Our Journeys

My favorite train is the 74 Piedmont out of Greensboro.

It delivers my 20-year-old son from college on breezy, colorful October afternoons.

The hair that is now held back by a headband. The flip-flops. The plastic trash bag that carries his dirty laundry. The book of poetry in his left hand.

Two years ago, he was headed the other direction. The hair was more tightly cropped. The book in his hand was an introductory guide to Criminal Justice. Most of life’s answers were tucked neatly into his right front pocket.

I had my doubts about that major of his. And those answers of his, too. We chatted about it. Maybe a couple times even. A dozen? As parents, we know our children—sometimes better than they know themselves.

But they have to step onto that train themselves. Which also means we need to step out of the engineer’s seat. To settle into a passenger seat. To relax a little, enjoy the journey—no matter how bumpy the ride may be at times.

I watch as he approaches. I cannot help but think of when he held my leg on the first day of Kindergarten, those nights sitting beside his bed in the children’s hospital, the hundreds of miles driving from one baseball tournament to the next—the arguments, the conversations, the music. “Who’s this?” he’d ask. John Prine, I’d say. “Who’s he? I like it!”

He makes his way toward me. I swear, I can see that grin all the way from Greensboro. “Hey, doood!” I say. There is a piece of his 20 that feels familiar.

We step off the platform and toward the truck. “What’s with the garbage bag?” I ask.

“Somebody stole my laundry basket! Can you believe that?”

“Yeah, actually, I can.”

He climbs into the truck and sets the book on his lap.

“Nitch-key?” I ask.

He grins. “Nee-cha.” He shakes his head. They tend to know us, too. “Nee-thumb_img_2468_1024cha, Dad.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s right—I guess Nitschke was an All-Pro nose guard with the Packers,” I reply. “Hey, old sportswriters die hard, man, what can I say? So you like it?”

He flips the book over in his hand. “Some of it is pretty deep stuff, but yeah. Dude says some crazy stuff sometimes.”

He opens the book, turns to a page he has flagged with a Post-It, and begins to read aloud.

I drive on, the sun and shade darting in perfect unison between the Carolina pines.

Become who you are.”

I smile.

You don’t say.

Latest Comments

  1. newlycanadian says:

    Lovely, thoughtful, and well-written piece, Jeff. You’re gonna publish these “Finding Jeffrey” pieces in book form someday, I hope.


  2. Viveca says:

    I am sure Mom (Faith) is so proud of you Jeff. She would love your Finding Jeffery blog. This is so book worthy! You are a talented writer and loving Father.


    • Jeff Riley says:

      Thank you, Sis! I have a piece I started about her shortly after her funeral. I still have not been able to finish it! Oh well, that time will reveal itself when it reveals itself …


  3. Hector says:

    What you write resonates with me and my children. it takes those moments that you write about and make them softer kinder more special when I actually just take Them for granted. I really like what you do and how you do it we truly an inspiration keep on brother.


    • Jeff Riley says:

      It’s easy to take them for granted and I do it far too often myself. I think most parents do — but I do appreciate your kind words. Keep fightin the good fight, hermano!


  4. Chris Cleveland says:

    Become who you are. That’s a task that you’ll carry on in perpetuity. Glad to hear your boys are exploring to see who they are, not who people tell them to be. It’s times like those when you feel like you’ve done at least one thing right.


  5. Sandy Doell says:

    A small perfect vignette. Poetry is painting a picture with words, and that’s what just happened. How lucky your boys are to have such a wise father. And one who is so skillfully recording their growth.


  6. Lorenzo de Baja says:

    You are an excellent writer, Golden Boy, in case I have never told you. Excellent!


  7. Melinda Thomas Hansen says:

    I love the writing here. The scene, the tone, and the lack of answers. Beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

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