Every small town has a gauntlet.  Ours was Pool Hill.
The way up to the town pool was a precipitous climb over loose gravel.  From its height, we kids would scan the Allegheny foothills before bravely pushing off on our banana seat Huffies, hurtling ourselves downhill.  Once, I did not make it.  A bloody mess, I limped back home where Dad, a former Navy Corpsman, patched me up.
How was I to know that this would be the first in a series of life long gauntlets?  How was I to know the privilege of having someone to bandage my wounds?
Molly was a good dog.  She had been my jogging companion back when I would sojourn home from college.  She would eagerly grab the leash and deposit it hopefully in front of my jogging shoes, and off we would go, bounding down North Main Street on our way to Highland Avenue and, beyond that, the cemetery where I would do push ups and she would sniff around the gravestones.
Her leash sits in my office now.
I have an office, and it is filled with books and memories I sometimes find it hard to believe I -- a graying man -- made.
Like the other kids, my girls ran after Easter eggs this past weekend, filling their bright baskets, triumphant in how many they found.  I took photos, took videos, and did my very best to etch these memories on my heart as if it took any effort at all.  It was my oldest daughter's smile that resonated with me, however.  We were sitting on the back patio.  She had said something funny and knew it.  Hers was an amused, proud smile -- a smile of a just turned 11-year-old coming into herself.  My gaze lingered on her beautiful face then I counted the years and sighed.
Judd and Jane owned two rectangular plots of land that were divided by a drainage ditch.  Because our property couldn't make up its mind about what shape it wanted to be, we kids played on Judd and Jane's land.  They didn't mind so long as we behaved, which we did most of the time.
I look out my window now and see the neighborhood kids dashing here and there over my yard and other yards with zero thought about property lines.  An even stretch to throw a ball is an even stretch never mind who technically owns it.  I'm thankful that Judd and Jane knew this, too.
I have a memory of my grampa working out back in the woodshed, cutting kindling for the fire.  There was something about this activity, this moment that grips me in ways that are hard to describe.  So I wrote a poem.

An old man sits in a                                     dark shed on a winter’s eve, and
he is surrounded by
                                    cord wood packed tight,
                                    knots out and up against the aged frame.
                                    He is doused in the pale yellow light of
                                    a naked bulb, and he is thinking, not
                                    about the fixed circular saw before him or
the kindling he is making with each
                                    screaming pass, but of something else:
his alone.The dog
is warm inside the house.The sky
                                    is black and deep.The old man
                                    fills his wheelbarrow, ri…
Once upon a time, I hired a boat captain to take me to an island in the South Pacific so that I could camp there over the weekend.  I was prepared or so I thought.  I had goggles and canned food.  I had my snorkel and disposable camera.  What I didn't have was a can opener that worked or bug spray: the lack of both the cause of my quick undoing.  Soon enough, I took my sunburnt body to the shore, wadded into the clear blue water, and began swimming to the nearest passing boat, thinking all the while that riptides and sharks don't exist.
It was the second time I was almost deported from Australia.
The other day, I tried not to stare at the woman with long, scraggily hair streaked thickly with dull iron gray.  She was studying the meat, the chicken, the rows of sausages at the store.  I could see how she calculated the cost, how she looked at the prices and set them next to what was in her dollar store purse.  It was sad.  I finally looked away.  I imagined that she felt she didn't belong on the pretty aisle.