Sunday, July 24, 2011

Alone on this Roller Coaster

Yesterday I went to Kennywood with my children. It was a family reunion, really. All of my cousins, aunts, and uncles were there. It brought back all kinds of memories of my childhood and going to that park every year with my family. One memory in particular, stood out. When I was about six, my father took me on my very first "adult" roller coaster. As far as I can remember, he must have promised me that I'd get to ride one that day. Then the day came and went with no roller coaster. So, at around 10pm, as the park was closing, my dad kept his promise and took me on a roller coaster. It was a big deal because it wasn't just a roller coaster. It was the Laser Loop. Way back then, it was the first upside down roller coaster Kennywood had ever seen. My dad was taking me into the big leagues.

So yesterday I was at Kennywood with my kids. For most of the day, my son was with my mother and the other grandmothers, riding rides in Kiddie Land with his young cousins. But I promised myself I'd take him on his first "adult" coaster at some point during the day. He's six now. I thought it would be fitting. Of course the Laser Loop is long gone, so we rode the Racers. He acted brave, but I knew he was scared as soon as we hit the first hill. He looked up at me in shock and grabbed my arm. By the time the ride ended, though, he was hooked. He loved it.

The fact that he rode a roller coaster isn't so much a big deal. The fact that I got to ride with him isn't either. The thing that hit me as that moment came and went, is that I was around 6 or 7 when that moment in my life happened. My father would have been gone shortly after that moment, because he died when I was 7. What hit me in that realization, is that I'm running out of memories. I have given a lot of thought, over the past year, to all of the moments my father and I shared. The things he said to me. The things we did. There are so many things that I have done with my son as a way to honor, or perhaps mimic, my father. But my son is reaching the age I was when I lost my father. He will be seven in a month. There really aren't many more memories for me to recreate. I have no memories of me at age 8 or 9 and my father doing such and such. He wasn't there when I was 8 or 9. As was my fear when I wrote the book, I will soon be flying blind.

I used to believe that I wouldn't live long enough for any of this to matter. I used to believe that I was destined to die young like my father. I now know that not to be true. My destiny is what I make it. I intend to be here to help my son through his mid life crisis. But that thought brings me to the reality that troubles me. I'll have to go through mine alone. From here on out, I'm on my own for all of it.

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