It is dark early in the evening. I walk off the elevator. The hospital is sterile, brightly lit, quiet but only muted. There is a emotion vibrating beneath the hard tiles. The floors above are full of held breath, choked back tears, silent waiting moments.
I cross the courtyard which is vacant in the evening. The crossed brick patterned reflects the fluorescent sheen. The night shift staff is settled in their chairs and the day shift are all ready in traffic. I have been waiting for a close friend and teacher to live or die. I have been waiting to learn that a child will soon join us. I have been waiting for my shift in the Emergencyt o be over so I can go home and hold my wife.
These three or four blocks between the hospital towers, two red paper dolls and the expansive deserted parking lot with my truck waiting by a honey colored street light, these blocks are my time out of waiting. I walk step after step in the frost of late autumn and the dark that holds before the advent. I try not to rush. But my pace cannot fall too slow either. For there is too much potential change to linger on this walk.
Instead I walk in a regular pace, breathing deeply. Try to control all the worry and doubt and fear of not knowing what is around the next corner. The pain and concern of the unknown is the worst just before the turn is taken.
As a boy I feared the head lights of the oncoming cars because I could not see past them. And the fear and doubt builds and builds and reaches a crescendo to the instant before the car passes.
These times of waiting are unending. That car never passes. The corner is never taken. And the greatest fear though never realized is never out of range to possibility. But I walk the same steady unhurried, tense pace. I keep awake in the darkness. Eyes open to the coming change. I had vowed to stay awake but this is exhausting.
I look up and wait. I pray and hope and Wait. The advent is approaching.
Last weekend I hung a new rope swing in our backyard. This new one has a wooden plank for a seat. It is wide enough for about two butts to sit. The branch is high and the swing goes wide. My daughter loves her new swing. I sit in the old rope swing which is just a double loop. My feet rest on the wooden seat of the new swing and my daughter sits in it holding onto the ropes on either side. We swing “two swings”. She squeals in laughter when we swing high. Her short blonde hair brushes her young cheeks. Her small hands squeeze a sure tight grip on the smooth nylon rope. She is fearless, ignorant and strong.
The summer has been hot. We’ve had months of record temperatures. In Tennessee the humidity becomes a thick heavy shroud coating all creation in a warm gossamer blanket of wetness. But these past weeks, the shroud has lifted. The rains have come and cooled the land. These days have been cooler. We’ve been sleeping with the windows open and the air conditioner off. The Summer is ending.
Autumn approaches and I feel the temporary nature of this time spent swinging with my toddler daughter. She will not be a toddler for long. All ready she is becoming more of a little kid. As we swing back and forth, I become aware of the impermanence of this time. All of this is only “for now”. She will never be a small child again.
The “Summer of 2012”, “the Summer of the Split Tomatoes”, “the Summer of Soggy Shorts”, the “Summer of the Two Week Beach Trip” is ending and there will never be another summer of its kind.
This is not a sad thought. Growth is not something to regret. The swing comes still and she runs to the garden. We eat okra off the stalk and she pretends to share bits with her baby doll. We share a laugh over the feeling a ripe okra seed popping between your teeth. They explode in tasty goo. My wife joins us in the yard. Her schooling is done now and the Autumn will see her getting the jobs she wants. Our little girl offers her a bit of raw okra and she takes it. A wonderful moment. My heart in our garden with my wife and child. Then, the mockingbird calls from the roof. An airplane flie overhead. Time takes another step.
I breath deeply and try to release any regret for experiences not had. Instead have faith that life will unexpected and surprising. This season is over and another will come. And another will follow. And another will follow.