Evening Trains: A Dad Reflects On Love, Loss, and September 11thSerge Bielanko
I guess we tend to take stuff for granted a lot in this life.
But that’s a good thing, I suppose.
People we love get up in the morning and take too long in the bathroom and piss us off.
They leave their dirty coffee cups sitting on the kitchen counter, or lying down in the sink, and we tend to look at them and take a deep breath or hold our breath and try not to cry.
Old socks on the bedroom floor, familiar handwriting on a note stuck to the fridge, the remote control left sitting there in the soft dent on their side of the couch, we look right through that kind of thing all of the time, don’t we?
And why not, really?
Whoever is responsible for any of that stuff will be back tonight, right?
They’ll be back for supper. We’ll watch some TV together again this evening, just like all the evenings that have fallen away now.
I mean, we will meet again. In a few hours, right?
Scattered up and down the towns of North Jersey, and out in certain towns on Long Island, there are little gardens, little memorials here and there. Take a dart and throw it at a map of Manhattan and even if your aim is lame, chances are that the thing will stick to a place where someone knew someone who lost someone.
You could show up at any of the train stations out that way on a cool clear September 11th morning like the one I am looking at outside my garage today (like the one that hung out over the eastern seaboard eleven years ago), and you could stand out on the platform, sipping your Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, staring up the tracks, looking for the train in the same way that all of the other people are looking for the train, or flipping through their morning paper, or messing with their phones, and you would basically be living the exact same morning that a lot of people had the experience of living, one last time, 11 years ago.
But that’s as far as you could take it though.
Because once you hopped that evening train to take you back to Red Bank or Rahway, or out to Hempstead or Great Neck, you’d be riding on your own as far as all that goes.
Because, you know, so many of them…they never got to ride that one.
No mom or dad ever imagines that the world will turn on their own kids, as it tends to do from time to time.
It’s just not how we live.
We hold the baby in our arms and let them play down in the Christmas morning wrapping paper. We stand there leaning up against the metal fence and watch them strike out for the second time in a row out on the Little League field. We let them borrow the car for the first time, we wait up for them, we try and whiff their breath just to make sure, we sit on the bottom edge of the bed when they are crying because someone finally broke their heart, we try and make it better, we try and imagine ways we could just give them our heart, we want to trade hearts with them if just for a few hours, we walk them down the aisle if we’re lucky enough, or watch them walk it on their own, we cry at the sight of them.
Our love moves hard down through the dark tunnels of our guts and we can’t stop it ever. And we don’t ever want to either, because we are so proud and so in love with them and that will never change. They leave us because they have to and we can’t wait to see them again.
We think about them constantly.
When the phone rings and they’re on the other end, we are as happy as we will ever be.
Usually, we close our eyes first and leave them to carry on with the living. We leave them, hopefully, knowing that they will be loving their kids in the same way in which they were loved.
That’s how it ought to be, anyways.
A thump in the chest is a thump in the chest.
We get winded, bounce back.
Kids are tougher than we give them credit for, but still.
A lot of moms and dads left that morning, just like all the other mornings, with a kiss goodbye, or a “Don’t miss the damn school bus again!” or a lunch bag hand-off 3 feet from the storm door.
Then, they were gone and it was over.
Just like that.
Kids are tough. But I don’t understand how they do it, really. They just do.
Somehow, some of them, they just keep on living the best they can, without someone who was everything to them.
Beyond the reasons, because there are no real reasons, that’s where you end up digging at the end of the day.
You end up up beyond the clouds, digging in the sky, scooping out shovelfuls of sunshine and stardust and spaceships and moons.
When certain things go down, sometimes all that any of us can do is to wander out into the long prairies of firmament, our eyes picking apart the cottony gauze of a thousand mile cloud, our hands clamping down on the tiniest fists and the palms of our small partners.
And then, a thing clicks. And we know that there were lessons that we learned after all.
Lessons, we start to see, in the form of dirty coffee cups and old socks and evening trains.
And then, just like that…
The things we take for granted become something else entirely.
You can also find Serge on his personal blog, Thunder Pie.
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