I sat on a Manhattan bound bus this morning. I pulled my hood up and with my seat tilted slightly back, I leaned my head against the tinted window to watch droplets of freezing rain drizzle down the side of the glass. I watched the street signs and storefronts pass as the bus moved along Route 17. After more than 20 years of commuting from the east, I now make my entrance from the other side of the Hudson River.
I looked ahead to see the Westside of New York City. The tall buildings reached upwards and pushed into the palm of gray clouds. There was something beautiful and quiet to this. I suppose the cold rain and thick clouds looked like a good reason to stay home in bed.
It was not long ago that I was down on the beach in Fort Lauderdale, sitting on an upper-level veranda of a small restaurant while eating a meal and looking out at the ocean across the way. This was moments before sunset. The warmth did not subside, but the colors in the sky changed to an orange, which I could only imagine exists nowhere else except for the state of Florida.
There were pam trees across from me. The palms were tall and slightly leaning to the left with bright green coconuts with yellow patches held like a string of balls around the top of the tree. The subtle breeze shook the palms in a soft lazy way, which to me, seemed to be a welcoming reason to leave New York behind. I could smell the ocean. I could smell the suntan oil from the people that were beginning to vacate the beach. I could see commercial ships heading out in the distance. The birds of the ocean turned high above the waves, calling out in high-pitched cries, and circling high over the shoreline to find food on the ground below.
It was not all that long ago that I stood at the side of the stream with a light tackle fishing rod in my hand. I cast into the middle of the moving water and let the current take my lure enough before reeling in. That was the first time and the only place I ever caught or saw a peacock bass.
I faced the water, casting out, and the warm Florida sun shone down upon my face and heated my skin to a shade of reddish bronze. Behind me was a pool in a fenced in area. The fence was white and the pool was in-ground with beach chairs around it. The pool was situated in the back of the apartment complex in the middle of the green grass. I always noticed how different the grass is in Florida. It felt sharp beneath my bare feet. I remember that.
I remember the palm trees that stood behind the cabana near the pool. They too seemed to slant a little. I always made sure to visit this place whenever I was down that way—the stream, I mean.
It wasn’t so long ago that I drove with sunroof open, heading southbound on A1A with the intercostal to my left and land to my right. I drove from Melbourne to Vero Beach. I knew there was a change in the mail. I knew something was coming my way. My guess is I tried to bury the thoughts because the change was too painful to consider.
It wasn’t that long ago that I sat at a meal, laughing and talking about the times when I was a small boy. I am fortunate that I can laugh now about the trouble I caused. I laughed about the silly things, like The Old Man’s strange dressing habits or the way he drove.
It wasn’t that long ago, Mom.
So why does it feel like decades have passed since I saw you last?
Your apartment in Boca belongs to someone else now. But you already knew that. You place in Delray Beach is occupied and the cottage in Vero Beach is occupied as well. I am sure by now your bed at the assisted living home is occupied by someone else too.
I have these memories and I hold onto them because this is my way of holding on to you. I understand you live somewhere else now. I understand we haven’t figured a way to reach you by phone and the mailman says the post office has yet to find a way to get letters beyond The Pearly Gates.
I miss you Mom. I miss the stream too and the peacock bass. I would go there when you would lay down to rest. I miss your little dog Selena. She was an old dog, and by now, I’m sure she is with you.
By the way, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a butterfly. I know its kinda cold out and the butterflies aren’t around this time of year. But I would appreciate if you could send me one somehow. This way I know you’re watching.
Tell Pop I miss him.