The sun is hot. The air is heavy. I hear the roar of the rear sliding door, like distant thunder. I cross the kitchen, cool linoleum under my feet, and I peek through the small window, past the screen, and into the haze.
My littlest boy stands at attention, a yellow foam baseball bat propped on his shoulder. This is only his fourth summer – he was born in Virginia three days before the fireworks. Most people who can remember me as a three year old say that he is me, but I know better: the fireworks that exploded during his fourth day on earth became part of him. He is fiery and emotive and insistent in ways that I have never been. He is a bottle rocket, an M80, a Roman Candle. He is a one inch Black Match lit by life.
My father tosses a soft, white ball through the heavy air and my son connects with it maybe one in five? One in ten? There is much more reaching and tossing and cheering and leaning than there is hitting, but the two of them go back and forth, their pitches and misses and tosses and hits like an old conversation conducted in letters, occasionally unopened but always answered.
I remember the white of the ball, the torque of the swing, the weight of a hot summer day. I remember the smell of harvested hay and the last billowing waves of massive tobacco plants before the leaves are cut. I remember how hope rose with each big hit, how my dad would laugh and scamper after the ball, pleased that I hit it so far, even if it meant crossing the stone driveway in his bare feet.
Thirty summers have passed. I know so much more than I want to know about everything. I walk away from the window, away from the view of my father and his grandson. Would I return to those days if given the choice? Would I relive the last 30 summers, if by some magical contraption I could go back? What if by some miraculous method this white-haired beard could grow backwards, these moles and marks be washed away, replaced by new skin?
That would be a ridiculous thing to do, circle back and relive a life. It would be silly to start over. What folly! What recklessness!
Still, I’m glad I do not have the choice.