I've missed a lot of things this year, places, events, parts of myself.... I've missed birthdays and anniversaries. I've missed cultures and languages, some that I have known and some that I wish to. I've missed countless opportunities and a number of goals on that growing golden wish list. Above all, what I have missed the most has been the chance to be with each and everyone of you, longer, closer and more meaningfully.
As the page of this calendar soon turns, however, I can say that I tried my darndest and am at peace with that. For in the end, when the scale settles and finds balance, the genuine measure of 'gold' is in the realization that nothing is lacking or lost. This is a high and cheery toast to the missing, for they keep us giving, growing and going for mor e.
Today I received a FB message on my iPhone that reminded me of what I was doing one year ago. It came as a bit of a shock to me. The message included an image that I had posted on my page back then. It depicted a medium sized, cardboard pizza box and a bottle of red wine poised on a worn 17th century French wooden floor. The setting of the photo was in my just moved into living/dining room. The place was extremely cold and sparce on the night I took the picture. The house was located a couple hours north of Paris, along the frigid flow of the river 'Seine' and only a two minute stroll to one of Claude Monet's former homes. Even though winter was biting outside and the heater was busted inside, that crumbling stoned abode somehow managed to craddle me. Like a simple, handcrafted quilt or the wings of a mother's love, wrapped around her five year old son and his restless dreams, this tiny fantasy village-house embraced my ever-searching soul. There, for that moment, I felt safe and sure of who and where I was. Still, I cannot deny that a ghostly fog of uneasiness and uncertainity, concerning where I was going or where I might be one year from then, clawed my stomach.
The fissure that I sensed between myself and America had magnified over the years and especially that first night spent with my wife. On the bare floor we sat. Comforted by heavy coats and hungry hearts. Two hopeful doves shivering scared yet daring to smile in their almost black, broken and virgin nest. Yes, a long distance that still had me swimming, even after eight years of expatriation, in the frighteningly frigid ocean of fear and doubt. Those hellish holes that riddle us all from the inside-out, leaving a man crippled with eyes that dare not to see and feet that dare not to discover what lies ahead. 'Should I have left?' 'Should I have gone back?' And, of course, 'Should I continue to stay?' That was the chorus that would have never ceased were it not for the cold pizza and cheap vin rouge.
Indeed, like a drunken chef, I was apt to cook myself to a crisp if it were not for the blessings of bumbling ideas and seemingly mundane distractions. Those cooling drops from heaven that erode our crippling conundrums and give rest to our mechanical minds. 'Did I like that pizza?' and 'What might I like for dessert?' Oh, how I have grown to cherish such lighter introspections. However, as I continued to gaze further into this immobilizing image, on my impact-resistent, charcoal-colored smart device, I recalled the building's breath, the golden light that pulsed all about her wrinked walls, without a spark from the chimney. So strange yet soothing. So rich and comforting was the moment. Then suddenly, kaput! The phone's battery failed. Like a lighthouse beacon, memories of the '77 blackout flashed and in an instant that peaceful pizza box and wine bottle went poof. Violently, I was jerked away from a paradise of peaceful emotions to the prison-like purgatory of remembrance.
Except for the two beings on planet Earth, the medieval house had nothing in common with the stage I regained consciousness in. I was sitting in a booth inside of a Subway restaurant, conveniently positioned inside of a Walmart. Hunger can drive a person to do unnatural things. Here I was, an emanation of God, lounging inside of a fluorescent box, inside of another. Could it take anyone watching me on a flat screen more than two seconds to determine what country I was in? Or, has the factory concept been carbon copied enough to leave a foreigner unsure these modern days, scratching his head, hat or even turbin? With my eyebrows raised, I cautiously lifted my head from staring at the dead device and surveyed the surroundings. I could hear nothing from the outside except for this one question that echoed over and over inside my head, 'Am I safe?'