There are days I know why I stay here so far away from home. Some days it’s the weather – for a Canadian who has braved decades of the bitter cold the sun here is a ruthless seductress too.
There are other reasons I suppose, like the connection I have to this place that almost took my life and then granted me a new one.
I breathe different now, I breathe with purpose.
I made that walk again to see our dear friend who always seems to fill me with wonderment, joy and an innocent knowledge that cuts through the confusion in the collusion of adult reasoning.
“Johnson” she shrieked as I rounded the corner on her street.
Her mother was in the yard behind her, gardening gloves on, she put her hands on her hips and giggled at her daughter, then at me approaching and mostly she giggled at this moment of old friends meeting again.
“Johnson” she asked “are you writing the book, our book?”
“Yes I have started it, in fact there are days I can’t get it out of my head, it’s filled with an amazing adventure where we travel to a magical place” I replied.
There is nothing so pure as the face of a child who is filled with wonderment, it makes one feel that there are purposes in life bigger than we can lift, but we still try to do so.
We sat and chatted on the old brick steps that lead up to house, her mother went in and brought out chocolate – Robert I must admit that chocolate is my weakness and Alice and I dug in with greedy intent. The warm sun melted the smooth coating and in a few moments it was smeared across our fingers and faces. It was a mess and it was perfect as we laughed at ourselves.
After a while of gentle talk Alice turned to me and asked about our last meeting and questioned something I had said, “Johnson you said you were mean before?”
The greatest lesson I have learned since cancer is admitting when I am wrong. While it doesn’t cleanse my soul, it doesn’t add to the baggage of bad choices I still carry.
So I replied “Yes, there are things I have done in my life I wish I could take back, many of them.”
She looked at me and asked “But you have never been bad to your little girl, have you Johnson, you wouldn’t do that?”
Robert if there is one thing I carry with the weight of the world on my shoulders it is this as I told her “Alice, I was not a good father at times – sometimes fathers do the wrong things they think for the right reasons, and it never is.”
I left it at that, not wanting to burden my tiny friend with intimate details of my failings. I did not want to tell her I had used words with my daughter than no father ever should. That I had spent years chasing my dreams, while ignoring hers. I did not want to tell her that when I look back at this, the most important relationship in my life, I feel I failed it badly.
“I still try and make it up to her Alice” I explained “I just wish I knew how to make my own little girl as happy as you are.”
We sat quietly for what felt like a long time before she said to me “Johnson, buy her a toy, toys make little girls happy” she exclaimed.
I smiled at Alice knowing she meant her best, and sat a bit longer in my misery, before she added “But get a toy you both can play with together – that will be bestess I think.”
Robert again I was humbled by the purity of her thought – words are a bandage and actions are a cure.
I left after we had our dance and now I will look for ways to dance and play with my own little girl who may be 29, but is still my baby – and hopefully fill her with joy that is so long overdue to her.
I hope you and Amy and the boys are good.
I live another day here humbled by connection and filled with purpose – I will do what I can, as good as I can and hope it is enough.