Thursday, February 23, 2012




    Hey Little Man,

    We love this place, don't we? It is a serene and gentile place. Somewhere that we can share for these moments every once and a while. We sit in thought and smile, pondering life's questions. I never had all the answers, but you always treated me as if I did. And I thank you for that, John-John. And I love you, Grandson.

    There you stand, hands in pockets fumbling, clutching the seeds we brought from the machines.

    "Ducky gumballs, Gramps?" you always asked.

    I suppose it would appear that way to you my young friend. The equipment looks the same as the contraption that dispenses the brightly colored spheres on which you'd chew for hours.
    Your grandfather will always hold these moments dear to my heart.

    Watching from this bench, I am amazed at the amount of trust those ducks have in you, Johnny-boy! You appear so calm and generous with your morsels; you share their demeanor. Oh, Grampa's little man, we indulge in so many things together, I can't believe how you've grown. A little boy for now, soon to be a young man in an ever-changing world. A world that will hold the promise of many great things all because you are in it. You can make a difference, J.J. I believe in you.

    I laugh now. Your pockets are empty, but the ducks...they follow you wanting more. You run and they hurry behind you. I love how you've turned out your pockets as if the mallards will understadn that feeding time is over. Hands raised now in exasperration; the duck mimic your gesture, flapping their wings back at you.

    And you laugh. That joyful noise that I've taken pleasure in since you were born. We had an immediate bond, you and I, a connection that brings us to this park every thursday for the past three years. I'm sorry Gramps doesn't run with you much anymore. These old legs just can't keep up with your unbridled enthusiasm. The heart is willing...

    It's almost time to leave this place John-John. We've had another good visit, haven't we? We laughed together. We fed the ducks and skipped stones on the lake. You and I had discussed important things, like what it's like to be older. Will girls always be yucky? Will I still love you when you're nine? Just remember... older is okay as long as you learn from it as much as you can. You'll grow to find that girls are as disgusted with you as you are with them. And they'll always love you for it. I'll love you when you're nine, as I've loved every step until now.

    There's just one thing we didn't discuss. But, because we had so much fun, I don't think we need to worry about my cancer today. I love you, Grandson.


    "Papa" John

    1. Such a good message, poignant indeed, Walt. :)

  2. Oh gosh, Walt! How poignant. What a bittersweet love letter.

  3. Beach Blanket Bingo

    Jeremy reached into the bag and pulled out some bread crumbs. A flock of seagulls bobbled and wobbled over to the little boy, hungry for some treats.

    “What kind of bread is it?” asked Raymond, who was one of the birds.

    Jeremy shrugged. “Not sure, but I think it’s regular old bread. Sorry. Is that all right?”

    “I’d prefer brioche,” replied Raymond. “Plain bread is so…so…”

    “Plain?” Bingo snickered. A couple of the other gulls cawed and flapped their wings at her joke.

    Raymond lifted his beak in the air. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t eat the bread; I simply meant, I’d prefer if it were brioche.”

    Jeremy glanced down at the bag and then looked at Raymond. “It’s the best I can do. Since I’m only two years old, I can’t tell the grown-ups what you guys would really like. I can’t tell them what I’d like either. Whenever I speak, mostly they coo and stuff, but they don’t seem to get much of what I’m saying. It’s really frustrating. You know?”

    Bingo shook her feathered head. “Don’t you give it another thought, Jeremy. We’re happy to get whatever you’re giving. Raymond’s just a snob.”

    “Excuse me. I’m an epicure!” said Raymond, pompously.

    “Whatever,” said Bingo, adding, “But just so you know, the grown-up humans don’t get us very well either. Most think we’re a noisy, dirty bunch on the whole, and that we only live to fly over their heads and drop nasty surprises on ‘em. If you catch my meaning.”

    Jeremy giggled.

    Right at that moment, from a faded, sandy beach blanket nearby, Jeremy’s rather cranky Uncle Bentley yelled, “Jeremy! Enough with those noisy, dirty birds. They carry disease. Come over here now.”

    Jeremy’s little shoulders sagged – until Raymond grinned (as much as a gull can grin.) He said, “Well, considering what Jeremy’s uncle just said about us, perhaps it’s time to complete the sentence, Bingo.”

    With that, Bingo, Raymond and the rest of the flock spread their wings – and flew over Uncle Bentley’s beach blanket.

    1. Humorous and I enjoy your fun and easy dialogue, RJ, very natural. :)


    Jack doesn’t realize it, but our outing today is more for me than him. It has been a long winter! I don’t know who said the “terrible twos” were the hard years; the “throwing-tantrum-threes” has been almost enough to do me in. Mom always said things come full circle. I need to remember to thank Mom for her endless patience with me when I was a little boy.

    Combining Jack’s “throwing-tantrum-threes” with my cabin fever—I was never so happy to hear the familiar sound of the geese returning to our shore.

    “You won’t remember this conversation, Jack. But long before you were born, your mom and I would come to this very spot. We would swim in the summer, have picnics in the fall, ice skate on the frozen lake in the winter, and feed the geese every spring—just like we’re doing today.”

    Watching Jack chase the geese, I seen Jacqueline’s smile. He even has the cadence of her giggle.

    “Your mom and I would spend hours talking about everything under the sun. We even talked about our dream of one day sharing this place with our family. That’s YOU, Jack.”

    Hearing his name, he turned to me, and squealed, “Love you, Daddy!”

