lunch on the grass

We sat in white plastic chairs on the front lawn facing a crescent of maples and pines that jumped from our side of the road to the other. It was good for me to get out of the house and it had been too long since I'd seen my friend, John. And although it was just a few days ago, I don’t remember what color the sky was, the grass was so green.

In between bites of smoked turkey salad on artisanal bread we sipped birch beer in fired clay cups. We spoke of old friends and travel and he told me how he landed in Maine, how he had as a boy hiked Mt. Katahdin with his father and had years later laid his dad’s ashes there.

“May I ask ... did you ever consider adoption?” he said, and I paused at the question, at its warmth, its innocent and delicate curiosity. I went on to explain that, yes, we had from time to time. But it was never right. Never right because we were overwhelmed with the grief of our child’s unhealthy brain and limp body. Never right because then we found ourselves in and out of the hospital. Never right because of the epilepsy that consumed us. Never right because we didn’t have enough time, enough energy, enough focus for a second child. Never right because we doubted whether it’d be fair to either child. Never right because we wanted to give Calvin our all so that he could reach his full potential, so that he could one day, perhaps, walk by himself and maybe even talk.

But the question lingered in my mind as we licked the crumbs from our plates and ate the last bits of cheese. And as I looked into his watery eyes while we considered dessert, I felt the hollow in my heart, the hollow left by Calvin’s presence and the hollow left by the healthy child we never had. I wondered if he noticed my voice quaver, wondered if he noticed the pools forming in my eyes, this kind-of-old, kind-of-new friend of mine who had never seen me cry.

We walked to my car and in his embrace I felt the core strength of a young man now in his twilight years. I kept my arm around his shoulder, noticed his nubby sweater and worn leather shoes that had no doubt taken him countless times over the ridge to his maple grove or to his pond just down the road.

When I’d arrived he’d given me a folded up string of Tibetan prayer flags, told me that when the wind blows them a prayer is said. “You don’t have to do anything,” he added, and we spoke of the vast, expanding universe where nothing is certain but that it’s there and we are discovering it. And we leaned on the counter preparing our lunches, crunching raw string beans then playfully tossing the stems out an open window.

photo by Michael Kolster

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