Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Kauai on the Mississippi

A couple of days ago, I was taking an evening walk along the levy of the Mississippi River. It had been a hot day, even for Louisiana in the summer, so I’d waited until the sun had almost set to begin. I was listening to music on a set of earbuds, lost in the rhythm of my pace, when a cool rain surprised me.

Usually, when rain begins in south Louisiana in July, the rumble of thunder precedes its arrival. I turned the music down, and looked about. I still heard no thunder, and the cloud didn’t look like the towering cumulus one associates with lightning. It looked, actually, like the sort of cloud that brings a benign tropical shower. The rain felt gentle, cool, embracing. It felt like somewhere else.

In May, Rhonda, Dylan and I went to Kauai. (Thank goodness for all of those frequent flyer miles I've racked up "going to work.") It was our last chance to take a vacation independent of school year considerations, since Dylan starts kindergarten this year. Rhonda and I had a great time watching Dylan soak in the experience; he loved the beaches, the trail walks, and playing with local kids in the playgrounds.

One day, Rhonda had gone to buy a gift for her sister, and Dylan and I were feeding the fish at Lydgate State Park. (It’s the only place left on Kauai where feeding the fish is not discouraged.) We decided to walk up to the snack bar for lunch, and it suddenly darkened. A gentle rain began to fall as we walked, and Dylan asked me to carry him. The rain was cool, but not cold. It felt like little kisses against our bodies. Dylan giggled, then wrapped his arms around my neck and hugged me, nearly cutting my breath off. I choked a little, then laughed. “Sorry, Daddy,” Dylan said. “Punkin’, you’re getting strong,” I said. “I know,” he replied. He hugged me again, more gently, and I hugged him back.

I walked along the levy, with the Mississippi River to my left. My little boy, physically, was over two thousand miles away. But when I shut my eyes, with the gentle rain touching my skin, I could feel him hug my neck, and I could hear him giggle.

When I opened my eyes, he wasn’t there. I could still feel him, though.

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