I love breathing the crisp fall air, feeling the cool breeze against my face. I notice there are a lot of people in the park today. Watching the children playing, a movement catches my eye. I stare at the silent fluttering of the red, orange, and yellow leaves drop to the ground. The various park noise magnifies as images of a year ago begin racing in my mind. One, then another, then another… oh my God, why has this started again? Oh, yes, the colors, red and orange and yellow, bleeding together. My mind is transported back to the war. That damn war! It's hateful tentacles still grip me; like a sea monster that won't release! It refuses me peace. Yes, that is it. It refuses me. “You must not forget…you must not forget…” Please, I just want to forget! The same gut wrenching turmoil builds inside of me and I can feel the hard knot inside my stomach. It makes me want to retch. Vomit out all those images. Pleeaassee…..STOP!
A child rides his bike in front of me and pulls my mind back from the war to the here and to the now. Yes, I am home, finally home. Home sweet home. I am so happy my wife is beside me. I am so lucky she has stayed with me. I am so grateful. I know it hasn't been easy on her.
A young girl giggles as she chases a green ball in front of a bench where an old woman is sitting. She's doing something with her hands. She's making something. That's when the color catches my eye. Red. I notice she is making a small red sweater. Then I remember. Oh yes, I remember. An image slaps me across the face and my throat feels tight and restrictive. The tears well up in my eyes and I cannot hold them back. That gut-wrenching image refuses me peace; a small child lying on the ground, lifeless and bloodied, wearing a red sweater. The restriction in my throat releases and, I sob.
I was hoping that taking this walk in the park would help Bill. The fall colors are so beautiful here. The trees are dressed in their fall finest. The children are playing against a background of grass, green and freshly mowed. Most of the flowers are still attired in their bright colors, making a stunning impression.
There is a hotdog stand near and I can smell the warm weiners mixed with spicy mustard. It reminds me I am hungry and my stomach growls, but I have been watching my weight and restricting my meals. The hotdog vendor is dressed in denim jeans and a pristine white shirt with a bow-tie.
The children are laughing as they chase their ball, trying to keep it away from some, kicking it back and forth to others. Some type of game, I surmise.
There is an old woman sitting on the bench and knitting. As I look further I notice she is making a small red sweater. It occurs to me that I have forgotten to buy my new-born niece a gift. What should I get her? I decide clothes would be a wise choice. I hope Bill and I will have a baby someday.
I feel Bill's hand becoming warm and sweaty and hear him crying. I realize it has started again. I feel useless. I have no idea how to help him find peace since he has returned from the war. He is just so different now. He is getting worse. I stop walking and turn to him, “I love you, you know. I want to help you feel better.” He looks at me through watery blue eyes, smiles, and hugs me.
The Old Woman:
“They all think I am an old woman.” (She looks at something sitting on the bench). “I'm not you know!” She busys herself clicking the needles, “You have to be young to have a baby!” Click, click, click. “When I am finished with this, you will have a warm sweater to wear this winter. Can't let you get cold!”
I notice a young couple walking toward me. He is crying and she is hugging him. My mind takes me back to my William, my dear husband killed in the war. I feel tears forming in my eyes. “I sure do miss him.” Letting out a sigh, I return to my knitting.
My ball rolled close to this old woman. When I went to get it I noticed her talking and wondered, “Why is she talking to a doll?”