I go to a book club put on by a professor at UW. We meet once a month with 7 of his students and discuss a work of fiction he distributed the previous meeting. Truthfully, I have a hard time with fiction reading, it makes me feel guilty for reading it when I have this inner voice telling me I’m not maximizing my time. This is why I am in the book club though, to get over it and have this one moment of happiness that works of fiction are usually meant to inspire. In that, once a month I get to discuss some seriously deep concepts with some pretty bad-ass people.

Our last meeting (in April) we were having a discussion about one of the books overarching concepts and our conversation turned slightly, as it usually does. One of the guys, my friend Marshall, began talking about his last free memory with his children. It sparked a memory so vivid in me that I almost had no control over whether or not I spoke about it. My children are an off-limits topic to almost everyone I know. If you ever hear or read anything from me that involves my children you are witnessing something that lies in the deepest recesses of my soul. In there you will find my greatest happiness, deepest regrets, and my deepest pain. I tend not to publicize such things.

But right then in that meeting my friend unknowingly pulled a curtain back in my heart and just like that I vocalized my last moments with my children. I can recount their little faces from nearly a decade ago and the details of the final lie I ever told them “See you when you get home from school”. Knowing full well I wouldn’t be there.

I spilled this mess of a memory out onto the tiled floor in our circled discussion group like a gelatinous ooze that took a form of its own. I immediately became a slave to the loop of it in my mind and there came a point where I knew I had to shut up because I don’t share those memories with anyone, especially that one. So I abruptly went silent to protect my most prized possession.

I don’t know how long I sat there looking into the imaginary cloud where I could smell the inside of our mini van once more and feel my sons little hands gently patting my back goodbye.

As helpless as I was to relive the moment, usually I relive those moments alone and that was the first time I had to relive it with an audience and it was embarrassing, to say the least. I must have looked like a plum idiot just staring off into some space that obviously only I could see.

Ugh! How embarrassing!

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Jeff aka Ruth Utnage

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Name: Utnage, Jeff (though I am legally Ruth)