April 8, 2017: Girl on the Train

A favorite picture of my sons.

Three brothers sitting on a train. A subway in Chicago to be exact. The year was 2014 with Ben ending his high school years. Grant was finishing 8th grade. Zach was preparing to move to Colorado to begin gunsmithing school.

They were oblivious to my picture taking.

From Ben's school jacket and untied shoe to Zach casually leaning on his youngest brother's shoulder with Grant's ever-prominent coif of hair, I find myself going back to this picture. A snapshot in time.

Yesterday Garrett and I took the train from the Rockie's game. As I sat in my seat next to my husband, I stared ahead at a space similar to the one that occupied my sons those years ago. I could visualize the picture of the boys in my mind's eye. Three years has passed. A lot has happened in the last three years.

As my mind wandered, Garrett chatted with me about some of his recent conversations. Strangers filled the spaces around us, coming on and off the train with each stop.

Garrett: "I asked my chiropractor about all of my recent aches and pains. How it stinks getting old. She said this is what happens in our 50's, but our athletic efforts of today will pay off later. Purportedly when we are 70, we will be happy as we will feel like we're 60. Hmmm. Do your buy that?"

I smile and nod my head in the affirmative.

The man across from us shakes his head to the music playing on his headphones. He is overweight and keeps his eyes closed the entire ride, drinking constantly out of an insulated cup. I briefly wonder what he is drinking, but decide it doesn't matter and focus my attention back to my husband.

Garrett tells me about a conversation he had with a friend who lives across the country. The friend had asked how long it's been since Garrett and I have been living like this. He was referencing our long-distance relationship in trying to best accommodate our kids while being married. Two states. Three states. But never one.

Garrett: "I told him eight years and he couldn't believe it. He said not many couples would be able to survive what we do."

I smile again, feeling the warmth of my husband next to me. His hand on my knee, giving it a squeeze with his last comment. It's amazing how even on those many days when we are apart, I can always remember his touch. Just like my sons as babies when I rocked them to sleep, I can close my eyes and remember the feel of their warm baby cheeks on my exposed shoulder. Nothing is more clear in my memory than the human touch.

The train keeps rolling and I notice a mom in a Rockie's shirt with her two young sons in purple ball caps. The boys rough-house and play. The mom smiles and lets them be. I read in her eyes the contentment of a day well spent.

The train keeps rolling and I hold Garrett's hand.

Garrett: "It's going to be a while. Quite a few more stops until we get to our car."

Stops continue and people come on and off. Garrett and I wait, taking in the ride.

I can hear a man telling stories behind me. He gets louder and the stories get better. I glance once and see he has an attentive audience. I hear bits of a gory war story (World War II?) and him saving the day. Next one was a story of him slicing open a whale in the middle of the Pacific.

And then I stopped listening. I have dealt with blowhards before. His voice now wanes in the distance. The train keeps rolling and I focus on the door.

I look to Garrett and he is watching to the door as well. The stopped train is picking up its next passengers, three seemingly homeless people. The younger man carries a case of bottled water. The elderly man follows behind with a dirty backpack and a weathered face. The third, an older woman, carries a dog who is her twin. Both with matching spiked hair and lacking a bath in any recent days, they appear to hold on to each other.

On second thought, I shamed myself for judging. They could turn up as the spotlight of a future documentary. World explorers taking on the Rockie's? Everyone has a story. Whatever theirs is, it no doubt comes with color commentary.

I think of my grown sons, and Garrett, and our aging parents. I think about our journey. I think about how often I ride the train alone without my husband. I think about a friend telling me to never wish time away, although I am now longing for the future while simultaneously missing the past.

Looking out the window, I watch the sites go by as though in slow motion as we sit and wait for our stop. A tree catches my eye. In the middle of a long concrete fence grows a random tree. Seemingly out of nowhere, it has bloomed where it was planted. Peculiar, but yet so natural.

And then Garrett tells me the next stop is ours. He squeezes my knee as we get up to continue our journey.

Today we went on a long bike ride through the foothills and this blog story came to me. This is what I wanted to write about; what was planted in my heart. As we pulled into our neighborhood completing our ride, the song below randomly played on my Pandora shuffle.

Serendipity. And so now I write. A girl on the train indeed.

John Mayer - Stop This Train


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