From The Sky...

My visits lasted until I was nearly twelve. That's when I fell out of the tree, and Uncle Gio and Dad had a falling out of their own. I was forbidden to return. I tried to visit anyway, but Uncle Gio would not answer my knocks. After a half-dozen attempts on as many days, Uncle opened his living room window as I stood there on his porch wet from a spring rain, waiting teary-eyed for him to open his door and let me in. He told me to respect the wishes of my father and go home. His eyes glistened as he spoke. It was all he said, and then the window slammed back down sharply. No mention of love or affection, no anger in his voice, just a closed window.

Years later, after I finished college, I knocked one last time at his door. He let me in and we walked back to the kitchen, a drab, lifeless room now, still spotless, but the bright, lemon-colored walls were faded and the table, which always had a plate of cookies or candy waiting for me when I was a child, was bare. No joy remained in the room where I spent so many happy afternoons.

We sat at his table. He was quiet as I talked about my life, trying to bring him up to speed, to introduce him to the young woman I had grown into.

When I was done, he said, simply, "Thank you for coming Renata. I love you, Renata. But please leave and never come back. You risk too much, coming here. I am cursed. I was foolish to let you come here when you were a child. I was lonely, and your visits were a gift, but my selfishness hurt you. The tree, Renata, never forget the tree. That was a warning. Part of my curse is the loneliness I must bear. I angered the fates whenever you visited, because for a brief time I would forget the curse. I cannot risk that a second time. I cannot risk you. Go, Renata. Go. Do not come back."

There was no reasoning with him; his mind was made up. I cried for hours that night, lying on my bed and staring at the shelf jammed with all Uncle Gio's gifts to me on permanent display. I was very angry at him for a long time, but that softened over the years. I would write him, and he would send cards at Christmas or Easter…only religious cards on religious holidays, likely because he thought that was safe, I guess…and never a note on the back; just his signature. After my failed visit I never tried to see him again, and that is one of the growing lists of regrets I will carry with me the rest of my life.

Regrets for what might have been...


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