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Daydreaming

IMG_0106 Karen and I begin our hikes talking, but after awhile I fall behind a bit, and lulled sometimes by the sound of a stream or the singing of the birds, I daydream. On a trail not long after we got to Tennessee, I thought about the month we had just spent with our daughter and granddaughter. We had a wonderful time with Tatiana, seeing her almost every day. We took long walks—to a creek to throw rocks, to playgrounds with swings and sliding boards, or just next door so she could scramble, over and over, up and down a neighbor’s steps. Tatiana and I got attached to one another, and it was difficult to leave. I cried more than once as we drove away. I kept thinking about the games we played and how her face lit up when she saw me. Last year when we visited, Karen sang a nonsense song while swaying her back and forth. “wee wee, wee wee, Tatiana’s going on the swing.” This visit, she started calling me “wee wee,” and that became my name. She’d call it out every time she saw me, and even began to use it to order me around, saying “wee wee” with an intonation that meant “get back here and pay attention to me.” Our daughter said that she twice called out my new name in her sleep at night. Her little chums at daycare shouted “wee wee” when we picked her up each morning.

When you are sixty-eight, with time’s eyes closing, and you’ve fallen in love with your grandchild, it is hard not to think about one life ending and another beginning. As Karen and I trekked along, I asked myself age-old questions. What have I done? What does it matter? Does anything matter? Will Tatiana’s life be different? Will she be happy? What slings and arrows will she face? Will she be resilient and strong? A melody ran through my head, and, reflecting my thoughts, I put these words to it:

I hope when you’re lost on a cold road at night,

a smiling old stranger can show you a light.

And when your own life’s near done, body all worn,

you’ll look at the night stars and know you’re reborn.

Then you’ll think of your grandchild, remember her face,

And hope that you’ve left her love’s endless embrace.

If you were to ask me what in my life stands out, it wouldn’t be work or achievements. Good teaching, some decent books, and a few acceptable essays. I seldom think about these things.  I don’t own a copy of any but two of my books, and I’ll soon give those away. The petty squabbles, the striving, the back-stabbing, all have proven eminently forgettable.

What I do remember is my father taking me in his lap and comforting me after I spilled ink on a drawing he had been assigned in his drafting correspondence course. My mother tucking me in at night. My grandmother sending me books for Christmas. The first time I visited Karen at her apartment and met the kids. The funny things the four of them said around the dinner table. The pride I felt when they comforted strangers. The kindnesses friends and strangers have shown me. What we’ve given away, freely and without regrets. The places we’ve seen, and the hikes we’ve taken. The birds, flowers, rocks, oceans, streams. The pleasures we’ve shared. The triple-deep stars on a clear night in the mountains. Love’s endless embrace.

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7 Responses to Daydreaming

  1. Stephen Gosch May 28, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    Dear Michael, I am touched by your thoughts on what it all means. You are an eloquent writer. Thanks! Best wishes, Steve Gosch

    PS. I had hoped that our paths might cross at the Left Forum. However, a recent household mishap involving a heavy table that I should not have tried to move down a narrow stairwell has left me on crutches and unable to travel to NY. My injury is healing but not soon enough to be at the LF. Perhaps next year.

    • Michael D. Yates May 29, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

      Stephen, I appreciate your kind words. And hopefully we will meet someday. BTW, I won’t be at Left Forum either! I hope you are recovering from your injury. Take care of yourself.

  2. Jamil Jonna May 28, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    Dear Michael,

    Do you ever think about how others will remember you? “Achievements” do not appear high on your list of reflections but yours are undoubtedly substantial. I for one will never forget—and, indeed, will strive incessantly to share far and wide—your labors as agitator, editor, writer, and intellectual. Above all is Cheap Motels and a Hotplate itself: an illuminating journey and beautiful story you have never stopped weaving on the pages of this site. I think you have written some of the most thoughtful reflections on topics ranging from intimacy and grief to theory and struggle—you deserve thanks!

    I would be delighted to have the chance to share some of these remembrances with Tatiana. I imagine she will be pleased to be reminded that you struggled for her generation passionately, and with utmost sincerity.

    • Michael D. Yates May 29, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

      Jamil, Thanks for this thoughtful response. I believe that once I write something, I send it out there, and readers will make of it what they will. If they find it pleasing or useful and tell me, well I am, of course, gratified. But what I meant in this little story is that I myself don’t think about what impact I might have had on others, and I don’t think about how others will remember me, except for Karen, the kids, and Tatiana (if I live long enough for her to know me as an older person). Here, though, I would hope that they remembered me as someone who never failed to give them comfort when they needed it. And would be inclined to downplay my many flaws! Also, I do want always to be a better writer, something I have hopefully been doing, thanks mainly to a certain editor (!) named Karen. But this is mainly so that readers will grasp what I say easily. Though even here, nothing a writer can do prevents a reader from interpreting something written as he or she pleases (which is no doubt a good thing.) In the end, I suppose we have to take life as we find it, be helpful and kind to others when we can, and do what we can to change the world for the better.

  3. Gilles May 28, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    Mike, you are a poet at heart. Thanks for sharing these beautiful thoughts.

    • Michael D. Yates May 29, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

      Thanks, Gilles. That is a fine compliment!

  4. VICKI December 23, 2015 at 8:44 pm #

    I WANT SAY HOW HAPPY I AM THAT YOU ARE LIVING THE LIFE YOU AND KAREN HAVE ALWAYS DREAMED OF. I ENJOY YOUR WRITINGS AND GET A SPECIAL KICK OUT OF KNOWING YOU STILL TELL IT LIKE YOU SEE IT. HAVE YOU MADE ENOUGH TO BUY DUNLO AND FLOOD IT?

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