So I know it's been a while but we're starting off the new year strong! Finally, a fresh letter, right? (I know)
A new client came to me recently who really had an impact on me. Probably one of the first times I've ever cried during a session. I learned last year not to shut myself off when something like that happens and, instead, use my outlets to really process. I don't know what this is - a poem...I think but mostly a story. My client's story gave me some perspective and it translated into what's written below. I hope you get something out of it. That is my constant prayer for this effort. There is much more to come this year but I'm starting from a bit of a vulnerable spot and I'm not mad at it. While my client does share some similarities between the character that's written about - it's not all his story. I would say the character in this piece is more of a combination of a few things I've heard from different clients through my time as a therapist (which hasn't been that long at all)
Anyway...hope you enjoy and share it if you think others might gain something from this as well.
I met a man the other day. We were strangers for only a short time until we related about how we both came from small farm towns and life’s road had moved us to California.
We discussed gas prices, the weather, and how we both longed for the simpler times when all that was needed done that day was to finish plowing the back 60.
He told me he was too young to join in on the war and his mother was ok with that. Dad had seen the horrors first hand and told him: “Son, there’s no glory to be found when you’re knee deep in the mud, muck, and blood”. I asked about what he had seen in his history and listened with all the awe I had in me.
He would remind me that he might get some of the details wrong but he wasn’t about to let that stand in the way of a good story.
We sat in silence a little longer before he looked at my left hand and inquired about how long I had been married. I told him it had only been a few years but it’s like I’ve known her forever.
A tear rolled down his cheek as he began to tremble. “Hold her tight at night, even after you’ve argued with her. Life is too short to let all those little things have so much say in your young days” I thanked him for his sound advice and before I couldn’t say any more, he stopped me –
“It’s been a year since I held her hand while God called her soul to heaven. Tried to keep her here but realized I was crying to an empty vessel. It was a cold winter morning when I was granted a front row seat to our fragility… and it angered me for the next two years while she fought with everything.”
He said. “You realize how much control you don’t have when you face all of life’s inevitability.”
He’s asked God for one of two things everyday since she left: it should’ve been him that was taken or that he could’ve gone with her.
“Time ain’t fair”, he said, “and that’s the surest thing I can share after 80 years – 58 of them with her.”
He pulled her picture from his wallet, well worn but she was still visible and he told me how she was the best parts of him and though his memories come more in fragments nowadays he’ll never forget what she looked like dressed in white. Had to wait till she was of age but it was worth it.
She worked at a bank, loved road trips, eating potato chips, and watching ships leave the port. He told me how she had given him three beautiful babies and they had given him eight grandkids and twelve great-grandkids but if he were honest he would trade it all back for one more day with the girl who braved the waves with him the first time they saw the Pacific ocean. Later laughing about how they were cleaning sand from their ears for near two weeks after.
Now he spends his days trying to keep himself busy and not be such a homebody – she made him promise.
We talked a bit longer and when it was all said and done - we had shared tears, fears, and laughter as we couldn’t believe how a couple of farm kids could end up here.
As much as I wanted to hug him he told me a handshake would do
“It’s been a while since anybody has heard my story and listened to the whole thing through”.
Before we went our separate ways he told me his one regret was that he never kept a journal. His mind was going grey - he wanted to leave his story but he was never much for writing.
If he could, he’d write down everything he had told me so he could re-read the pages and remember…just remember; “memory”, he said, “It’s one of God’s gifts we seem to always take for granted.”
When I asked what he would call his memoirs he said…
"Because I treasure them"