I promised him an after dinner walk, and so we bundled up, even though a warm bath sounded better to me than stepping out into the 34 degree evening. But I promised.
“Can I hold your hand?” he asked me as we stepped onto the road. How much longer will he ask me that question?
“I’ve got mittens on, I hope you don’t mind,” I told him.
We held hands, mine mittened, his gloved, and we walked, our breath puffing out before us. The air was damp and still, and we were the only souls outside. Immediately I was glad I kept my promise. He needs this time, undivided attention. No phone, no computer, no TV, no animals, no people, no errands, no laundry, no “just a second,” nothing to split my focus. Just us.
We walked and talked. He asked me questions. I answered. I recognized that he was thinking about the art of conversation. Practicing asking questions, practicing what his skills trainer had talked about on Thursday. How awesome.
“This is so nice. I can feel that spring is coming. What do you hear?” I asked him.
“Cars!” he exclaimed.
“Yup, I hear cars too. I also hear the birds. Birds singing means spring is coming.”
We kept walking. He hoped to see some animal tracks.
The sky melted into the ground. White and gray, streaked with dirt. We followed the path down and around the bend. A field stretched out before us, ending in trees, their bleak branches reaching into the dismal sky. I wished for a beautiful blue sky, a stark contrast to the gritty snow covered ground. Then I noticed the sun, a pale yellow circle visible behind the haze and bare branches. I watched it as we walked, thinking about how rare it is to be able to look directly into the sun.
There is beauty, even now, when winter will not let go.
“Do you see those bare patches under the pine tree?” I asked him, wondering if he was picturing a brown bear hunkered down beneath the tree.
“There is no snow under there.”
“You’re right. Why isn’t there any snow under the tree?”
“Because it blocked it.”
“You are so smart Roc and you are right! The pine branches blocked the snow leaving it bare underneath. Now what do you think about these tree branches?” I asked, pointing to the nearest tree.
“They didn’t block the snow.”
“They don’t have leaves.”
“What do you call that?”
Not long ago I explained bear vs. bare. I wondered if it stuck. It did.
There is beauty in these small steps.
Water covered the sidewalk, mud covered the edges, and snow mounds rose up on both sides. Ahead was our destination. The little community garden, hidden under the snow, only the posts marking each 15 x 15 plot popping out through winter. I promised I would show it to him. Show him where we might have a garden this summer, if we are awarded one of the plots I applied for.
“Can I have a piggy back ride?”
“hmmm….we could go back. Or go back a ways and then walk on the road,” I suggested, thinking that he is much taller and heavier than he used to be.
“No! A piggy back! Please!!”
“Okay, climb on,” I relented, squatting down. Immediately I realize that I am stronger than I remember and so is he. Instead of hanging on me like a sack of potatoes, he holds on. I walk through the water. We take a peak at the garden area. Talk about what we could plant this summer. Then it’s time to walk back through the water. I lower myself and he climbs on. I walk in silence, thinking about how easy this day has been, how nice this walk has been, just the two of us. I think about the weight of my only son on my back as I carry him.
“I love you Roc,” I tell him.
I smile and after a few beats he whispers,
“I love you too.”
I have found so much beauty on this silent, gritty, gray evening.
I am so lucky.