The Path to the Park

Dearest Rachel –

So I must say, the wheelchair affords both Chompers and I a little extra freedom. He can wander about the front lawn as much as he wants for as long as he wants, while I sit here on the porch and take in the sights and sounds. And yes, even as empty as the streets are here in Franklin, there are sights , and there are sounds.

This photo doesn’t seem to do justice to the hill I’m looking at.

Sounds like the crack of a baseball against an aluminum bat, and the cheers of the crowd watching the games in the park just beyond us. Yes, there’s that recreational area just behind the subdivision. And there was that secret path that we always used to take when we would walk with the old boy together.

You remember, just beyond the cul-de-sac…
…there is this path…
…that opens up…
…to a wide-open park.

We used to walk Chompers there, back when he could still walk, and back when you were still here.

We can’t do that anymore.

And I miss it. All of it.

Yes, sometimes you would go on your own (especially when the weather was inclement; you allowed me to decline your invitation to go with you. You have no idea – or maybe you do, now – how much I regret that now), but generally, it was you and I, walking him down this path, around and about the park that the path opened to. From our vantage point, we couldn’t actually see any of the ball fields, but we could certainly hear them, especially on the weekends, when Little Leagues were in session. Just like I’m hearing them now.

We would talk with each other about this or that. I can’t remember much about the conversations we had – most likely it was over one inane subject or another that wasn’t significant even by the time we got back to the house, but now I desperately wish I had some kind of recording of each of those conversations. I’m sure we talked about our plans for the future – be it just my unending desire to escape my current work situation (and the tantalizing possibility that it might come to pass soon enough), travel plans over the next few months, or even something as mundane as what our meal plans for the coming day would be here at Kevin’s, and if we needed to go shopping for ingredients beforehand.

These days, I get a walk with someone in only once a week. My trips to and from work don’t qualify, as I’m walking alone on those. Only on Tuesday evenings, when I serve as a reminder for Erin to continue training for the marathon (and no, I’ve discovered I can’t keep up with her at a run – and even her walking pace can be a bit strenuous for me – but at least the World Vision training regimen has her running only on alternate days, Tuesday and Thursday being walking days). And yes, we talk about fairly mundane stuff as well, but it isn’t really the same. With you, I could – and did – talk about anything. Now, I feel like I have to watch my step – there are just some things you don’t say to someone other than your dearest love, after all.

Although, not all topics are avoided due to being ‘off limits’ or anything like that. Erin and I don’t comment on Chompers’ health – or seeming lack thereof – since he’s not with us, nor could he be. Even with the independent mobility afforded by his wheelchair, he’s still effectively limited to the few square yards around which he’s been set down. And in anywhere slightly less flat than Illinois – which is to say, just about anywhere away from home, like now – his penchant for walking in tight anti-clockwise circles, combined with an incline of mere inches can result in the whole contraption tipping over live the Flintstones’ car with an order of dinosaur ribs.

Still, it’s amazing that he’s still going at this point like he is at all. It wouldn’t surprise me if you’re wondering where the heck he is – “Shouldn’t he be up here with me by now? I really thought he was on his last legs…”

To be sure, he is well and truly on his last legs – only the front two are operational, that’s why he has the wheelchair, after all – there isn’t really any walking to do. There’s a chair out here on the porch, and I just simply sit out here and keep an eye on him (sometimes – at other times, I head inside and hang out with Daniel and Kevin until the old boy barks that he wants in, which could well be a half-hour or so). And in lieu of talking with you, I write these letters, wishing I could still be holding a conversation with you.

And I just sit here and wonder about you. Can you feel the sun on your face on a day like today? Or the cool of the wind and shade in the tree-lined path that leads to the park? Can you hear the ball game in the distance? Do you know where I am, and what I’m doing in your absence?

Or is all of this so far past your notice any more? Have these things grown so dim in the new light you walk in that you have all but forgotten us?

I know that today is meant to memorialize those who fought for our country – those rough men who stood ready to do violence to those who would wish us harm so that we could sleep peaceably in our beds at night, to borrow from Mr. Orwell.

But I can’t help but memorialize you above any of them. You, the person closest to me for the longest amount of time, who I’ve lost. And while the brave members of our armed forces certainly deserve the praise and honor they may receive, there will never be any parades, any fireworks, any commemoration in your honor, all you have is me.

And so I write you today – and every day – to remember you.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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