As my arms embraced one of my favorite stories, this one written by Washington Irving called Rip Van Winkle, I drifted off to sleep. The story itself has taken a special meaning as I find myself in a similar predicament as I wiped the sleepiness from my eyes. I begin this next part of my journey strangely for me underneath the same beautiful old oak tree I’ve become accustomed to.
All these years as I was gazing up at the clouds I must have fallen asleep unaware that my world would forever be changed. Image my surprise when I stood to go home only to find out I wasn’t alone but standing in front of a crowd of people that stretched as far up the hill as I could see and even down into the valley below. They must have come out of the woodwork because they were everywhere.
Many of them I had known all my life and then some as I looking down and to my left there was a freshly made grave with a nice oak coffin not yet lowered. As my vision improved I realized I didn’t need my old glasses any longer as I recognized my family and friends in the front row. Sadness on many of their faces as Gary my brother in law, Tina’s husband, walked the path toward this place I lay and stood close to me.
As he began to speak I realized that my hearing had greatly improved I heard him pronounce my name so many times as we joked about my hard of hearing but this time it rang as clear as the first time I heard Dad crying out to me. As he spoke I even heard someone in the third row, I think it was Doc, mentioning something about my donation jar and as I wondering what they were talking about I looked over and inside my old drinking jar it was filled to the brim with money and a lollypop. I had never seen so much money before and they all knew I would never accept any of it except the lollypop.
It was then I realize the fine oak coffin with sterling handles. As good carpenter Gary was he must have spent a good amount of time making this as I looked upon him I knew I could never repay him for the kind deed he just did. I could never afford something as grand as I wondered who must have helped him. As I looked around the place I recognized so many carpenters from five different counties. As I watched as the multitude of people spoke of me and reminded me what I love about this place. Those friends who were laid to rest in the famous cemetery below had made this special occasion all dressed in their finest uniforms.
My best friend Frisbee who had died in the an unnamed war, who medals reminded me of so many missions we went on together, was among the many who was present and as he came forward he shouted “Hoo-Ra” one last time in celebration as we saluted each other then embraced. As he turned and disappeared I saw my eldest daughter, Jen, take her position near me. As I felt a tug from below a little girl beside me asked “Are you Santa Clause?”
As I heard another familiar voice telling her “No that’s my Dad the storyteller” and then added “He’s a jolly old man also but his gifts are of the imaginary kind.” The little girl replied to her “Oh” as though disappointed by the fact. As Crystal appeared and stood beside me a smile on her face as big as could be while she placed her hand in mine as we listened in on Jen.
As my oldest daughter Jennifer spoke “I remember when father brought us here when we were just kids and as he would always begin his stories this way” she paused then said “There’s just too many of you for me to do this so if you wouldn’t mind taking this moment to say your name” and as she continued “I don’t expect I will ever be able to remember them all the way he always did.” A loud laughter and praise came from all as tears began to flow from this old gents face.
Many remembered it was customary that before beginning my stories I would kindly ask them each their names. Then I explain to those that had never participated that when I included those around me in my stories it was customary for them as their names were spoken for the first time in the story that they stand and be recognized. They were dignities of the story and as such were given my greatest attention during their story. Occasional as you would imagine all of those dignities lived up to their names as some went on to become great men and women but to me they all were equals in my heart.
As I watched I recognized many such ladies and gentlemen as from far away as the White House, Parliament, and even the Vatican and I felt a sense of accomplishment as they told their own stories. There were others I admired as well as I realized they had mysteriously grown up on me. Though they were plain dressed to those around them I saw them through a different light as they were all dressed in fine clothing and fancy dresses.
They had a husband or wife who stood beside them with their arms around them now. As I noticed many now had children of their own. Even Jen had one on the way still as I watch her Ireland looking up in the sky. How strange my life had been mostly lived telling stories of those who forms that surrounded me now and even some that were in the skies above.
That who names filled the sky above from ancient times and as time passed before me something wonderful was happening as I notice that most of the children in the audience had shifted their attention to the sky above. It seems Mr. Floppy and many of his friends had made their own welcoming ceremony for me.
