended hands of friend and family.

Hidden in plain sight, our family tales are shared with those I love, those I admire, and those in need of an extended hand. Gathered together, the stories congeal to form common ground; a meeting place, around which I hope you’ll someday share a laugh, or a hug, or a cry with those I love, those I admire, and those in need of a helping hand.

Friends and family and strangers now hold a piece of me.

A piece of you.

A piece of us.

As if shared ‘cross our dining room table.

Like the hidden eggs of our annual Easter Egg hunts, 100 stories were hidden in plain sight; for discovery by friends and family.

For discovery by the future you.

But mom and I raised clever children and you found the stories earlier than I had anticipated; before I left. And now, with your discovery, I am free to write of the here and now.

To speak with the present you.

With pen to paper, I say the things I do not whisper in your ear.

With pen to paper, I say the things you may not wish to hear.

Words shared are but containers; forms in which raw material are poured. For it’s the feelings, the subtle memories, and emotions between the words, I hope you discover.

The pieces of me.

The pieces of us.

The sense of wonder, stretched over time and hidden in plain sight;

my love for you,

my love for your mother,

my struggles, memories and dreams, shared through tales gathered from the past,

my admiration for you as adults,

my hopes for you and your future.

The cliff from which I jumped is a solitary place. I see it from afar, looming over my shoulder. It’s a place of darkness in which horizons are filled with chasing shadows. And though spied from afar, it’s a place right here; across the dining room table, next to you in the car, located below salt and pepper hair.

It’s a place from which I seek escape.

During the hunt for escape I found a well-worn path.

It’s a path shared by many.

Groping through darkness, I stumble over others like me. We fall into each other’s arms, clutching, clinging and whispering.

“You’re not alone.”

“I’m here, with you.”

Taking pause, I share a story.

As fingers untangle, we continue respective journeys, escaping on paths well-worn.

In my wake I leave behind the memory of;

our fleeting encounter,

missing parents and friends now left to live among these pages,

a god once loved.

And after years of searching I see it– no feel it.

A source of light.

Like my stories, hidden in plain sight.

And just like that, the path becomes clear.

Colors return.

Corners uncurl.

Lancing light brightens an otherwise dark place as I leave behind anger and fear and resentment. Long time companions, we part as friends.

“Goodbye,” I whisper.

Patient to the end, they watch as I take my leave.

Today, as the light of two beacons warms my cheeks, I leisurely flip through a collection of stories to take a measure of my journey.

Initial stories focus on childhood mayhem and teen years gone wrong. Failures. Hard times wrapped in a cloak of humor.

They shift to tragedy and anger and, as light grows dim, of horizons filled with chasing shadows.

Then, I witness years of fatherhood as they smooth sharp edges.

And as darkness yields, I discover the keys to the kingdom.

The door wide open.

The entrance lit by two beacons.

“My God. It’s here; right here.”

It’s been here all along.

Hidden in plain sight.

Stepping across the threshold I recognize there’s no turning back.

For when I follow in the footsteps of my mother and father, I will not enter heaven.

I will leave it.

For heaven is here with you.

 

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