4. Chapter 4
For the next week, I couldn't get my mind off the mysterious man. I finally accepted that what happened to me was real. My own mother had a similar meeting with him, though I was still skeptical that it was the same person. I gave into the whole thing and let my mind and my heart believe everything. It felt good. It felt right. I started visiting the forest everyday in hopes of meeting my friend again. I chased down every movement I saw, only to find a bird or a squirrel. Still, I was determined that I would see him again. Then I would ask him all these questions in my head. I wanted to know who he was, where he was from, why he was here. I could feel a presence in the trees, as if I was being watched. I would call out to him to come out and speak with me. Nothing.
One month passed by and still, there was no sign of him. I had returned home late one evening, after visiting the forest. "I'm back." I called through the house as I walked in the door. Usually, my dad yelled back letting me know he heard me. This time the house was quiet. I knew he was home because his truck was there. As I walked to my room to get ready for bed, I noticed a flickering light from beneath my parent's bedroom door. 'Candles' I thought. Mother always loved candlelight. I paused when I heard singing. What caught me off guard was that it was my dad singing. Dad never sang, or at least I had never heard him before. The door was slightly open and I peeked inside. What I saw will never leave my memory. It was the most tender thing I ever saw. Dad was sitting in his recliner. My mother sat sideways on his lap, legs hanging over the arm of the chair. Her head rested on his chest and her hand caressed the side of his head. His face was buried in her long auburn hair as he sang their song.
* * *
Theirs was a whirlwind romance. My parents met when they were young. They say it was love at first sight. They were inseparable. After only six months, they decided to marry. Of course, it was looked down upon by both sides of their families but they saw past all that. My folks new how they felt about each other and nothing would get in their way. My mother's parents never really warmed up to my dad. It hurt them to know they didn't have their support. It was my dad's family that took them in, being too young and not having enough money to buy their own place. When they saved up enough, they bought a sweet little house in the country. My mother loved that house. Eventually, Grandpa passed away and Grandma couldn't run the farm on her own. My parents sacrificed their lovely little house by selling it and moving into my mom's childhood home with her mother. My dad took over the farm as my grandma got older. Mother took over the financial end of it. I think that somehow they always knew it would be their chore one day. This land has been in my mother's family since no one can remember. Nobody is sure who originally bought it. It just seemed like it was ours from the very beginning. There's no record of a purchase or who might have done so. It's always been a huge mystery. So you can see why they would never sell it. It's been passed along from generation to generation.
* * *
After witnessing my folks that night, I went to bed with such warmth in my heart. I swore that one day I would find the kind of love they had. I also swore that if one day this land should become mine, I would take care of it no matter what.
The next morning when I awoke, the house was unusually quiet. Dad was normally up and cooking Mother's breakfast by now. There was no sound of bacon frying or smell of coffee brewing. My heart immediately sunk in my chest when I looked out of my window. The black car was there. It was the local doctor's car. I always dreaded seeing it because it meant that my mother had a set back and needed the doctor. Something happened in the night. I threw on my sweatpants and a tee shirt and walked down the hall to my parent's room. The door was halfway open so I looked in. Mother was lying in her bed. Dad was sitting on the edge with his head in his hands. The doctor laid a comforting hand on his back, saying there was nothing more to be done.
"Dad?" I called softly from the open door. He slowly looked up and what I saw made my breath leave my body. His eyes were red and swollen from crying. He looked so lost. I was paralyzed with fear of what my mind already knew. I watched as the doctor leaned towards my dad and whispered something to him. Dad slowly nodded and thanked him. The doctor walked towards the door. As he went past me, he patted my shoulder. He didn't say a word but I could see what his eyes were saying. Then my dad got up from the bed and came over to me. He took me in his arms and held me so tight I thought he would break me in half. As he did, I looked around his arm to my mother lying in her bed. Not since before she got sick had I seen her look so at peace. She was no longer in pain. She was no longer full of sadness. She actually looked content and I knew she had left this world.
A few days later we buried my mother in the one place she loved the most. Way out on the edge of the forest was a great oak tree. Hundreds of years old it must have been. It was her favorite place since she learned to climb a tree. It was where she went when she was sad or just needed to get away from everyday life. This was her tree and one she had taken me to many times in my youth. It was only fitting that she be buried there and not in the family cemetery on the other side of the property. It was what she wanted most, to be close to the forest.
Being here made me think once more of my Hippy friend. It all seemed so surreal now, like a dream. With my mother's death came the realization that neither one of us saw what we thought we saw. She was the only one who knew what happened to me that day. When she admitted to seeing him too, it felt so real. Now that she was gone, it felt like he was gone too, as if it never happened. Did she really meet my longhaired blond friend when she was young or was it just her mind playing tricks as she was losing her battle with her disease? I began to think the latter was the truth.
I was fifteen when my mother died and what seemed like the end of my previous life was only the beginning of what was yet to come. If I had only known then what I know now…