Monday, October 13, 2008

Portrait of Words...Father Time

This is October's Portrait of Words as hosted by Jeff B. (see link) . Go to his site and read the rules and join us in an exercise in creativity. The pictures and rules will be posted there each month by Jeff B. (A Word In Edgewise ) plus picture credits. I hope you will enjoy my offering for this months "A Portrait of Words". In honor of my Uncle Martus Douglas I offer "Father Time".




He hated airports. He couldn't tell you why, but it was always so. He'd heard his father say time and again that airports were nothing but the scenes of sad goodbyes. He hated airports nearly as much as he hated telegrams. He remembered the telegram that had been delivered to his mother's hands so many years ago, that devastating piece of paper from the war department that had destroyed a family. And now, here he sat in this airport, waiting. His eyes kept moving to the clock that hung on the wall, the hands dragging by . It was as if the world had tipped on its axis, and time had slowed to a crawl. He had been in such a hurry to get to this place, he had left the camera bag in the delivery truck, along with his son's possessions, the ones that had been returned to them. When they had first gotten word of the terrible blast that had brought their world to a standstill, he hadn't known what to do, where to turn, who to lean on. His wife leaned on him, his daughters leaned on her and like the tower of Pisa, the fall was coming. He just didn't know when.

His son. His boy was so proud to be a part of his Country's defense. When the word had come that he was to go overseas he may have been nervous, but you wouldn't have known it. He showed nothing but pride and even a bit of excitement that he was finally given a chance to put his training to good use. He knew that he had a calling, he had answered that call as soon as he had graduated from the Seminary. He was sure that he would be of better use on the front lines than at home. He knew that he could bring comfort to the men and women who were in the fight every minute of every day, those who needed the support of a strong shoulder and an understanding heart. He had taken pictures of the foreign land that was his temporary home, of the children caught in the middle of hell, sometimes smiling but more often souls showing the strain of war. One picture, of his son carrying a small bundle of blankets (with a little face just visible above the top fold), tears running down his son's face, was framed and hanging in their home Church. Money had been collected to help send the child to a hospital in Germany to have an awful wound repaired. They hoped she would be able to remain there and out of harms way. He wished sincerely that they could bring her to their home to rear as their own.

He hated airports. The hands on the clock read 2:45. There was a restaurant across the way and he decided to go over and get a cup of coffee. Maybe a sandwich. Anything to take his mind off how the time dragged by. He walked into the dimness of the place, ordered a coffee and danish and sat down. In the back of the room was a beautiful billiards table, the balls racked and ready for the break. He remembered teaching his son the rules of the game, how he had laughed as the boy began to talk about being a pro and making enough money to build his mother a dream house. He was ten at the time. Did all sons want to build their mothers a home they had provided, taking them out of their husbands purview? It was a rivalry for attention from the day they entered the world, he decided. He took a sip of the coffee, hot and smooth. Colombian beans, he decided. No bitterness, these people knew how to brew a good cup of coffee. He bit into the danish, the taste of it filling his senses with a guilty pleasure. He looked at the clock. 2:55. He covered his face with his hands and noticed that they shook. He needed to be in control, he was meeting his son today, taking him home. He held the paperwork someone (he couldn't remember who) had pushed into his hands just yesterday. The papers that his son would need for some unknown purpose. He wondered who else would be here, who else was welcoming a son or daughter home. He moved to another seat so that he could look out into the lobby, perhaps see someone who looked as befuddled as he felt. Someone with shaking hands, clutching useless papers and watching a slow moving clock.

