Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Beginnings are, for the most part, easy to spot. First something isn't and then it is. You really do know that something has begun. I'll concede this isn't always the case, but usually it is. Of course, there is the rare example where something has begun, and you don't know it until you take a moment to look back, and realize, well, there it is; that was the beginning. It may be a happy thing, or a sad thing, or even a nothing thing. But it’s begun just the same.

When I was a kid, my folks used to take us camping on summer vacations in some campground upstate NY, or out
East on Long Island. On one of these vacations, my brother and I met up with a couple of kids, a brother and sister, while we were fishing for sunnys. Their names were Erik and Elena. Ah, Elena. I was young, but at that turning-point age where I certainly noticed girls. Now at first I treated Elena like I would any other new kid we met while fishing. Just a cool kid who liked to fish, could catch a sunny with a pencil float just as good as the next guy. But Elena was not a guy. All the social skills I'd honed from hanging out with my friends failed me miserably in this situation.

Over the two week vacation, we fished, hung around, and just did what we always did. But I started to feel something when I wasn't around Elena. I actually had a pang, or a hurt in my chest. It was an odd feeling. I came to realize, that I liked Elena. You know what I mean, I don't mean liked, I mean
liked. Elena and I soon became inseparable, and it was pretty apparent that she felt the same for me. We even held hands when no one was looking. Alright, it was puppy love, I was a kid, but it was amazing to me. I felt so good when we were together. And when we were apart, oh, I actually cherished the aching in my heart because I felt alive. I cherished even more, the anticipation of seeing her the next time. Elena would change everything for me. My first love. It was clear that something had begun. I didn’t, and couldn’t understand that it would end.

Now endings. Those are tricky buggers. As with beginnings, let's dispense with the obvious endings that are easy to spot. Again, I concede those. But what of the endings that sneak up on us? The last time I saw Elena, I knew,
obviously it was an ending. We made the obligatory good-byes, I'll see you here next summers, and I'll write yous. Our mouths were the paint brushes and our words the paint. Our every breath put the final strokes on the portrait of our relationship that I would hang proudly, and fondly, in the gallery of my youth. We did write and stay in touch for quite a few years. What I didn't realize was that was the last time I'd ever see Elena. She lived far away, and we never did go to that campground on the same two weeks in the summer. She was my Sandy and I was her Danny. We were worlds apart, but there was no end of school carnival for us at Rydell High. It wasn't just an ending, it was the ending.

This takes me to my point. Yes, I got here in a rather round-about way, but it’s my blog, so suffer with it, or scurry along for some other instant gratification. Beginnings are like Christmas mornings: packed with dozens of unopened gifts, their contents may be good, or bad, but certainly interesting. Certainly unknown. Endings hurt. Especially the ones you don't see, or that pass by unnoticed for quite some time. Then, when you realize you missed a moment, it's too late to savor it, to take that last look, to hold hands one last time. All that's left is the "I wish
I’s" or the "I should haves". That, and angst. Even endings to the happiest things, always have a sense of sadness to them.

I grew-up in the same home that my parents brought me to after I was born. I lived there for 22 years, learned how to ride a bike, play catch, climb trees, skin my knees, and all sorts of things. Always in the same home. I moved out when I got married, and always took for granted that the home would be there. We visited my folks for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and assorted other special, and not so special

My folks grew older, they both retired, and decided it was time to sell the house and move away. Their house was vacant for a few weeks in-between
their moving and selling, and they asked me to stop by and check on it every now and then. I did this at least a couple of times. What I didn't realize, or the connection I didn't make, was that the last time I stopped in, would be the last time. It didn't really occur to me until I passed by the house almost a year or so later. I slowed to see what the new people had done to the place. Then it hit me. I couldn't go in there any more. I could see the sidewalk along the house, leading up to the steps. The same sidewalk where I'd ridden my bike hundreds, maybe thousands of times. I could still see the images, the ghosts of my brother and me and our friends, playing happily and carelessly. I couldn't go there anymore. Those familiar cracks in the concrete, that house, the room I called mine, the basement where my brother and I had fantastical adventures during rain storms were all relegated to my memory now. Never to be seen or touched by me again. Only to be remembered. Another portrait on another wall in the gallery of my life.

An ending, the finality of which I didn't see. I had a small hurt inside, that felt
suspiciously like the way I felt when I said good-bye to Elena. What made it even worse, was there was nothing I could do about it. The ending came of its own volition, like an uninvited apparition in the middle of the night. Close my eyes though I might, muster all the will and wherewithal I could to stand against it, the ending came just the same.

Endings, are indeed, tricky things.

© Steven R. Smith, August 29, 2006


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