While it may be true that over the years I had come to know almost everyone in these parts. As a young man I walked many of the roads traveled to many faraway places. As I did I venture into many people lives some respectable some not as respectable. As my jobs always varied in my youth I ran through the towns in these parts selling or trading almost anything and everything to make a living. I wasn’t a perfect person and there were things I wish I didn’t do and I can never change that.
As Sara took her position alongside me now I saw some of the people I had hurt in my past. Some I had fought with and some I had an unkind word or two with but as Sara spoke they surprise me. As they came forward to shake my hand and for some to thank me for helping them the most surprising was that fellow I beat up for saying something unkind about my sister some fifty years or so back. As he shook my hand he told me “If it wasn’t for that beaten he would never thought about all the other women he had done wrong” as he turn to leave he added “I would had never found the one that almost got away” as he took hold of his wife hand.
As Sara spoke about how proud she was to have two fathers I smiled and as I took a hard look around I couldn’t find Paul, her father. As she talked about how I was always there for her and the time I presented her with an old handkerchief on her wedding day. It was here I finally got to meet the woman who handkerchief it belonged to. She was a pretty woman and as she hugged me I was engulfed in the sweet smell of honeysuckle.
As she turned and walked away I noticed all the young men eyes continued to follow her as many still couldn’t stop admiring those things of beauty that God created for mankind. Something’s are hard to let go of even in death and life teaches us to embrace moments. Cherish those moment with family it will be gone before you know it and so I realized Crystal was leading me on.
Many came to pay their respects to an old friend. A kind man that found the time to listen or who helped them out during hard times. Many came today to bear witness to his acts of kindness and to place something in an old jar that rest at the foot of his soon to be grave. While he never demanded money he always brought along a small jar some thought it was a place to put money but all it really was an old jar he drank from on his long journey to his favorite spot.
There were a few, of his personal regrets, that showed up that day and as one man who stood out among the others he notice a darkness like a shadow as it moved he realized it was not alone but there were many other dark figures that now mingled among the audience as these creatures stood among some of the people all were listening in to those thoughts of people they were close to as they were unaware of them.
As the clouds slowly began gathering above them all it wasn’t long until Sara got Jen attention and pointed to the sky above. Meanwhile the storyteller attention had turned to focus on an old friend as she asked me “Did you bring Mr. Floppy?” For many a strange formation appeared in the sky that Sunday afternoon as the storyteller was lay to rest under his favorite old oak tree many felt love.
Later that evening the caretaker Teri, my brother one of my past regrets I suppose, showed up to put the final touches on my grave. As he stood over me, he was still a little upset about not being there, it had been raining all afternoon and he seemed a bit upset about something. As he normally did when we talked, he light up a cigarette he said something strange, “Goodbye, bro.”
As I viewed him from above I asked a favor from the man above. Don’t know if Teri will ever suspect it but as GOD provide a ray of light upon Teri and a moment of peace as the rain stopped long enough for Teri and I to share our last goodbyes as he put the finishing touches on my grave. My last thoughts of this world were of my embrace as I held him, my brother, one last time as my eyes closed and then darkness. The cancer that was bothering him would be gone by his next doctor’s visit.
Like many before me I may never know if my works will ever flourish into something other than the pages they are being written on. As my place in this world slowly dissolves many will soon forget me the only evidence of my existence is what little piece of me is left in those that continue to walk among you. For Jen my passing will bring with it some headaches as she tries to figure what to do with all the junk I left behind as she begins to explore her possibilities she may come across many things of interest.
You see the house has been passed down through the centuries and sure it comes with problems but as she will soon discover there are secrets walls and chambers within. I suspect her first excavations begin when she comes across a hidden stairwell that peaks her interest. While some people in the government may not be as delighted that their secrets have been uncovered it will lead her and perhaps some followers on a whole new direction in photography.
While my personal study may hold a multitude of books, strange artifacts and a concealed passageway eventually Jen auctions off what little can be sold to hold onto the old house. Many things of interest indeed are among the auction but for Gary Lambert one of my possessions would be the beginning of his own story sadly it has already started by the time you finish my first chapter.
While I’ve never been a wealthy man. It seems I’ve left a little something for everyone. Even you as you venture into the Forgotten Realm.