A week before Karl died, we decided we weren't spending enough time together, just us, so we planned on making at least every other Thursday a 'date night'. I think about that first (and regrettably last) date night a lot. Part of our evening we spent at a little park about a mile from the house. There is a path that overlooks the river, and a railroad track runs behind a few benches set in a little grassy area.
When we arrived at this spot, a family was there with a little boy. He was about 4 years old, and climbing on the fence to see where the rocks he was throwing were landing. He wasn't strong enough to get them in the river, so he asked Karl to throw one. The boy’s parent’s didn’t seem to mind, so we threw a few rocks in, and Nathanial (who introduced himself as we tossed stones) seemed delighted that Karl was so strong he could get them to the water.
Soon we ran out of stones, so Nathanial grabbed Karl’s hand and started dragging him off to the railroad tracks to fetch more. With a glance at his parents, who again seemed not to be disturbed, Karl followed along, helping the boy pick rocks that would fly well.
We spent about 10 minutes there, playing with Nathanial, chatting a bit with his parents, who we decided had to be the grandparents, raising the child as their own. While he called them “Mom” and “Dad,” they were easily in their 50s, and it seemed unlikely that they were his birth parents. Nathanial was a sweet, well behaved, outgoing kid – whatever the circumstances, I think they were doing a fine job.
As we left the park, we saw the family walking to their car. Be beeped the horn and waved, and Nathanial waved back, calling a cheerful “Goodbye! Nice to meet you!”
Karl smiled benignly. “That’s what Elliot will be like in a few years.” Our boy wasn’t walking yet, and talking still seems a ways off, even now. Karl had nieces and nephews, but none who he saw often, so this was a rare glimpse into this particular age – an age of openness, questions, and wonder. I could see how much Karl looked forward to that time with his son.
While nothing really takes away the pain of missing him, and having him miss Elliot growing up, I’m so very grateful for this evening walk we had with Nathanial. In a small way it gave Karl a surrogate moment with his son; one that he wouldn’t have otherwise had he not taken the outreaching hand of a child.