A LOVE STORY

      I wanted to read a love story, one that drew me in, that left me sensing what it was I longed for to feel.  I wanted to know a love story: a belonging, finding, and peace.  Of all the stories started, none of them felt right.  I wanted to feel a love story, one that spoke to me.  For that, sometimes we must write our own.
 
            My father was a quiet man, a common man.  He worked hard, spoke little, expressed emotions in his actions and the gifts that came of them.  You never knew fully what was in him.  He was private; and for all the goodness you felt, saw, and knew to be, it was guarded.
            His light was like the sun in a clouded sky.  There were moments when the clouds broke, where you saw his light clear: immersed in thought, unaware that he was noticed, and his face and eyes lit wondrous for an instant before the hole in the sky closed and his rays of shine concealed once more. 
            I don’t know why he was this way, only that he was. 
            To say that he was cold would not be true.  He was generous, kind, and giving.  It was only his limits to expression that held him back.  There were things he noticed, little signs he showed, that did more to warm a spirit than any great gesture might achieve.  There were moments too when all you needed were simple words—words he sometimes struggled to find—and when you are young and in need of the immediate, you resented when they did not come. 
            Then he’d make it up.  After, he would do something small that tied straight to the words you needed before but did not come right then—that proved your thought and need never left his mind—and when he’d found the full of his way to express, he gave his love the ways that he knew how. 
            It was odd and special then, and I miss it now. 
            Of all the times he never had the words, there were ample times he did. 
            There is one that will always, to me, be above the rest. 
            It was my first summer after college.  I thought I knew my future.  I thought I was in love.  Maybe I was.  Maybe I wasn’t.  Either way, it didn’t work. 
            I was hurt, sad, and as was his way; he saw, felt, but didn’t have the words he knew I needed. 
            He tried to help me forget.  We woke early, worked hard, and went to bed tired trying not to think.  It didn’t help. 
            We tried something different.  We got drunk. 
            I’d never seen him drink.  I’d heard stories, good and bad, but it was something of himself he changed when I was young and, for me, was never a piece to his memory—except that night. 
            He pulled crystal tumblers I did not know we had from the corner of a cupboard rarely opened.  We sat outside as the fire of the sky cooled to violet and then to black.  The stars began to light, and from our place, the immensity of the heavens manifested before our sight.
            We drank whiskey on ice, straight, the first going slow and each after a little faster as the melting of the ice and fire of the feel mellowed the charcoal bite.  I felt the warming in my chest and a heat building in my cheeks as the drink took effect. 
            My father lit a cigar, and I remember still the way its smoke purled from his lips up into the night, spreading and thinning until disappearing back into a clarity of stars.  There was something in his eyes I’d never seen before and never witnessed after. 
            His wall was down.
            “I remember the night you were born,” he spoke.  “I wasn’t there, but I remember where I was.  I remember looking up into the night and thanking God.  As beautiful as this sky is, there is even more to see.  We are too close to town, but where there are no lights, darkness is turned upside down.  There are no shadows, only depths of greater and more distant light.  You see the galaxies turned on their sides, their clouds of stars suspended like a band of mist angled through an emptiness filled with the infinite.”
            I don’t know why he chose to speak of light in darkness, nor why his eyes seemed to shine more in the distant light of stars than in the full light of day.  Maybe it was the moment.  Maybe it was the whiskey.  Maybe I imagined it all, but it remains real to me. 
            I didn’t respond.  I followed his example.  I listened. 
            “I know you’re not happy,” he spoke.  “I know you’re hurting in this moment and you think your world is changed, but it’s not.  You are still what you were before, and what is meant still will be.”  He tipped his glass to the sky.  There is so much out there, so much we’ll never know and can only pray one day to learn.  It is a blessing to be present.” 
            I thought of him and my mother.  I knew their story, the parts they shared, and I wondered how they knew.  How did they know, and how did they find one another?  That was what I wanted.
            “How do you find it?” I asked.
            He looked down to his glass, near empty, then to his cigar lit still with a faint glow.  He placed them both on the table before him where they remained for the rest of the night.  He sat up straight.  I saw in his eyes the light he kept so well guarded but gave fully to me then. 
            He knew the words.  “Be the love you want to find.  One day, you will.” 
            A cloud moved.  The sky changed.  A wall returned, but I will never forget the light when there was only love between us. 
             

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