Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Length of Time Trumps the Shortness of Men

Occasionally I get what is for me an early start on my day. Yes, even I have "early" days. Today, sadly, is one such day. While it is always a great joy for me to see Rob in the cozy confines of the Eastern Time Zone, it is never a joy to be the one who picks him up when it is a sad set of circumstances that brings him home. Today it is just such a set of circumstances that has him spending some time in his native postal code.

Rob has migrated east for the weekend due to the death of his paternal grandfather. His father's father - a man who spent most of the past two decades living within a mile or two of my home - is a man I knew hardly at all. I know little of the story of his life except for the fact that he served in the Merchant Marine. Incredibly I met him only two or three times; including our first meeting that took place at his wife's wake only a few years ago. I understand from Rob and Suz that he had moved to New York State a few years ago, which is where he lived the final couple or three of his eighty-one years with his daughter and her husband.

I did not know the man. I cannot pretend that his death affects me directly given that his life did not. As a parent you share your child's pain when he or she is saddened or upset by a particular event or occurrence even if the event that is causing them pain directly is not doing so to you as well. And so it is their pain I feel; even if their loss I cannot share.

This morning - at a time that even I recognize as being both wee and small - I will see Rob for the first time in approximately three months (he was last home for Christmas). I take comfort in the fact that while I feel badly for him about what it is that has brought him home unexpectedly, I am happy to see him. Between the time I pick him up this morning and the time I drop him off at the airport on Sunday I know not whether I will see him at all. It matters not.

His time home on this visit has but a little to do with me. Yet it has everything to do with him. And that is after all what matters. Duty compels him. Love propels him. Together in tandem they have carried him home. As they shall carry his grandfather home as well:

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.


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