Young Mitch sat quietly in the shade of a tree that was probably 100 years old, or more. Spring had arrived and the air carried a hint of warmer days to come. With each passing day, the warm southern breeze chased the snow up the mountain, soon to disappear. Mitch loved all seasons. He loved the warm, the cold, and everything in between. To him, his cup was always overflowing and his gratitude for even the smallest things spilled over me and caused me to be grateful, too. He was my little boy, yet he was my teacher … and I thank heaven for that.
So on this spring morning, Mitch sat in the shade of an almost ancient tree away from others, glad to be alive.
Like me, Mitch was content to be alone. He was shy by nature, but that wasn’t why he enjoyed solitude. Instead, he liked aloneness because he was a thinker – and when his environment was quiet, he could think more clearly. As he grew from tiny boy to a young man, he always surprised me by his insights. I have long admired the quote, a derivative from author Walter Scott, “Oh, what a tangled web do parents weave when they think their children are naive.” Before my wife and I had children, I always sensed the truth of this saying – but when we had Mitch, I discovered how true it was. Often, his perceptive nature was camouflaged by his quiet ways.
Watching my boy in the shade was surreal; his t-shirt bearing the emblem of a favorite video game reminded me of his youth, but I also sensed there was a much older soul that dwelled within his body, hiding in plain sight. There were two Mitchell’s before me … the child I could see and the old soul that was slowly revealing himself.
I didn’t know that he only had a few years left. I just sensed time was precious and that I should make moments matter. I had a growing, urgent feeling to gather memories … as if to store them up and prepare for harder times to come. I see it now. I see what those almost spiritual impressions were trying to tell me.
I am glad I listened to those feelings in those younger years. For in times of grief, these tender moments with my son bring my weary heart a measure of peace … and for that I am grateful.