The Richest Man in the World
So deeply embedded are memories that course through my brain, that even after all these years, his memories are my memories, his dreams are my dreams, and his hopes are my hopes. I cannot be any other than who I am. I carry on a legacy and his life. I carry inside me, deep in my soul, the memories that we made together. These memories are priceless treasures and worth far more than gold or diamonds.
I am lucky to be the richest man in the world.
Footsteps echoing through a cavernous train station and the sounds of people in a hurry to go somewhere else – a steamy, dreamy summer night so long ago, so far away. Watching the locomotives chugging in and out; an awesome testimony to man’s technological genius.
These shiny black monsters of iron and steel and brass and copper hissing and thundering into the station excite the little boy who seems so insignificant and so weak next to them. I stand on a platform near the tracks and watch huge billows of smoke pouring from a coal-fired inferno buried deep with those lumbering beasts, amazed and dazzled at what humanity has accomplished.
They are not going anywhere – a grandfather and his grandson. They are not going anywhere but home. Another summer night, another walk, another dream of a young boy in awe of life, in awe of the wonders of his world.
My grandfather and I walking slowly nowhere on another dreamy, soft summer night. The range lights of Battery Park guiding unseen sailors safely into the harbor. There are no boats, no sailors – there is nothing at all in my world but the smell of the bay, summer’s sweet scent and my grandfather and I sharing another summer evening together.
These memoires are all that is left of a little boy and his grandfather. But from that tiny, fleeting synapse of memory, great dreams and visions rise.
Walking home under a twilight sky of orange and blue and violet, I feel the brush of a summer breeze in my hair. Shivers strange and pleasant run through me and a profound peace surrounds me. I feel a love so deep and a peace so overwhelming – I cannot fully comprehend it. I am happy – truly happy.
I didn’t know then that these were times I would never live again. I didn’t know then that the love and happiness I felt would never come again. That feeling of love, warmth and peace can never be accurately captured in words. I know that I cannot write them down or speak words that will ever faithfully describe those feelings that I had then.
I can touch those times and feelings with my mind but I cannot share them. I can never relive them, I can only marvel and be thankful that I have such beautiful memories; that I can enjoy them, treasure them and savor them. I am lucky because I know now that I’ll never lose them.
I wish I could thank my grandfather for all that he gave me. I don’t remember a single birthday gift or Christmas present he gave me, but I remember gifts that the richest man in the world could never buy. He gave me and my father dreams, hopes, peace, love and most of all memories of sweet summer nights which fade away in time but live forever in our memories.
Those train stations, locomotives, harbors and the world in which they existed are gone forever. They live on in me because someone cared enough to share his world with me.
A little boy lying in bed on a windless summer night listening to a locomotive chugging through the dark comforted and eased the loneliness that a little boy feels when he thinks he is the only one awake and the rest of the world is sleeping. The engineer of the locomotive is awake and guiding his wonder of iron and steel over tracks that lead to someplace else. The little boy smiles and falls asleep knowing he is not the only one awake on this still summer night.
A little boy, years hence, lies in bed, on a muggy, hot summer night listening to an airliner flying overhead and knows he’s not the only one awake. He falls asleep dreaming that someday he will be a pilot of an airliner and fly high above the countryside knowing that somewhere down there a little boy is lying in bed awake, on a summer night, knowing he is not alone in the dark.
Memories are more than treasures, they are the foundation of hopes and dreams. They are the essence of life.
And sometimes, memories are all we are left with; they are all we have.
When I think of my grandfather and the memories he gave me, by sharing his time with me, then I know that I am the luckiest and the richest man in the world.