    “Oh Jacqueline, you would have loved watching this. Jack has somehow gotten his arms around the neck of one of these geese—he’s fearless! He’s just like you, Honey.”

    “Mine, Daddy?”

    I can’t help but laugh at our little boy. “Maybe that goose would help keep you corralled at home, Jack.”

    Yes, this outing was just what I needed. I’d forgotten how close I feel to Jacqueline when I’m here. It took me a long time to fulfill the promise I made to her that day, the day you held Jack for the first—and last—time.

    “I will be back, Jacqueline, and will tell Jack all about you.”

    1. Funny we both have "Jacks," I didn't even read first! Love your story such a natural flow, beautiful. :)

    2. Yes! I love that we both chose "Jack." :)


    It was cold at the shore, being late spring, but I was happy for the sun and my beautiful boy bundled in his red, down coat toddling about, (sometimes taking a tumble headlong into the sand). It always surprised me to see so many different types of birds all gathering on the same strip of beach. Tiny sand-pipers with their fast feet always amused us the most. They seemed to almost levitate following the swift rising and receding of ebb and flow.
    Seals gather in Dexter Bay at this time of year to mate and this year was no different. Their round black heads bobbed as they floated on the swells, they were close enough for us to see their shiny, mysterious eyes sparkling at us.

    Looking ahead I saw a dark rounded mound, small and still lying on the sand. My breath caught in my throat as I wondered what the seemingly lifeless mass could be.

    “Come here, Jack, don’t go too close without me,” I directed my son as I gathered his little hand in mine and moved forward.

    “What is it?” He inquired with concerned eyes, peering toward the soft lump.

    “I think it’s a baby seal,” I paused picking Jack up and edging round-side the front of the animal. I could see the baby breathing, almost undetectable, rising and falling of its body. The gray fur looked so soft, I reached down tentatively to touch it. Velvet.
    “Is he okay, mama?” Jack asked quietly, his baby voice so tender and touching.

    “It must be injured,” I offered, half statement, half question leaning over and inspecting for any visible wounds.

    The breeze suddenly picked up and I saw cloud cover rolling in briskly in the distance. I began to wonder whether this baby would in fact be okay. Setting Jack down I retrieved my cell phone from my pocket and searched the number for animal control. My own baby had seemed to lose interest and was digging a hole in the sand with a bit of driftwood. Good, I thought as I keyed in the number and pushed send. be continued....

  6. ...Trading Places Continued...

    “Good morning, this is Bill, Dickens Animal Control, how can I help you?” I heard the professional voice on the other end of the line ask.

    “Yes, good morning, this is Linda Phelps and my son and I are walking down here at Dexter Bay. We’ve found a baby seal on the shore here and it seems to be in some distress, it’s not moving but it is breathing,” I reported as clearly as possible trying to annunciate my speech over the crashing of waves.

    “Oh, thank you, Mrs. Phelps, I’ll patch this through to our guys in the field right now and send someone right over,” offered Bill, we exchanged good byes and I informed him that I’d stay until the crew arrived.

    Suddenly my heart stopped, I realized I had not kept track of Jack and couldn’t see or hear him. I tried to stay calm and searched first the waterline, fearing the worst. I then looked toward the pale sand dune and tall yellow grass, then beyond to the thick row of dark, green pines bordering the coastline.

    “JACK!” I called loudly searching, my heart clamoring in fear. Suddenly the sun burst through thick clouds and a single column of light beamed down upon a solitary seal, just a short way out from the shore, seemingly pushing a small mass with bright red on it. I froze and then came to my senses running toward the water. The seal was so close, her bright eyes and whiskers shone in the sun. She stopped and I ran into the water, she retreated diving into the deep. I grabbed Jack and gathered him onto the shore.

    As if right on cue the animal patrol team arrived and sensing trouble came running quickly down the sandy beach. Time stopped for me then and I watched as if floating outside of my body as the team did CPR and successfully removed the water from my poor baby’s lungs and got him breathing again.

    “Oh, Jack, Jack…” I cried as he sputtered and coughed the last of the water out of his little lungs.

    They wrapped him in a wool blanket that they had and we together rushed to their truck to get him to the hospital and make sure he was going to be okay.

    A day later Bill, from animal control called to tell me how sorry he was and that he hoped my son was doing okay. I explained that he was okay and apologized feeling embarrassment at my mistake. I inquired of the baby seal’s condition because I was curious and concerned and wanted to change the topic.

    “Yes, that baby is okay, too,” Bill answered, “We took him in and checked him out a bit to make sure there wasn’t something terribly wrong and we released him into Dexter Bay this morning. We’ve been keeping a close eye on the baby all morning and he seems to be getting along with the rest of his family just fine,” Bill explained.

    My heart felt a sense of ease in hearing the update and I offered another round of “sorry,” and “thank you,” we said our cordial “goodbyes,” and hung up the line.

    The crackling of the open-front fire place brought me to present and I pondered the irony of it all. While that baby seal needed to return to the ocean I had to retrieve mine from the dangerous depths. I was saving that mama seal’s baby while she was saving mine. I’ll never forget the soft yet bright look in that seal’s eyes. I will hold it into forever and with it a sense of hope and a feeling of unity and fragility a commonality in that we're all just trying to live and in the meantime we can help each other, too.

    © Hannah Gosselin and Metaphors and Smiles, 2012.

    1. LOVE wrapped in shared wonder. Trading Places, indeed!

      Great story, Hannah! :)

  7. Thank you so much, Paula!! So glad you enjoyed it! :)