Dearest Readers,

           It is a gloomy day here, at least compared to the fine, fall weather we have experienced in the past few weeks.

            Today is the first real opportunity that I have had in months, to sit down and spend a moment of quiet contemplation with you… I suppose part of that is my fault for booking such a heavy schedule. Along with my other responsibilities around here, that has left me exhausted and with barely enough time to correspond with a few younger guys who’s  needs seem more important to me than blogging, to be honest.

              I have only now returned from my Saturday chores that started at my barber’s for the monthly shearing I have undergone, like clockwork, for nearly thirty years. Thirty years… Where does the time go?

              Anyways, after I got spruced up a bit, I decided to make my way to the local Lowe’s where I had plans to purchase some porch column bases and caps for a good client whose front porch is in need of repair. It seems that Mother Nature has taken her toll on the two column bases that sit on the brick landing and upon which rest the support columns for the gabled roof.

             It’s funny- I spent the past few weeks, in fits and starts, trying to locate the two column bases that I bought a few years ago but never used. You see, in a strange sort of irony, if that’s the correct term, the porch directly across the street was in need of column caps of the same size, but since the caps and bases are sold together, I purchased two sets but never used the bases. Instead, I ‘saved’ them, hoping that the day would come when I would find a use for them on another house. I hate throwing things like that away, so I didn’t.

             Only thing is, I now have NO idea where I stored them, and am starting to wonder if my brain is firing as efficiently as it once did. It seems easier to forget little things like that than ever before…

             So then, why does the past seem so very fresh in other ways? But, I digress…

              I paid for the new sets of column caps and bases in a store that seemed full of little kids. Little boys mostly. With their dads and granddads, shopping for all sorts of things, but mostly just spending time with the real men in their lives. It made me smile to see the happy faces and I started to notice little things and became quite pensive.

              At the cash register, directly in front of me was a little guy with his dad. I don’t know, but I suppose he might have been 6 or 7 years old. Cute as a button, clutching two hand- carved pumpkins, one in each hand. They were quite small, like his hands. He glanced up at me and smiled, as his dad started to pay for an assortment of other things. I’ve been told that I smile most of the time, or appear friendly, so I seem to get that kind of reaction from people. I often wonder if it’s true.

                  Anyways, he seemed excited and pleased that his dad was buying the tiny pumpkins for him and I glanced at his dad as he handed them over to be scanned, and saw the look of contentment and love on his face. The love a man has for his son. As it should be. He said something to the boy I didn’t understand, because it was in Russian, as I suspected… My brain was in that mode. Analyzing. It’s just the way I am. I think I smiled when I heard the words. They affirmed my ‘take’. Eastern European like I thought.

                 All of this only took a minute or two. Suddenly, I was paying for the column parts and the Simple Green gallon jug I had found on sale, in the paint department. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched the father and son team head for their car as I reached into my back pocket for my wallet. As the doors opened to the outside, I caught a glimpse of the cub scout candy sale that had been set up in the airlock  in front of the store. Oh dear… I chuckled inside. You see, I rarely walk by a fund raiser of any kind without buying something. Especially when it comes to kids… I do remember what it was like to grow up always needing things.

                   So, it took me another 5 minutes to get out of the store, but it was worth it! I listened patiently to the wonderful rehearsed speeches that the boys had prepared. They were so eager. So hopeful. So young. So trusting…

                    I thanked them both for the little sticker I got for contributing and left the store finally, with my thoughts starting to spin out of control. It’s just the way my mind works… How one moment I can be smiling and happy and then something triggers the pensiveness. I used to call it melancholy, but I think that was wrong. It’s not like those moments are all sad. In fact, usually, I remember things quite fondly.

                   Lately tho, I suppose it’s safe to say that the moods I have, tilt me nearer to sadness than joy. Maybe it’s the things that have happened in my life in the past year, but I think it might be more than that. You see, I have spent a lot of time lately,  trying to support some young guys who have suffered quite a bit in ways that children should never experience. At least not in the world I imagine where kids are allowed to live lives of safety and grow up feeling loved.

                   So, I headed to my truck, trying to shake off the sudden thoughts. I took a deep breath and stowed the purchases behind the seat. I have one of those extended cabs with the extra door. I really do like that design in a truck…

                    Well, I got into my truck and glanced at the time. Wow!  It was already lunch time! Better head home…

                    I left the parking lot and headed for a major intersection where I cross the turnpike and leave the commercial district behind. The light was just turning red, so I had to stop and wait for the cycle to complete. I rolled the window down and took some fresh air into my lungs.

