The Importance of My 36th Summer

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.

14 Replies to “The Importance of My 36th Summer”

  1. There’s jyst something about the aroma od fresh=cut hay. Does it give off alcohol as it cures? I’m never been a big drinker’ in fact I’ve yet to have a cold beer on these hit summer days we’ve had this summer, and if that doesn’t call for an ine-cold log-necked beer, nothing does, but I’ve toured several factories where beverage alcohol was made, and it had a wonderful smell, yoo, and I wonder if it was the same odor.

    My son tole me this week that his wife had been setting for six weeks now. My son was more like me than I can believe, and his son even more so. It seems terrifying that there will soon be three carbon copies of me on this planet at once.

    I suspect you, and not just your kid, were closely related to a Silver Salute as well. God plays this trick on us. We see our kids doing things we grew up being ashamed of, and hear other peope talking about our kids and suddenly we realize we weren’t the awful wretches we always thought. I don’t know why God waits so long to grant forgiveness in this manner; for that matter, who am I to expect forgiveness at all?

  2. I like your story – I’m now a young 61 yr. old – living next door to my “Lovely” Wife’s Uncle Stevie – he’ll be 85 this coming Tue. the 14th – “healthy as an ox” as some would say… with his wife Aunt Esther at his side (for nearly as long as I am old)… equally fit. You know – your conclusion about hitting reverse is just as true in my case as it is in yours. Loved the poignancy you gave to the “Beauty of Life”, and I’m here trying to figure why I hear my heart beat in my ears, and my throat tighten – even as Kathryn (my wife) is over at Living Waters Theater learning from your own Auntie Ann about “WRITING YOUR STORY”.

    Thanks so much for sharing your talent/s and helping us value our “HERE and NOW”.

  3. “The fireworks that exploded during his fourth day on earth became part of him.” That is an amazing sentence. I hope you just laid down on the floor and basked in your brilliance after you wrote it.

    1. Thanks Jeane. I love how metaphors can run away with themselves. I started looking up fireworks on line and found some great, specific terms. So much fun!

  4. I think I would like to go back to observe “good times”. I would like to watch those memories in full detail so I could remember the whole story again. The older I get, and as my daughters lovingly tell me, “I’m not so old,” I keep losing more and more of the details. I would like those good memories “restored” and then “backed up” to be able to recall them exactly as they happened whenever I wanted to.

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