How in the hell can a person
go to work in the mornin'
and come home in the evenin'
and have nothin' to say?

(Excerpt from John Prine's Angel From Montgomery)

These days, I find myself with almost too much time on my hands and me, being somewhat the inquisitive sort, find myself brushing the dust off old photo albums and taking solitary strolls down that place called memory lane.

As I meander through the pages and look at all the smiles and goofy faces stuck between the pieces of plastic that seem to act like some sort or preservative, I allow a wry smile of my own to cross my lips and try to stifle a laugh or two between the tears.

My God, where have all the years gone?

Pressed between those pages are pictures of white sand beaches down in South Carolina and pool parties from who knows where. There are birthday celebrations that are encased like fossils stuck inside a stone only they that make that sticky noise plastic makes when when it hasn't been opened for such a long time. Like peeling back layers of an onion, each flip of the page takes me back to places that were once thought to be long forgotten but in reality were only fingertips away.

Most of the photos are of Anna. There's the one of her first pony ride where it looks like she's holding on for dear life but she has a smile on her face that almost looks like she's being stretched. There's the one of her when she was on the toilet when she was first being "potty trained" and the look of concentration on her face is only partly hidden by the dark sunglasses she decided to wear for the occassion. In the back of my mind, I'm safe in the knowledge that one day, when she flips though them at her own leisure and arrives at that one, she's gonna want to kill me.

There's pictures of faces with gap toothed smiles and over the top kiddy make up that were taken before the concept of being overly self-concious in front of the camera began to set in. There's sky blue water so clear you can see right through it and there's squinting against the glare of the sun as it reflects off the same. There's the peeling of shrimp and the tugging at crab lines.

Other pages tell the story of the trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and impossibly steep sand dunes and ice cold crystal blue water and beaches scattered with driftwood and evenings spent combing the beach for agates. There's the turbulance and white water left in the wake of waterfalls and the calmness of the river only a couple hundred yards away.

(Note to self, make sure you destroy those pictures of you with what qualifies as an "almost" mullet. Not very flattering to say the least.)

There are more birthday parties and furniture that has long since made its way to the scrap heap. There's Halloween and costumes of bumblebee's and of Pocohantas and quizzical looks at the camera. There's bathtubs full of soapy water and pictures of dogs that have long since left us but I can still see its tongue that used to give out "doggy kisses" to a toddler.

There's tiny feet playing in big waves and outstretched hands offering up treats to ducks and geese. There are faces smeared with ice cream and turned backs framed by orange sunsets and puffy clouds.

There's laughter, tears, frowns and smiles, all caught and shared that deserve to see the light of day more often.

I been thinking lately about the people I meet
The carwash on the corner and the hole in the street
The way my ankles hurt with shoes on my feet
And I'm wondering if I'm gonna see tomorrow.

Father forgive us for what we must do,
you forgive us, we'll forgive you.
We'll forgive each other until we both turn blue
and go whistle and a fishin' in heaven

(Opening verses from John Prine's tune called "Fish and Whistle")

Anybody else besides me seem to think that there's some sort of "theme" being played out here?

Anyway, these days, I'm being asked if I want to attend some support groups for folks who recently undergone open heart surgery. I'm a little reluctant because as far as I'm concerned, there are some people, who for whatever reason, always look on the down side of things. I can't answer for them and I won't pretend to. Sure, some people have been dealt a shitty hand and I might even be one of them. Lord knows, too much time alone and too much time to think can get one's mind to start wandering to some pretty dark places and I'm probably a bit guilty of that every now and then. Here's the thing though...

I'm only forty seven and my kid has already started to look at me a little differently. Nothing overt but there's a certain look in her eye that I hope I'm not mistaking for disappointment. See, I still wanna be the guy that kicks the soccer ball around and plays softball and basketball without getting winded or having to take a rest every five minutes. I wanna still be able to beat her in a race if I have to and I want to be the one to teach her to smile at the sky and dream of the stars.

I don't think that's asking too much. Life is just too goddamn good for that to be the case.