Tuesday, July 19, 2016

For Military Pug Wife - Small Winged Memories

I'd already posted today, but then I read the post from our friend

who normally has us snorting wine and tea out our nose but tonight had me in tears with her heartfelt post. I immediately thought of this, but it's WAY to long to leave as a comment, so I'm just putting up here, hoping it will help dry those tears.

CHAPTER 14 - Scraps of Time (From The Book of Barkley, Outskirts Press 2014)

Most of my things were packed up and in the moving truck.  A few things were going into the car to make the drive to the new home in another state, things I would not want to get lost.  In addition to Mom’s cookbooks, there are a few pictures for the mantle, some fragile dishware and some photo albums, one of which is the album I stumbled across the other day.  As Barkley snoozed, uneasily, not understanding what is happening, I thumbed through it.  Barkley was not the only one uneasy.  Was I up to the task of caring for Dad in his impending grief and declining health, if that was what he wishes?  As a child, I might have prayed about it, but as I went into adulthood, I seemed to have fallen away from that, recognizing God, just not particularly familiar with him anymore, like a childhood friend one remembers fondly, but doesn’t look up when in town.

I opened up the book. There was a lifetime in those photos, all of the people in them, except my dad, long gone.  The photos lay there on my table now, expended laughter and human touch--spent shades of eternal desires within mortal hearts, captured in a moment of time.  How many times have I been in his house and not closely looked at them?

We miss so much as we rush through life, here or there. We race as if headed south before that first icy blast of winter, race with silent feathering of rigid wing, so driven in that instinctual quest for something, that we miss the perfect sanctuary standing in stark relief against the failing sky. We fly to work, to home, to heartache, with hurried pace, and as if we functioned in a steadfast conviction that time were an illusion.

In our flight, we often soar blindly, missing cues, missing direction.

There is another photo, but one I only carry in my head.  It is of a ruined house that stood near a tiny little farmhouse in the Southern plains, where I lived when I was a young bride, barely out of my teens. The newer home was likely built right next to it; the owners either too broke or weary to tear the original down. You see homes like that, rising gaunt against overgrown thickets, abandoned, left to sky and soil.
I noticed it because of the trees planted between my house and its remains, the branches now growing through openings in the roof of the original homestead, time and decay dissolving its structure. I softly approached it one day. I was alone, placing my steps carefully among the footprints of invisible deer, which left their mark on beds of slain flowers. As I entered what was once the main living area, I was careful not to fall through rotten floors, just to take a look at something I'd lived near and never noticed.

From the trees, I noticed the fledgling leaves lying as hands against the roof of the house, the branches jutting into splintered form, rain coming inside, streaming flatly upon the driving air, moving in. Squatter’s rights. Ruin, mold, rot was evident in everything, yet something caught my eye, a glint. It was a doorknob made of glass, sparkling even under the layer of dirt that had settled on everything. Probably a wedding gift for a bride from back East, who had come to this house in the 1800s when it was built.

I took it, and cleaned it off and set it where it could be admired. How long did it lie there, disregarded upon its possession?  A hundred years? I'll never know. It is simply one of those little things, important things, owned but not cherished, allowed to gather dust and never truly seen.
It was on my last visit to Dad's to inform him of the move and the house I intended to purchase for us, when I thought of this again. I was out behind his house, clearing out some downed limbs. My eyes were constantly on the move, watching for places I may stumble and fall. How well though, do I see the world, in what is so familiar to me? A thunderstorm stirred overhead, one rather late for this time of year, when snow was spotting the ground. The air smelled of a burnt match, my form creating unpalatable shadows against a stand of trees.  Up ahead there was a flash of light, a rumble of thunder, the sound not racing away in a flash of its own, but ringing in my ears, as if the sound had congealed in the air, waiting to be found.

I'd best hurry to the house, the storm was getting close. As I ran, I saw it, behind the old apple tree. It was a crumbling crudely made grave marker, tiny, as if for a small thing, a piece of wood washed clean of words but not thoughts. A memory came to me in a flash of light. It was of a small bird I had found fallen from a nest, injured. I had attempted to save it, the wind whipping its small chirp up and away like a tiny, fragile scrap of cloth against the wind, where only the sky and a small child could view it. My Mom knew well it was futile, but let me try, feeding it with a dropper and keeping it warm. It was to no avail, and Mom tenderly wrapped up its taut, silent form and laid it in the ground. She gently laid it away, back behind the house, where we had a small funeral service. I cried as only the innocent can.
How had I forgotten, I thought? I stood there looking, as several raindrops spattered against my face, holding me as sheets of lightning lit up the sky, the clouds swollen as if with child, waiting to release life. In my mind, I was still back there at that small moment of my childhood, memories released. In my mind I was not hurrying as an adult, I was running as a child, with the hurried stroke of a piston engine--wet, skinny, tireless, waiting only to get into the house and see Mom for a hug and warm comfort.

But decades later, I am in my own home, one I have just made the decision to leave, a decision not easily made and one which brings with it, already, the regret of losing something.  I looked around; really looked around.  It was just four walls.  But that is not a home, it is what is inside that matters, photos of my life, names within a Bible I need to open again, Grandma’s cookbooks and too many dog toys covering the floor, tripping hazards strewn about with love.

We all have our markers of remembrance; we have our memories.  I've another picture to add to that family album, one of my grandfather's grave in the mountains of Montana, where Dad made a special trip recently.  It was not to a place he had ever been in my growing up, the power that created that place from which he could not wait to escape, had in turn, taken him safely away from it, to a place where he could be happy without forgiving it.  It was time to go back.
On the stone was my grandfather's name, the dates of his birth and early death, and the etched images of saddled horses, standing as if waiting for someone to mount up and ride away. With Dad's age and health, the trip was not an easy one to visit that grave and make, as he said, his peace with his Father of earth and of Heaven.

That picture joins the many others on my mantle, being packed up, all weaving together to form a history, a family. My family, the one that needs me now. It is all there in those small squares of paper, small signs of love, given and maintained. It is felt in the small strokes from a hand on a tired brow, and heard in the small strokes of fingers upon slain wood, strumming out inarticulate measures, praying they are heard.

It is a tree that grows close to home, its branches breathing against the house upon the infinite air, driving in an open window the forlorn scent of its need. It is the glow of a fire, the subtle wag of a tail. It is things that are felt, not seen, small things that bring joy, when we learn to let go of the past, of love that has always been around you and will forever remain, simply waiting for the light that would make you see.

Barkley nudges my hand, pointing me toward the door.

L.B. Johnson


  1. Oh gosh MORE tears!
    Thanks for this. So many memories in life...a good friend of mine died this year that helped me in my pageant days. It made me so sad he died alone. And that he was gone. Time just moves too fast.
    Love you!!

  2. Hari OM
    Poignant past, Loving future... YAM xx


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