I was caught off guard by a long forgotten photo album that came toppling off the closet shelf. I hadn’t seen it for…well longer than I care to admit. While the colors had faded and the edges were bent from excessive handling, he remained the same.
In those early years I must have studied it a thousand times. It once held a prominent place on my nightstand, but with time came healing and it eventually found itself filed away for safe keeping — out of site and apparently out of mind.
I had grown accustomed to living in his absence, but its reappearance transported me back to a time of innocence. I could smile now as memories ran across my mind like a chattering old 8mm movie. It conjured up images of his playful smile and mellow attitude. I could visualize his “game face” as he piloted the Nintendo game controller through Donkey Kong and Super Mario. The photos piqued my curiosity and I wanted more, one more taste of those innocent days.
Surely the closet had to be hiding more than just this single album. A crazy idea popped into my head; what if it contained a photo I hadn’t seen before? The euphoria triggered by a godsend discovery like that would be better than striking gold.
That prospect set me off on a mission. I started pulling everything out. Soon the office floor was covered with what was once the contents of the closet. Through it all, I found only one lone box marked “Jake.” It indiscreetly sheltered the known remnant of his fourteen years, nothing new — nothing beyond — forever fourteen.
Then another thought hit me. Photos of him aren’t necessarily limited to a box in a closet. It is possible that an undeveloped roll of film could lay hidden in the back of a desk drawer. Or maybe a relative captured him in the background of snapshot taken at a family gathering.
There is an average of 60 million photos uploaded to Instagram every single day, all I want is one — just one picture I hadn’t seen before. I am certain it exists. Something different would be so gratifying.
Locating a new photo, however, would create a dilemma for me; its discovery would surely lead to my yearning for another. Just one more wouldn’t be enough, at some point I’d be wanting to know how he would have looked at sixteen? His friends continue to age and look so differently these days — what would he look like at thirty-nine? What would his children have looked like? I’d love to know how he would have turned out.
Then again, maybe I wouldn’t want to know. Maybe it’s best that he remains young and innocent in my eyes — forever fourteen.
I do believe we’ll see each other again. The thought of that reunion boggles my mind because I don’t quite know what to expect. Will I recognize him, or he me? Will he know what has taken place here in his absence? Will he grasp the extent of how much he was missed? Will any of that actually matter?
I wonder what I’ll look like when we meet again? Will I be energized, given fresh strength and wings to sore like an eagle? Will I walk without lagging behind? Will we again be father and son, or just two souls existing in paradise? Maybe in heaven we’ll all be fourteen — it wasn’t such a bad age.
But for now, I probably won’t be able to squash the notion that lying in the back of some dark closet exists one more photo waiting to be uncovered. With that being said, I guess it doesn’t hurt to continue searching…and digging…and hoping…just making sure I haven’t missed anything.