On the small table beside my bed, there are three photographs. One of my son, age 2, standing in our breezeway with a very contemplative expression on his round, baby face, dressed in the matching Carter’s slacks and t-shirts I bought for him in those days. He’s holding a Winnie the Pooh bear, his hand cupped around the bear’s face, and I think he’s about to capture an idea for one of the stories or drawings he used to spend endless hours creating.
There is another photo of Brian, taken about 13 years later, on his first day of high school. It’s a tiny photo, the size listed in the school photographer’s package as “wallet”. His face – thinner now, with definite signs of the man he will become – is still serious, although with a hint of smile. I imagine he was nervous that day, the first day in a new place where he knows no one, does not quite fit in, is unsure just where he will be able to make any kind of mark. I feel protective of him when I gaze at that picture, knowing as I now do that the years ahead would not be good ones for him.
There is one more photo, this one of my husband holding Magic in his arms on the dog’s first birthday, a photo we gave to my mother in law for Christmas, a photo that she kept on her bedside table until I took it out of her apartment on the day she died.
Each night before I turn out the light, these three photos are the last thing I see before I sleep. My eyes rest on each one in turn – the baby boy, the young man, the husband, even the magical little dog – the men in my life.
And I think how lucky I am.
But I also think about the way time passes, so swift and inexorably sure. Those long ago days with a small boy in tow seemed endless, filled with games and growing and hopes for the future. The teenage years, when the boy struggled to become a man, banging his head repeatedly against the walls of his world until we all wore the marks of his bruises – well, those days seemed like a black hole from which no reprieve of light was possible.
For about 10 years life seemed to organize itself into a pattern, and I had music to keep me busy, my family was settled and healthy, we had our home in Florida and a dream of one day spending at least winters there. I see that now as a golden time, a time of fulfillment and solid satisfaction with life in general.
These days, I sometimes feel as if I’m standing on a moving sidewalk, stock still, gliding along in this huge global continuum while the world swirls and eddies around me. Life, passing by me while I remain motionless, letting the winds of change bluster through at will.
Perhaps those three photographs are emblematic of my natural tendency to dwell in the past and eventually get stuck there. How does one go about taking charge of life, grabbing hold of circumstances by the throat and shaking them until something good falls onto the ground at your feet?
Although I’m still a bit skeptical of the whole “if you can dream it you can do it” philosophy, perhaps it makes sense to add a fourth photograph, one that encourages a vision of the future ~ something fresh and hopeful, just for me, to gaze upon before I close my eyes to sleep.