Thursday, June 12, 2003

I'm too big for my safe place...

When I was a little boy, sometimes I would become very afraid. Sometimes for a reason, and sometimes for no reason at all. I would sit very still and curl up and wait for the danger to pass. More often than not, my father would come. I knew safety was on its way when I heard the sound of combat boots and smelled Kiwi shoepolish and aftershave. He would swoop me into his arms with no effort at all and begin to walk with me. I suppose with all of the years that have passed since he has done that, the content of his words surely would have escaped me. But, truth be told, it was never his words that comforted me. I rarely listened at all in fact. It was the prickly feeling on my cheek, the broadness of the shoulder that I rested my chin on, and the amazing feeling of comfort as I sat in the crook of his arm, that soothed me. I would rest my head on his shoulder and savor the vibrations of the baritone that I knew so very well. I would look down as the ground slid past his feet. I would wrap my arms around his thick neck and close my eyes, wishing that he could hold me forever. I would think, "This is my daddy." Nothing in the world ever felt more right to me at that time. I would continue to absorb his vibrations, not his words. Then at some point he would tip me backward off of his shoulder so he could see me. I remember looking at him, memorizing every line and every fold of his kind face, and seeing his eyes light up because he had made me smile. He would wipe the tears from my cheek with his thumb and say, "Love ya, Man". "Man". How I loved to hear that word, for Dad, that word was synonymous with son...because I was the only one that he called that. I am his only son. I sometimes wonder how old I was when he last picked me up into his arms. How old was I when I last snuggled into his cheek and felt his prickly shaving line? When was the last time that I was soothed by the vibrations of his baritone voice? What did he say to me? Lord, had I known it was going to be the last time I would have recalled it. I swear I would have. But I suppose growing up is so gradual that you never know what changes are going to happen, and you never appreciate a moment until it has passed. Now I am "big", a husband and a father just like some ways. I am still aspiring to be like him in other ways. I still get so frightened sometimes. Sometimes for a reason, and sometimes for no reason at all. But I am much too big now. Too big to let someone know that I am afraid. I wait for the danger to pass, but the smell of Kiwi and aftershave never comfort me. He lives far away, and I am much too big to pick up now. The years have painted him gray, though that face is still familiar and comforting. More often than not, that deep baritone offers advice that I am eager to hear. I listen to the words now, because I need them so very much. But sometimes as he talks to me, I wish I could be held in the safety of his arms. I think back to those days when I was so small, and he was oh so big. I long to be able to rest my head and be carried away from my problems. But I am so glad to still be able to close my eyes and say, "This is my Daddy."

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