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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.