It was a hot summer day and I had just finished riding my horse, bathing him, and putting him back in his stall. I went into the bathroom and looked in the small mirror over the sink. The face that stared back at me was covered with sweat and sooty grime.
Time seemed to stand still as a veil was parted and I remembered, as if it were yesterday, those childhood Saturdays with you, Father. It was our weekly ritual. We lived in Jersey City and you would take me every Saturday morning to the pony ride across the road from the factory where you worked. And there would be my “steed’’. It was the same pony every week. A white pony covered in sooty grime from the passing cars and factory smoke.
It was four times around for a quarter. I would watch as you, father, took those four precious quarters from your pocket and handed them over to the pony man. And it was my time of magic and enchantment. Sixteen times around. Every time I passed you, father, your smile of happiness brought sunshine to my heart and I would see myself riding up into the heavens on my shining white steed. It was always over too soon and when it was, I too was covered in sooty grime.
You would drive the car home and we would go on to the next part of the day. A trip to John’s Bar. And there I would sit; at a table in the back with my lunch, a glass of soda and a bowl of pretzels, while you sat at the bar quietly drinking glass after glass of beer. When you were sufficiently “stewed” as my mother used to put it, we would go on to the last part of the day. We would walk over to the freight train yards and stand on the overpass and watch locomotive after locomotive come in, unhook their loads, hook up to other loads and leave again. And you would weave your tales of magic, telling me story after story of all of the magical places these locomotives were coming from and where they were going to.
To a young child as myself, these stories gave me the imagination, hope, magic and enchantment I needed to deal with the reality of my life as it was. I loved you so much, father, but you took the magic out of my life with your drinking, yet you gave it back to me in other ways. It was a heavy burden for me to bear at such a young age. I used to dream of someday having a horse of my own so I could ride up into the heavens, among the clouds, stars, sun, moon and be at one with all that was. Even in school, when my teacher would ask each one of us what we wanted to be and do when we grew up, my answer was always the same. “To have a horse of my own.” My teacher’s quizzical look never deterred me from my dream.
Father you were told to stop drinking by your doctor but paid him no heed, and those Saturday’s came to an end with your death that came too soon. I was ten years old and in the midst of my grief there was an anger. “How could you do this to me and to yourself. HOW COULD YOU!”
Life goes on; however, your stories of imagination, hope, magic and enchantment stayed with me through the years and father, I eventually did come to have a horse of my own. But, oh, how I wished you could have been here with me. However, you were not and I felt a great emptiness.
A knock on the bathroom door brought me back to reality, and after washing my face, I left the barn for the day. My drive home was filled with many mixed emotions that stayed with me through the evening and filled my dreams that night.
I always rode my horse early in the morning before work and my heart was heavy as I drove to the barn the next day. When I got there I groomed my horse and saddled up. I was the only one out in the back field that morning. It was a morning made in heaven. The sun was warm on my back, the summer breeze caressed my face, the smell of the grass fresh with dew, the rhythmic sound of my horse’s stride along with his “horsy” odor and gentle snorts every few strides made my spirit feel large within me. Yet there was an emptiness and a lonesomeness that brought tears to my eyes.
Oh, father, why did you have to die when we were both so young? You missed so much and so did I. I did not condone, judge, or condemn what you did, I let go of that “baggage” a long time ago; but once, just once, how I wished you could be here with me to share in the magic that you both took out of my life and yet gave back to me.
I suddenly heard a piercing, echoing, cry coming from the heavens. I looked up into the morning sky and saw a hawk, spiraling slowly, ever so slowly, down and around towards where I was. Time stood still as I felt deep within my soul the presence of your spirit, father, and heard your voice in the whisper of the summer breeze, felt your love in the warmth of the sun, and I knew and it was complete and all was as it should be and I was at peace.
Patricia Bono has been doing her work for over 40 years using her unique gifts to be of service on all four levels: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. In 2001, she had the honor of being a guest speaker at the United Nations Women’s Guild. She has taught classes at The Learning Annex in NY, Adult Education at Adelphi University, in addition to speaking at the Waldorf School. Patricia has presented workshops/classes at multiple Animal Shelters and was a past board member of the League for Animal Protection in New York. Patricia has been writing stories about her life and sharing those experiences about the journey and those turns on the trail, and also has three grown children.