by Liz Gregg
It is early evening on a cold but clear winter's day. My last student departs and the kwoon is finally empty. The afternoon has been long and full, and I am grateful for the solitude. My fingers lightly grip the smooth wooden pole of the broom as I sweep the floor. Only a few tranquil moments pass before I first feel his presence.
The door swings open and Peter bursts inside. "Dad?! You here?"
Then his eyes find mine and he grins. I am pleased to perceive that my son's volatile emotions are on a relatively even keel.
"Hi, Dad." His eyes sparkle as he comes to me and places his hands on my shoulders.
"Peter. It is good to see you, my son."
"It's good to see you too, Dad." Peter kisses my forehead. "Here." He takes the broom from my hand. "I'll help you."
It is Christmas Eve, and as Peter sweeps he tells me of his plans for later in the evening. His spirits are high, and tonight, when he talks, I hear his mother's voice. She loved Christmas; she loved the excitement of the season and the varied expressions of love and peace. When I look at Peter, I often think of Laura. For a moment, I consider sharing my thoughts, but decide it is best to keep these memories private. I do not like to dwell on past events.
My preference seems of little consequence, though, because I cannot stop my mind from traveling back in time. I imagine my son, believing I was dead, abandoned in an orphanage that had surely celebrated Christmas. I wonder what Peter's first Christmas alone had been like, facing for the first time in his young life, the well-established traditions to which he had not been fully accustomed. I close my eyes, knowing that this 'first' had been but one of many foreign, perhaps traumatic experiences that my brave young son had been forced to withstand.
My chest tightens painfully and my fingers curl into fists as pain and sorrow overwhelm me. I walk to the meditative painting that hangs on the wall. My vision has become clouded, and when I examine the frame, it appears off balance. With trembling hands I attempt to adjust the angle. I focus on the picture and try to restore harmony to my spirit. Perhaps the very fact that I seek it causes serenity to elude me.
"...how about it? Are you listening? Pop?"
I hear my son's voice come from directly behind me, and I almost release my emotion as anger, but I catch myself. I take a deep breath and let it go. When I turn to face him, my eyes are clear and my hands are steady.
Peter's eyes are wary. "Sorry, Dad, but you were a million miles away. So do you want to get some dinner or not?"
I believe that Peter is haunted by the demons of our past; he does not fully trust me. He is now an adult; he will always be my child and I will always love him, but I do not yet fully understand the man he has become. We both have a past we must confront and then embrace, each in our own way. Perhaps tonight we will both take another step towards healing.
"My son, I would be honored to join you for dinner."
"Great! Let's go, I know--"
"Peter, I must first get changed."
"No problem. I'll go warm up the car."
"Peter." Searching his eyes, I reach up and brush my fingers against his smooth cheek. I let them linger on the warm reality of his skin before sliding my hand to his shoulder. "I would prefer to walk, together, so we may enjoy both each other and the peace of this quiet evening."
Peter blushes, then laughs gently. "Okay, Dad. Sounds good to me. Go change. I'll wait." He looks down a moment, then meets my eyes. "I'm not goin' anywhere."
I'm not goin' anywhere.
His words echo in my mind. I turn quickly lest Peter see the shadow in my eyes as a sudden chill permeates my body. He speaks as if he has already accepted that someday he will wait for me longer than his broken heart can safely endure.
I take a deep breath and allow the disquiet to dissipate. I will permit
myself no further distractions, neither apprehension nor melancholy. My
reality is that I am happy to spend time with Peter. As I climb the stairs,
I briefly close my eyes and give silent thanks for the miracle of finding
my son alive and that tonight, a night sacred to so many souls, all is