Having an exceptional memory is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because you seldom forget anything, especially things that matter, and it’s a curse because, well, you seldom forget anything! Fortunately, most of my memories are fond ones, a by-product of my having cherry-picked the ones I allow to populate the “living spaces” in my life (http://tinyurl.com/lhaagl3). Some are not (http://tinyurl.com/lu4rsxk). However, experience has taught me that, if I’m attentive and willing to look beyond the “personal crisis” of the moment, there often is a sliver of a silver lining to be found embedded in even the darkest of the not-so-fond memories – an image or truth that affords an opportunity for growth, plants a seed of hope or serves to quiet the inner storms just long enough to allow me to regain much needed perspective.
And so it was ten years ago as I sat down to dinner with my then 19 year-old son at a nice restaurant in North Dallas. We were en route home from Kansas at the time and, for reasons that are mostly inconsequential to this post, it had been a very long and difficult day. Between seemingly interminable car rides, airport delays and plane rides and two prior sit down meals, we had long since exhausted all the words we had to say to (at times scream at) one another and, in the process, expended a week’s worth of emotional energy. To borrow a phrase from a friend, I’d had enough (http://tinyurl.com/me4ocmw). All I (and, I suspect, my son) wanted to do was eat (in silence), walk back to the hotel, get a good night’s sleep and keep our fingers crossed that tomorrow would be a better (more peace-filled) day.
That’s when I saw them – the young couple sitting at a candle-lit table near the window, bearing the unmistakable look of love. What made it so unmistakable that it was plainly visible clear across the dimly lit dining room, that 10 years later the image would be as clear in my mind as if I’d seen it yesterday? Was it the sometimes playful, sometimes seductive, but always peaceful smiles that graced their faces? Was it their arms – outstretched, holding and tenderly caressing each other’s hands? It was all of those things (and more), but mostly it was their eyes – the way they looked at each other – eyes fixed on searching one another’s soul, not for flaws that they could stockpile as ammunition for some future petty squabble, but for tiny doorways that might lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the gift sitting across the table – eyes in search of adventure and filled with gratitude.
As our dinner arrived and I was catapulted back into my own moment, I struggled to hide my tear-filling eyes from my son fearful that he would mistakenly feel responsible for them, when, in fact, they were borne of hope – a gift from the young couple by the window – hope that one day the young man sitting across the table from me (and his sister) would be fortunate enough to know and be beneficiaries of that kind of love – a love that consumed them, that just when they thought they’d had their fill of it would leave them thirsting for more, that in the other’s absence, left them physically aching for the other’s touch, a love that never stopped eagerly searching for those little doorways and the promise of something new hidden on the other side of their thresholds – and that, when it came, they would be willing/able to stop long enough, be vulnerable enough to see it and fully embrace it.
And to think, had my own darkness not momentarily distracted me, had I not looked beyond myself and “above” the emotional clutter of a difficult day, I might never have seen the silver lining that was there for all the world to see that night or experienced the soothing silent tears that I finally “allowed” to stream down the side of my face.