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Home-bound 1.8-Alley-Gator

When I was five or six years old, my grandfather took my brother and I on a little road trip. My folks were supposed to meet up with us the next morning, but this Friday afternoon, we loaded into grandpa’s red pickup and headed toward his place, a hundred and fifty miles away. This was my first excursion out into the world unaccompanied by my folks, and I left spooked. Arriving at our destination, grandpa decided we needed some entertainment, though it was already well past our usual bedtime when we arrived, so he dropped us off at the local theater, to an already in progress double feature horror show.

The main picture was a gem called The Alligator People, and it scared the socks off my brother and I. We fussed plenty, trying to decide if we could just leave or if we had to stay until the end. The Cobalt 40 scenes didn’t spook us half as much as the alligator guy did. We’d never imagined the world was anything like this.

We finally decided to leave and hang out in front of the theater until grandpa returned, the alternative being possible reptilian transformation. We lived in the high desert. Nobody needed that.

This experience remains fundamental to who I am today. I am fully capable of walking out if threatened. I suppose I have a vestigial abandonment issue or two, too. I’m not much for reptiles, even though my grandson has a preternatural interest in crocodiles, especially one named Lyle. I can initiate separation.

Going home always comes to that point where goodbyes become necessary. From home to back home, separation sits in the middle somewhere. I feel tonight like I did that day when grandpa stole me away. Though I know and genuinely trust that I’ll see those grandkids again, that feeling I first felt in the cold shotgun seat of grandpa’s fishwagon revisits. It’s a slightly bigger world than I bargained for. I might not return.

My throat feels sore from extended lumpiness. The goodbyes pile up in there, and the tears, some even almost successfully held back, do nothing to lubricate thick-throated swallowing. I miss these people, my family, my tribe, before I even close the door. I cannot bear to hug an instant longer, lest I turn into something not at all unlike an alligator person. I love these people and they love me. Life seems as though it would be so much easier without these unbidden distances separating us from each other.

Together, we finish each others’ sentences, we initiate each others’ dreams. It’s an easy coupling and one damned difficult parting. I feel five years old again, off on something that feels almost entirely unlike an adventure, more like an indenture, hoping for an early reprieve.

Grandpa returned and swept us off to sleep in an alien bed, never suspecting that we were surrounded by alligator people. Much grit was secretly exhibited that night, grit my brother and I still secretly share. I am grateful for that grit tonight as I toughen myself up for another extended separation. The touch still lingers on my arm where my grandson gave me some wing. My ears still ring with that final screech from the over-tired Grand Other. Soft cheek sweeps and bruising goodbye hugs must sustain me now. Do not blame me if I turn green and wrinkly out there.

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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