Thursday, July 21, 2016

Just A Bridge Away

In our backyard in Bakersfield the morning sun was already baking our lawn, but in Oregon the sky was overcast and the air was wet but cool when we pulled into a parking lot at Sirrosis Park in The Dalles.  I was drawn right away to the playground, a sophisticated complex of tunnels and bridges and stairways. As we unloaded the girls from their car seats Marcos' mom approached us and we all walked to the playground together, the sight only getting better the closer we got.  Eden sprinted ahead to begin climbing to the tops of the various slides while Marcos' mom took a seat on a bench.

"Would you mind holding Delilah?  So I can go play with Eden?"  "Grandma Nichols" happily obliged, reaching for the sweet smiling baby that charmed her Oregon family, and I dashed off to one of the structure's towers.  Eden was already engrossed in the slide and laughing with every attempt while her daddy waited for her at the bottom, so I worked my way through the maze.  I unsuccessfully tried the suspended balance beam, scaled two side by side tires, tried my hand at a set of monkey bars and parallel bars, and attempted  a stack of tires meant to serve as a ladder.

At some point I overhead my mother-in-law say to Marcos, "She said she was going to play with Eden, but it looks like she's the one doing all the playing!"  It was true.  Though I intermittently watched Eden as she played with her cousins or even by herself, or took a few moments to observe Delilah in the swings, I was lost in my own adventure.  Here and there I caught shadows of the 5 year old little boy that should have been with us, doing all of the things Eden just isn't old enough or coordinated enough or tall enough to do yet, sneaking up on his sister one minute, then holding her feet to assist her on the monkey bars the next.  Gabriel's memory, or more accurately, his hypothetical, is always there, a part of every experience.  That's my normal.

Around us the trees stretched high and park-goers weaved between them with their dogs, but not a trace of litter could be found to indicate that anyone had ever been to the park before we got there.  Other families arrived, their children racing up and down and across the child-sized fort.  Eden would stop to laugh or smile or shout orders at them, then pick right back up with whatever activity she happened to be performing.

While in Oregon we toured The Bonneville and Dalles dams, went on a cruise on the river, saw Multnomah falls, watched the trains dart by on their extensive railroads, and waded in the Columbia River - Just a few of the sights that Oregon has to offer.  But of all that we squeezed into that trip, in my memory our visit at Sirrosis Park will remain the most vivid.  There, I felt like we had a moment of Heaven, everyone there, happy, playing as they like, but together.  My heart felt full. I couldn't see my son, but at times, I even had to search for Eden and Delilah.  No matter where I turned, no matter where I went, there I felt like every one of them - Gabriel, Eden, Delilah, Marcos and even Baby Cude - were just a bridge away.  There I felt surrounded by everything I could ever want.  I felt whole.

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