                    Simultaneously, a Honda sedan pulled up next to me, in the left turn lane. It stopped with the back seat even with my window. In the back seat, in one of those toddler safety seats was a young boy, maybe 2 years old. I looked at him and was startled… He reminded me of someone. Actually of a picture that was taken of someone long ago… Me, actually. I was on a tricycle and must have been about 2 or three years old. I had the same pug nose, the blond hair, the Eastern European looks about me. The one a young artist that I know, used to pencil a drawing for me. I do miss him…

                      I studied the little guy who was oblivious to my presence. He was staring at the tops of his new- looking sneakers, that he had placed on the back of his mom’s seat, bracing himself. Stiff- legged. Like every little kid does in the back seat of a car… He seemed deep in thought, and I found myself wondering what could be tumbling thru his little head. All kinds of thoughts were now flooding my brain. Correlating the recent letters I wrote to one young guy about bad things that he had suffered and to the responsibilities that adults have to nurture and not abuse…

                    Now, I was drifting off to the earliest days I remember in my life. To the tricycle I loved so much. The neighborhood patrols that I made so early on those warm summer mornings. Through my backyard until the sidewalk ended, and  down the pine needle -strewn path into my grandma’s yard. Stopping to admire the peonies that were taller than me. To smell the fragrance and to marvel at the perfection. Trying to whisk off the tiny ants that seemed to hide in the petals and failing that, to blow at them and admonish them to go elsewhere! I thought they were hurting the flowers. Noone told me differently. I was just a kid. I only knew what I heard or imagined.

                  I pedaled from there to the sidewalk in front of the farmhouse where everyone was still asleep, and headed for the iron gate that marked the outer boundaries of my allowed range, more or less. I was heading for my third birthday, after all! A boy needs to explore. To expand his horizons. To take chances. To learn…

                So, I sat in back of that gate, peering though the wire rectangles at the mysterious world beyond. The macadam street whose smell I can still imagine on a hot summer day. I reached up to play with the horseshoe- shaped gate latch, knowing that to breech that was verboten. It was cool to the touch…

                 I remember struggling with the latch. Lifting it up and letting it fall back into place as the inner turmoil churned in my stomach. I knew I was a good boy, so why was it so important to me that I go through that gate, against my mother’s wishes?

                  The feelings felt as fresh as any as I sat in my truck peering back into the past at the little boy in the jump seat, who was now peeling little stickers off his denim Oshkosh pants that someone had affixed. He had one stuck to the fingertips of his right hand, and one of the same size delicately teetered on one finger of his left hand. He was studying them intently and was now smiling.  He carefully placed both of the round stickers back from where they had come. He seemed contented. Safe. Happy. As it should be.

                     The latch lifted once more, but this time I pushed on the gate at the same time. It creaked open, it’s rusty hinges betraying my delinquent behavior. It startled me for a moment, and I remember having second thoughts. But, the little voices in my head kept insisting that it was OK… That really, all I was going to do was to go through the gate, turn my three- wheeled bike around on the silent street and head back to the safe zone… At least that’s what MY voice told me…

                     I never saw the bulldog that waited in the brush on the other side of the street. The one that disliked me so. My Aunt Grace’s dog. He seemed to include the street as part of his territory. Or so it seemed, everytime I was led across that street by my uncle or mother to visit. Something about my pudgy legs was appealing to him, because he had tried several times to take chunks out of them, right in front of everyone! Of course, there were adults present, so I was relatively safe. As it SHOULD be…

                    What happened next isn’t really all that important, in a sense… I DID get bit. Rather badly, to be honest. It terrified me, but I knew that I had done wrong, so it all made sense. Even the inane comment from my uncle seemed trivial, as he pulled the dog off of me. He asked me what I had done to upset his dog so much. After all, I never trusted him. There was just something about him that… Well, he’s gone now, so I should let him rest in peace…

                       Anyways, thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings… I know they seem disjointed most of the time, but if you look for meaning, you will generally find some. I’ve done that all my life, and it does pay dividends.

                    Most things become clear after a while, but some never will. Like the betrayal of trust that happens to some children who only wanted to be loved. I suppose things like that will never change, but I will never get used to hearing about them. They cut me to the core.

tman

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