Was there some secret code that they now would share, one that someone had forgotten to give him. He remembered his secret decoder ring that was such a prized possession when he himself had been his own father's little boy. Captain Midnight. Would he need his secret decoder ring? He saw a gray faced woman standing at an Airline reservation desk, her hands shaking, clutching a sheaf of papers. He noticed her eyes. They were hollows of pain. Where was her husband, he wondered. She shouldn't be here doing this. Not alone. He looked again at the clock. The time seemed to have picked up a little speed. It was now after 3 pm and he heard the flight arrival being called. Leaving the coffee shop he headed to the gate leading to the tarmac and waited. The woman from the counter was suddenly standing by him, her breath coming in short sharp gasps, the paperwork held close to her chest, as she had once held her child. He reached out and took her hand. If there was any objection, she didn't show it. The plane landed, and the belly of the beast opened. He waited for someone to come to them, lead them to the tarmac. He saw the line of men and women, saluting as the fallen soldiers slowly came off the plane. He dropped the hand of the woman beside him and slowly now, he approached his son. He spoke softly to him. "Your mother wanted to be here, Son. But I haven't been able to get her to leave her bed since we got the news. But she will. And you'll see, she'll be fine." He placed his hand in the vicinity of his child's chest and wept.

Now he watched as the woman from the counter was led out to where he stood, the tears falling now out of once empty eyes. She staggered, the Chaplain caught her and he quickly moved to her other side to take her arm. She looked at him with gratitude and misery. They stood at attention themselves as their sons' comrades in arms began to move the flag draped coffins to waiting hearses. He took a deep breath. And wondered if he'd ever recover.

52 comments:

Lee said...

This had me crying, Sandi! There were points when I was afraid to continue but I did anyway. It was worth it!

That surely deserves an award. Repost this on Memorial Day next year, okay?

Are you writing a book? This was really good!

Love,
Lee

Maggie May said...

Gulp! This is good writing.

CrazyCath said...

Beautiful Sandi. Very poignant, tender, excellent writing. So much pride and so much pain.

An excellent entry for POW. I take my hat off to you!

B. Roan said...

This was a very moving piece. I didn't want to read on, but couldn't make myself stop. BJ

Mockingbird Hill said...

Thank You, Sandi....

Lib said...

Hi Sandi,
Great Job!
You deserve an award on this one!
You should be writing a book my friend!
Have agreat wk.
Blessins',Lib

Jeni said...

I do so envy those who, like you, can do fiction and do it well too. This was a beautiful story, well-written and very timely too, unfortunately. Do you publish any of your work? You really should try to find a magazine that includes short stories in their publication cause I'm betting this one could definitely get picked up.
Keep up the good work!

Sandy Kessler said...

Maybe your greatest yet Sandi

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

No, I didn't want to read it to the end, but did. Your words kept leading me on. Write. Write. And keep on writing, Sandi.

Jamie Dawn said...

You brought tears to my eyes with this one, Sandi.
I could feel the tension and pain found in the waiting, minute by minute of agony and deep grief.
I love the part when he grabbed the lady's hand who was also experiencing the eternal wait and pain.
Wonderfully written.

Akelamalu said...

Oh my dear Sandi that was just so moving, I could feel the pain and sorrow. :(

Sally said...

Painful and poignant moments frozen in time. This was truly remarkable writing. (HUGS)

San said...

Beautifully written, Sandi. Rich with emotion and detail. And all the more powerful, considering it was based on words and images chosen by someone else.

Mary Isabella and Kiley too! said...

This is an amazing story. You are so good....m..

Gill - That British Woman said...

you are a very good writer Sandi....

Gill in Canada

SandyCarlson said...

Holy cow, Sandi. I am in pieces over this one. Thank you for this bird's eye view of that most horrible experience, that profound grief.

Powerfully done. Thank you.

merry weather said...

This is beautiful Sandi. The words, the music - very moving indeed. Well done! Have you written anything else?

Hope you're feeling better x

Lu' said...

Wow Sandi that was sad. Well written I was there with that man.

Jeff B said...

A+ my dear!

I can unfortunately see this story being fact based one for so many parents these days. In fact, I had to remind myself that it was fiction.

What a great piece of writing.

ancient one said...

Such a sad story so well told...I could just cry..

Susie Q said...

Sandi...you are amazing. Your way with words is a gift. Write that book sweetie. You have the ability to move people. You have a rare and glorious gift dear friend.

Love,
Sue

Cherie said...

How beautifully poignant and moving. Well, done.

