In the Bosom of Hickory Creek
He thought back to the first time he remembered Her. He was about two or three, playing on Her banks. He leaned over and reached for a cotton top from a dandelion that was floating near the shore. The next thing he could recall was his father picking him out of the water, laughing and squeezing the water out of his clothes. He thought it a bit funny that he could remember that time and so many others now, but the names of his children sometimes escaped him when they came to visit, which hadn't been for... how long? He'd forgotten when they had last taken time from their busy lives to come and see their mostly paralyzed father. Embarrassed most likely, that they couldn't understand him when he tried to talk. Embarrassed by the tears that streamed down his face out of the frustration. He had waited so long to tell them things. He'd always thought there would be time later for such things, personal things that he found so hard to communicate. Now time had run out, thanks to the blood clot that had, in the blink of an eye, turned him from a strong, able bodied sixty-six year old man into a denizen of this rest home full of old, smelly, senile people. He had kept up the faith that any day now he would start moving around, walking and talking as before and be back home where he ought to be. But as the weeks turned into months, and months turned into years he realized that his fate would be to rot behind these walls, just another despondent figure among so many others. An ironic torture was that this place sat right on Her banks, a wire fence separating him from Her touch, Her world.
Hickory Creek had been his playground. The creek itself was a small river, not much different from others, but what made her special was her soul. She was the master of everything from the top of the hill on one side to the top on the other side. Every creature that walked her shore or drank her waters paid proper reverence, for she could lash out with torrents to destroy or she could hold back her life-giving waters. She seemed to command, at will, the springs which fed her body. She had been generous to him when he was a young man, letting him hunt and fish, climb her rugged hills, showing him the treasures she guarded and only shared with those who had a worthy heart. Once when he had to take refuge under a rock outcropping during a thunderstorm She had let him find a diary, right there under that very rock, of a young girl who had been an escaped slave. Another time, when Her course had changed because of a new beaver dam, he found a perfectly good canoe, caught in some rocks which had created a powerful undertow before the current shifted. The creek and her domain had always been there for him right up to the time when his country told him he had to put a rifle in his hands and defend freedom in a foreign land. When his time in the service came to an end he had been enticed to take employment in the big city, far away from Her. He made a life in the city for many years, but for the last few he had longed to come back and see Her again. He had mentioned Her briefly to his children when the subject of his childhood came up, but his children seemed not to fathom the depth to which She had ingrained his soul, so he would save talk of Her until they were mature enough to understand. It would be one of those special moments when a parent shows his complete being to his children and they see him not as a parent but, perhaps for the first time, see him as an individual with dreams and aspirations. Well, that talk kept getting put off and soon he found himself at retirement age, with plans to nestle himself in Her arms for his remaining years. Real life intervened, however, as the real estate market wasn't favorable for his plans and he could find nowhere in Her lush valley to call his own, settling instead several miles away. Maybe She felt he had betrayed Her, leaving for so long, and had not allowed him entrance to her rich empire. Maybe She thought the city had driven the boy from his heart and this man would be but a trespasser on her soothing current. Whatever the reason, he felt sure that one day again he would allowed back into the wonderful realm of Hickory Creek.
Now, here he sat, a useless lump of flesh staring through the fence at the one place which he knew in his heart was where he wanted to spend his last days. As the cool afternoon breeze made its way across the expansive patio where he was allowed to park his wheelchair he saw the trees swaying, heard the water gurgling, and caught the scent of the nearby Hickory trees and it dawned on him that maybe this wasn't such a terrible fate after all. Maybe She had let him return after all.