Ringed by Fire and Smoke

Huge flames flicker along the ridges to the north and west of my house. In truth they are probably 10 miles away, but they are bright enough and broad enough, and the winds fierce enough, that I ponder my evacuation plan should the need arise.

I look closely at the distant fires, then climb into the truck in search of dinner with a friend from Alabama who is visiting here on business.

When I return, I decide it’s time to prepare, just in case…. not expecting to flee, but fearing the loss of those remaining bits of Patrick that I hold.

It takes about three hours, three hours to distill into a small collection the things I hold dear. It’s telling, these things I gathered up, and the things I prepared to leave behind.

Ready to load were Patrick’s writings and instruments, drawings and paintings. Left hanging on the walls were rally trophies, movie posters, cassette tapes and photographs.

Packed up were paintings by my other mom and other dad, my sister Gretchen, and sculpture from my folks. Left behind were CDs, DVDs, and most of my books, except Patrick’s.

I have boxed a couple of his jackets, and his suspenders, but abandon most of my other clothes except for my racing gear, because that defines who I am almost as much as my parents.

My computers would travel alongside Patrick’s, but the keyboards and monitors can be replaced and so were left on their respective desks.

He teased me about my car, calling it el dragón because of the way it roared, but I was prepared to leave it behind too, if necessary, in favor of my little truck that would carry these last remnants of my father’s life to safety.

Ultimately, my rule of thumb was this: take those things that are irreplaceable, just as he was irreplaceable, just as my other parents were irreplaceable.

The boxes and paintings are still stashed by the door, ready to be loaded should I need to run, but the risk is diminished. The winds have died down, the fire 15% contained and moving further north and west. My town is ringed by smoke, but the peril subsides.

Soon I shall have to unpack again, rearranging the art work on my walls and thinking about whether it’s time to store away my trophies for good.

Yes, the priority list reveals much about the things we hold dear.  I was unable to hold onto Patrick, but I do my best to hold onto my memories of him.