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

Poignant and very touching. Excellent writing. Hit home, as my only brother was killed in the VietNam conflict. I well remember waiting for him to "come home."

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

Sandi - so beautifully written, so poignant, I could feel the pain and it had me in tears.

A x

david mcmahon said...

Beautifully composed, Sandi

Dr.John said...

My glasses fogged. Such a sad story. But so well writen. You did a great job.

Lanny said...

You took this in a unique direction. Thank you for a tender piece of writing.

Lynn@ The Vintage Nest said...

Oh My....You got me with this one Sandi.

Tee aka The Diva's Thoughts said...

Wow! That has me speechless. Fabulous writing.

Pam said...

Wow...that was some fabulous writing Sandi! I love the picture cues and how you put it all together. very nice.

Katherines Dream said...

Sandi this has made think....you have written this with such feeling.
Hugs,
Carol xx

joan said...

Wow Sandi! I loved every word of this. Are you sure you aren't some famous writer writing under a different name somewhere in South Carolina? If you're not you should be because I may not know much but I know good writing when I read it. Perfect.

John said...

This is lovely writting!

Thanks for stopping by my blog and thanks for the kind comment.

imbeingheldhostage said...

aaaack. I was here earlier and knew this was a post I needed to sit in some quiet to really focus on, but now you have me blubbering all by myself in my computer room.
This was a heck of a piece! wow.

Rambling Woods said...

This is so good and something we all need to remember. I think the government's decision not to allow the caskets of those lost in the wars is a mistake. We need to realize that this is what happens in war.....

Thank you for your comment about the duck post. I think it is wonderful that you have and feed ravens. I have never seen one in person and they are such amazing birds...Michelle..

PAT said...

O lordy Sandi, this is an amazing post!

Dianne said...

this made me catch my breath many times. It is something more people would/should feel if the country were allowed to share in these coming home ceremonies

thank you for conveying such deep and genuine feelings and respect and empathy.

beautiful

Lavinia said...

Oh, so sad......It was nearly over before I realized what this man was truly waiting for....

The story used all the elements as prescribed, in a wonderfully natural way. Nothing was contrived or 'slotted in'.

I was gripped from the start, and the mystery of who he was and read on to fit the pieces together, as they fell into place one by one.

A very patriotic story!

SandyCarlson said...

Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment, Sandi!

Virtual Voyage said...

Brought to mind the old saying that no one expects to outlive their child. Stunning, and so accurate as a portrait of grief.

Lawstude said...

amazing writing. well done.

cheshire wife said...

Beautifully written. Very poignant.

Cheffie-Mom said...

Wow, this is so beautifully written and touching. Thank you for sharing.

Deb said...

I agree with alll of the other comments ~ and am a bit too emotional to come up with anything else that would make sense. Powerful writing.

Seamus said...

Well done Sandi! Very good writing.

Betsy said...

Hi Sandi! Thanks for stopping by my blog! I think I've been here once before many months ago....I recognized you immediately when I came over to say hello! Your black cat on your sidebar looks just like my old Teddy who has been gone 3 years now. Thanks for the visit! :)

Kahshe Cottager said...

I came over to thank you for the visit you paid to my blog but was soon caught up in your post. There are tears in my eyes - it was so moving. And it hit home in a sense. My Godson has just returned safely from a tour in Afghanistan. It was tortuous waiting for his tour to end and have him home again.

david mcmahon said...

Would love an update on ``the book'', Sandi ...

SandyCarlson said...

Sandi,
Thanks for leaving such encouraging words on my blog.
God bless, friend.

Jeanne said...

Beautifully done Sandi. That site is perfect for you to work your writing magic with.

Lehners in France said...

Sandi, you've left me in bits! I had to read the last paragraph twice and re-read the words "vicinity of his childs chest." My brother died when he was twenty, I was eighteen. Mum was sedated for his funeral and never made it to say good-bye. Your writing rang so true. Debs x

Jamie Dawn said...

:-)

I'll check back for something new.

Happy Sunday!!

:-)