The train whistles in the distance. Slanting sunlight filters through the living room window—the train, which arrives and departs Memphis morning and night in the darkness, is late. Seated on the floor, I rub the dog’s belly and confide, “I love the train.” How I can love the instrument of my daddy’s death is beyond me.
In college I lived beside the railroad tracks. In my Belhaven neighborhood in Jackson, Mississippi, the train snaked through the woods, unseen. When I ran away from home and divorced, I gave up the train for the tractor-trailers rumbling down the interstate—it wasn’t the same. I moved to Memphis where the train passes my house twice a day on its way to and from Chicago. Not satisfied, I leased a second residence in New Orleans where the train passes so near I can almost touch it.
Sometimes I’ve wondered if my habit of sitting my butt down by the railroad tracks is a form of “keep your enemies closer.” It’s not. The train releases in me, as it does for so many people, the excitement of possibilities, the flying into the fabulous future and, at the same time, the remembrance of hope lost, the past retreating into a place where it will never be seen again.
So it is with my Daddy Joe, my birth father who died when I was three, hit by a train then dead. The evocation of lost things always brings that poignant mix of happiness and sorrow. But this morning seated on the living room floor letting the dog gnaw my hand, I realized I would never have to miss the past again because it is still with me, always. Nor do I have to “miss” the happiness of the present, overly aware it, too, will pass away. The moments I’ve lived live on inside me, as present as the whistle of the train, which I also cannot touch or see but feel in my heart, vibrating.
Life is good, and it will always be good, as long as I sit on the living room floor in the sun, rubbing my dog’s tummy.
here’s to creative synthesis . . .