Train tracks covered in lottery tickets

I can’t work out whether we checked the lottery ticket on the same day the car got stuck on the train tracks or if these are two stories I’ve stuck together with the glue of memory.

It wasn’t far from the house, the pharmacy, but we drove anyway. You had to pick up a prescription but, more importantly, you had the lottery ticket you wanted to check. For some reason I stayed in the car while you went in. I remember that because I can still see the look on your face from across the parking lot as you walked out the door. You had won – $75 I think it was –  but it wasn’t the amount, it was the winning itself you said. You were as giddy as a little boy, your eyebrows raised, your blue eyes twinkling, face flushed.

I don’t know if it was then that we drove down the street that crosses the train tracks, if it was that day that the car stopped on the tracks. Maybe it doesn’t matter. In my mind it is the same day. In my mind, it isn’t 30 years ago.

It must not have been long that we sat there, though moments like that always feel like they stretch out into forever. You got the car running – I don’t even know now whether there was ever any danger of a train coming. We must have gone home then, down the fabled streets of my mother’s youth, wending our way through her stories, walking through the storybook of her life. I used to love hearing those stories, driving those roads.

We must have gone home and had something to eat – it would have been bacon sandwiches for lunch or chips (plain) if it was happy hour. Then you would have relaxed into your chair to listen to music, or gone out to the back 40 or the garage, and I might have played inside at your feet or, if you were outside, near you.

Just another day, another day that floats back to me, triggered by unexpected forces, bringing me back to you in the only place we can meet now, in my imperfect, treasured memories.

I’m Sorry I Was Busy

Daily PromptTell us about a time when you should have helped someone… but didn’t.

I had hoped to use this prompt to weave a story. I began several, in fact, one or two of which I may continue later. But there was one true story from my life that kept rising to the surface of my consciousness, wanting to be told. And so here it is, the clearest example I have of a time I should have helped someone but chose not to.

I was 14, I think, when my grandfather died. My favourite person in the world. My champion. We were very close as he retired about the time that I was born and we consequently spent a lot of quality time together. He gamely played along with whatever my imagination cooked up: friends, pets, stories of intricate make-believe. And he spoiled me outrageously; his were always the best presents, plucked from beyond my wildest dreams.

We laughed together all the time. His blue eyes sparkled and his smile and his hugs made everything right in the world.

When I was older and struggling with the tween and then early teen years, we often spoke on the phone. He was a sympathetic listener, encouraging and supportive, though he would also tell me when he thought I had done wrong. A perfect recipe for cultivating respect and devotion.

I remember the day we found out that he was ill. I was heartbroken, not least because I had for years gone to bed each night silently hoping and wishing that my family would all live forever, terrified that they may not.

But, as hard as it is for me to admit, there was a day I was not there for him. I was too busy.

Yes, I was a kid and kids are selfish and self-absorbed. And scared of the deep unfathomable aspects of life, such as illness and death. But I am not willing to accept that as an excuse.

I remember we were talking on the phone that morning and he asked me if I would be coming out with my mother to visit later. He wanted to see me. I hesitated, then told him I was supposed to be going to see a friend. I recall apologizing and he said not to worry, that he knew I had things to do, that I had to live my own life. It was easy to grab at that forgiveness to quench my guilt.

Easy at the time, maybe, but I have never really fogiven myself for denying him the simplest, most basic help that he could have asked of me.

Sure I had plans, and perhaps I lacked the maturity to put off what my selfish 14-year-old heart wanted to do. But it wasn’t just about being too busy. I was scared. Scared to see him ill, to see him not as I remembered him.

And so, I went to the park with a friend, or over to their house, or whatever it was I was so busy doing. Ironically, I don’t remember what I actually did in the end. But I didn’t go and see my grandfather.

And now I wish I had.

I know, many would pat me on the back and say encouraging, consoling things, telling me not to worry, not to torture myself with guilt, assuring me that he would, and did understand, that he wouldn’t want me to feel bad all these years later. I would say that if a friend came to me with the same confession.

But, the fact remains that I am sorry that I was too busy that day and that I denied him his one request – to spend time with his beloved granddaughter.

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