313035_2544139843746_1786228113_n 320669_2544137923698_619202173_nBack in the 1960’w My father and 4 of his brothers purchased 76 acres of property in upstate NY, simply referred to as, “the hill”,  to provide a place for them to practice their mutual love of hunting.  Though I never shared my father’s fondness of hunting, the beauty of the property and the seemingly endless natural wonders it possessed holds a special place in my heart.  Memories of walking through the woods with my father guiding my eye towards nature’s hidden spoils fill my heart with happiness – and a longing to have just one more opportunity to do that again.  The day my father died I remember one of my initial feelings was sadness that I would never again be able to enjoy “the hill” with him again, but also gratitude for the memories that I would forever hold dear.

The day my son was born one of the first images to fill my mind as I mentally charted his life was him and I walking through those very same woods with me passing on the knowledge my father had bestowed upon me.  I envisioned my little boy peppering me with the same endless “why’s?” and “hows?” that my father so patiently listened to, and answered from me.  The promise that the circle of life would remain intact, and burgeon helped give some closure to the intensity of the pain I felt from losing my father some 22 months before Richie came into the world.  In my mind, my little Richie would help me connect with my father in a way that had been impossible since my father left the mortal world.

I remember the first time I brought Rees up to “the hill”.  I thought his little head would explode when I first took him for a ride on our ATV.  He giggled so loud that I could clearly hear his elation above the deafening rumble of the un-muffled  engine of the quad.  I felt my father’s presence with me, and all was right in the world.  Subsequent trips up to our property were filled with Richie excitedly pointing his finger at every tractor he saw, and his constant prodding for me take him on yet another ride on the ATV.  Each trip upstate filled me with my father’s spirit, as I felt him smiling down on us repeating our past together and forging new memories between me and Rees.  “The hill” remained the happiest of places for me as it served as the perfect bridge between my past and my future…

This past weekend marked my first trip up to the hill since Rees died.  I still expected to hear “tractor!!” with every tractor I passed along the way.  I listened for his giggle as I throttled the quad through the woods, only to hear the rumble of the engine and nothing more.  I hoped to feel my father’s presence with me and instead was greeted with a disquieting stillness in my soul.  I looked up at the night sky, a sight that has always filled me with awe, and saw twinkles of light and nothing more.  The wonder was gone.  The awe was absent.  The place I could always count on to recharge the battery of my soul had lost its power.

This morning, after three days of trying to find what I had been missing,  I visited my father’s grave and cursed him for not protecting my little boy.  I asked my Dad why he couldn’t have been a whisper on the wind that October day, telling my little boy to move away from the edge of that damned pond.  I was angry.  I was resentful.  I was exactly what I never am on the hill: unhappy.   My happy place was anything but happy this weekend.  This weekend reminded me that the loss of a parent is a loss of your past; a past that is etched perfectly in stone, immutable and permanently resolute.  The loss of child is a loss of your future;  a future filled with promise, but promised to no one – the blank slate capable of great works of art, or of being shattered into infinite pieces…

I will return the hill sometime this summer.  I will return again this fall.  I will never stop listening for my little boy’s giggle.   Someday, I will be able to look back on our past, as brief as it was, and smile.  I will never know the future that I envisioned on the day of his birth but I know that my happy place will be happy again, sometime in the future when I can start a new slate from the old, putting it back together piece by piece.



8 Responses

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  2. Thank you, Mary. I have thought of collecting my writings, but I’m not sure they are cohesive enough to warrant a book… Plus I’m so critical of my own writing….

  3. Rich, so beautifully said. Your writings are amazing, you better put it in a book someday. You are helping so many people by sharing your raw gut feelings, other parents how are going through the loss of a child, your words express so much of the pain only someone who has experienced a loss like yours could understand. Keep up writing, your little guy and your Dad are just a breath away.
    I am sorry your dad did not meet your son here, but I be he was the first to see him there.

  4. Rich, this was a beautiful story! Brought a tear to my eye. My father never got to meet my youngest son, missed him by 4 months. I am left telling my son stories of his “Pop”. I could never imagine it in reverse. My heart goes out to you and your family!

  5. Time will heal the loss you feel. At a time in the future you will again find that peace and contentment you found up there. Just as you found good memories of your Dad so will you at sometime in the future find your happy ones with Reese.

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