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I woke up in an empty house this morning for the first time in a long time.  These things happen occasionally.  One of the things my wife does from time to time is take her mother on a road trip to Atlantic City, something her mother truly enjoys.  Unfortunately, work schedules don’t always line up in a way that allows me to accompany her, and thus my empty domicile.

The house was chilly this morning, and the dark of late fall mornings (winter doesn’t officially begin until Dec. 21) and the chill in the air mixed to make me a bit pensive.  As I prepared for work, my body went through its pre-programmed routine while my mind chased after ghosts and shadows.

Loneliness is a funny thing.  I’m not used to being alone the way I was earlier in my life.  In my high school years, and even beyond, I would often seek solitude as a matter of course.  It’s truly amazing how that changes when you find that one person you are meant to be with.  Suddenly, when you’re alone it feels wrong in a way it never really did before.

I thought about a lot of things this morning.  The imminent arrival of Christmas has gotten me thinking about the past the way it always does.  The sounds, smells, and sights of Christmas evoke memories for me that can be vivid at times.  Sometimes they aren’t even related to Christmas.  This morning the memory was Neil Diamond.

I found myself singing small snatches of “I Am, I Said,” “Forever In Blue Jeans,” and “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” under my breath as I got ready for work.  The music was just the first symptom.  My brain latched onto the songs and tore down a stream of memories that brought tears to my eyes.

I saw my mother standing with a cup of coffee in the dim light of a cool winter morning, rocking from foot to foot as Neil sang softly behind her.  I want to say something, anything, to her, but my time has already run out.  In my head I remember standing there with my dad, the tears running for us both as we shared the grief of losing her.  Even then, small strains of Neil and JT flowed through the back rooms of my mind.

I carry many burdens on my shoulders in this life.  I have many regrets.  This is the heaviest. 

Perhaps, someday I will find forgiveness for not making things right while there was still time.  I don’t know.  But, for now, it is what it is.

Before I left for work I looked for a CD set I bought a few years ago.  I desperately wanted to hear Neil sing those songs.  But, I seem to have put it someplace out of the way.  I thought that might be the case as we have slowly been trying to move our collection to digital storage.  But, in my head I still hear him singing about America and Brother Love and blue jeans as if from a distance. 

And it makes me smile a bit through the tears.

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