The long walk home can be full of shadows from the past

Going back home. The walk home is often a long one - one made invariably longer by sometimes losing your way. Mostly, you just want the walk to last. You want to close your eyes to see. Through closed eyes that see, all of your senses join and become one force. You want so much just to hear, to smell, and to touch all that you remember. But it doesn't start off that way. Just a short walk, you say to yourself. Just a short walk is all.

It's so easy to lose your way on the walk. You start it off by thinking you know your way. You've been there before - home, that is - so why wouldn't you know? Besides, you know all of the people there. All of the people ... there.

It's so easy to lose your way.

Maybe you made a wrong turn somewhere on the walk. The streets don't seem to end. You shake your head, trying to separate the shadows from the mist. And then it happens. You realize that you haven't lost your way at all. You try and try, so hard, to pull the memories of what you once knew, to what you now see.

Your memories, for a moment, shatter like glass. You blink, and the pieces fall. You pick up one of the jagged pieces, and as you gaze into the rear view mirror it offers, you catch a reflection of yourself. Is it really me? How can it be? I'm just a kid. At least, I was ... once ... long ago. And I'm just walking home. That's all. Just walking home. And my mother and father are waiting for me.

But something is different. The sidewalks are cracked and uplifted. The roads, like the faces of so many, are tracked with cratered lines. The lawns, once so green and full, are now replaced with cosmetic reversals of fortune, covering the youthful green countenance of life's summer leaves with the dead dark stare of pavement. And the people. People you love - the people who were everything in your past, and still share top billing in your present. And the faces. The beautiful faces. The bodies that once upheld the heads of those faces, monumental, and shining with the short-lived royalty of youth.

Just a simple walk home is all we intend at certain times of our lives. Just a simple, peaceful walk home.

A month ago, I visited my parents in Upstate New York for five days at the home my brother, sister, and I were born. The walk was long. Such a long walk. Where have the years gone? Why must they go? You reach. They are so far away. So far away.

Those faces. Those bodies. The steadiness of their walk. The mobility. The smiles that never stopped. Where?

I've made the walk many times before. This time was different. It was so different this time. So different.

My father, who two years ago was a young-looking 68-year old, standing tall, Herculean and straight like a mighty elm, is now bent over by Parkinson's, a disease that has taken over so many members of our family like an army's folded collapse after a sudden ambush. And my mother, so small, so caring, just trying to help while holding on fast to 50 years of a loving and close household.

Just a simple walk. That's all I thought. Just a simple walk. A walk home.

The walk is so long. And the time ... the time ... is just so ... And it hurts. My God it hurts. It hurts to know that you just may be a little too late to the dinner table. The walk was so long. So very long.

Twenty-five hundred miles away, but countless "life" years from home.

John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at jdimambro@nevada


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