This morning I was in the side yard with my three young boys, teaching them how to play catch.
The sober, industrious one was the most attentive and trying the hardest, as usual. He threw the ball to the impulsive one, who wasn't paying attention and never even moved as the ball whizzed by his head.
"No, no," I said, retrieving the ball. "You've got to make sure that your brother knows the ball is coming before you throw it. Hold it up, ask if he's ready, and then toss it to him."
The third child, the indolent one, was milling about on the edge of the game, obviously bored and ready to be off to new pursuits far from this instruction session with his father. It was unfortunate that he was not engaged, since he was the best athlete.
I showed the ball to the earnest boy. "Ready?" I asked.
He nodded and held up his glove. I tossed it to him underhand.
The ball ticked off his glove and smacked him in the mouth. He appeared stunned, trying to fight off tears but being unsuccessful at this as his face slowly scrunched up in pain and he started to cry.
I immediately moved upon him and clasped him to me. Since he was a child, he only came up to my waist. I pressed his face into my stomach and held him close, trying to soothe him. I couldn't take his pain away from him, but I hoped my close immediacy would quell the pain within him.
As I hugged my softly crying child to me, I looked at the other two. They were totally unengaged, not even looking at us. The child I was holding close had always cared the most about others, the other two, not so much, although they also could be solicitous at times.
How could this scene of intimacy around me be real? My three children were all adults now and I hadn't seen any of them in years, yet I was holding one and the other two were close by.
I recognized this natural, flowing experience for what it was, a dream. I didn't want to have thoughts of my children anymore. The youngest one had recently turned 21, which had brought to the forefront my overwhelming sadness over them being stripped out of my life as adolescents by the bitter divorce.
I opened my eyes and wrenched myself awake despite my deep sleep, dispelling all but the lingering, haunting memory of them.