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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Winter's Song

I think I hear the sound of
raindrops falling
one by one
and then all of a sudden
it starts to pour

(c) maria L.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Heart Memories

She still remembered the last time she saw him, standing on the station platform, waving bravely as the whistle blew and the doors shut. She sat there, in the small hallway between cars, holding on to her suitcase and duffel bag and stared out the window, watching. He trudged away, step by careful step, making his way to the cobalt blue compact car parked in the disabled spot outside the station. His khaki trousers matched his winter khaki coat and cap and he huddled deep into the upturned collar against a cold wind. The train jerked, then began moving, and quickly, all too quickly, picked up speed and began to fly down the tracks. She sat silently as tears formed and sat there as quiet as she.

It was nine months later and she was up late one night. The words her mother had said earlier that evening still echoed in her ears. He wasn't doing too well; they didn't know how much longer he had. She didn't say much, her heart had not yet processed what her head knew to be true, and she wasn't sure she could handle it anyhow. So she was silent once again.

Till then. She began to remember her visit, and in her mind she rewound the tape that played those final moments. They had arrived much too early, even for Dutch trains, and had dragged her huge black suitcase and red duffel over to a protected area. It was almost summer, but European weather dictated cold winds and a shivery gray sky. She took out her camera and snapped a picture of the two of them as they waited. He smiled this time, which was unusual, and when she showed him the picture on her tiny digital screen, he asked for a copy of it.

That morning she had woken up early and finished her final packing. She'd tried her best to use her remaining food in their tiny refrigerator so they wouldn't have to throw it away. An extra packet of apple juice and six sandwiches in a plastic bag later, she had finished her food preparations. She grabbed her passport and wallet and ran back to her room to make sure she had everything, then as she was zipping up her suitcase, they came knocking on the door, anxious that she make it to the train station on time. They all had a prayer together, and then it was hugs all around and time to go. He was going to drive her to the bus station.

He wheeled the duffel bag and she hauled the suitcase along to the small kiosk where he stood outside, hanging onto her luggage while she paid for her final one way ticket to Amsterdam. The ticket agent handed her the small yellow ticket with her change, and she hurried outside to where he was patiently waiting. They walked over to the correct platform and began to wait.

All too soon the 9:45 yellow and blue intercity pulled up. She insisted he not lift the suitcases, even though he wanted to, and she heaved them up into the train, before turning to give him a final hug goodbye. She found her uncomfortable drop-down seat in the hallway. The train began to move, everything became a blur, and through her tears, she realized he was gone.

He would drive home, go upstairs, and rest for a while. Then he would warm up his lunch water, help peel the potatoes and vegetables, and they would sit down to lunch. He would pray, and at the end of his prayer, he would do a double sniff, and then they would eat their simple meal. Then he would spend the afternoon doing crossword puzzles, taking a little nap, going for a walk, and watching the news. He would check the departures to be sure her plane left on time.

Life would go back to its routine, but they would email her to say they missed her and it was strangely quiet now that she was gone. She would busy herself with work, but she would print a copy of the picture and send it to them, along with some other pictures of their time together. And every now and then, she would stop and remember. She would mourn the memories they had never created, wish for the years they had never shared, and grieve the loss of family. The tears would come and then they, too, would leave.

She wished it could have been different. Her family's sacrificial choice to be missionaries had meant that they had had to give up the close ties to extended family. Years later, she still struggled to feel like she belonged, as, rootless, she lived in a country not her own, thousands of miles from those whose bloodline she shared. Fate seemed to echo a cruel laughter as she tried to learn to survive. It mocked her as now one of the few whom she trusted and loved, so far away, was slowly slipping away.

Another memory came to mind. It was a cold November day, probably dreary and overcast as well. She had just read a disturbing email and was sitting beside her mother in the small bedroom, shaking from fear and pain. He came in and saw her tears and without a single word, came over and wrapped his arms around her and held her as tight as he possibly could. Now, twelve years later, she wanted him to hold her again and reassure her that everything would be okay. Somehow, she knew it wouldn't.

She would miss her Opa, her grandfather. She already did. . .