A map of every rock and path is etched firmly in my brain as I make my way through a foggy mist to the old lighthouse. I do not need the now silent beams that guided ships so long ago. Even with its glory days gone forever, it seems like an old friend who always stayed the course.
This cane I grasp for the support of a wounded leg taps out an eerie echo. The overgrown walkway leads to the first door I remember as a child. Broken windows scream neglect and vandalism. I smile as I place the huge key in the ancient rusty lock, wondering how such passé security protects anything.
The thick antique door creaks loud in protest at having been disturbed.
“I know, ol’ fellow. I’d complain too if my hinges were aggravated.”
The fog lifts enough for a sliver of sunshine to light the way as I step into my old home. I find the worn leather chair Papa Mike used to sit in to tell exciting sea stories to Sean and me. Mama Jo was always busy cooking or cleaning.
I can almost smell fresh apple pie and homemade bread that sustained me through my growing up years. I shuffle to the kitchen area and find the oil lamp still intact. One firm match strike and a sputter of renewed life flickers and catches hold for one more round.
“Well,” I declare out loud, “things don’t look nearly as bad as I expected.”
What do I expect now? Sean has served his time. I have to face that. He has no claim on this beautiful lighthouse. It was for sale. I bought it.
I amble over to the familiar chair to sit and think and drink the hot tea my precious wife insisted I bring in a thermos. She said this maiden voyage, so to speak, was one I needed to do alone. When a man finds a good wife, he has found a treasure.
How I long for Mama Jo. She would have loved my bride and our ever growing family.
“You were the most unexpected present,” she used to tell me. “One day a scared young woman knocked on our door. Her name was Lilianna. Your daddy had gone to sea but he never returned. You were wrapped in a thin little blanket and were smiling like an angel. We took her in and paid her to help out. You and Sean were near the same age and seemed to bond right from the start, as if you were blood-related.”
I stop and chew on my unlit pipe between sips of tea.
“One morning,” Mama Jo would tell me with blunt truth, “she was gone."
After years of best pals playing and working in the lighthouse, things came to an ugly end when new friends seemed to slither out from under some evil rock; at least for Sean.
I tried to tell him how Butch was bad news, but he was convinced that drugs, drink, and drag racing in the dark was cool.
I used to cry, “Why?” but there is no answer to some questions, except to keep moving forward.
I’m ready to turn this amazing lighthouse into a beacon again. It stood strong to warn of hazards on the coastline and to point the way to a safe port. The rotating lamp in the top was structurally engineered to guide and protect as it beamed its counsel to lost or confused seaman. That’s exactly my new plan. I want to offer messages of hope and healing to God’s people.
The horror of what Sean did sent him to a maximum security prison to pay his dues. I tried to visit him over the years but he refused to see me. I never stopped praying for my best friend-brother.
I climb up to the top of my unusual childhood home, one painful step at a time. As I leave the dependable oil lamp on a sturdy ledge and make my way back down the spiral stairs, I hear an unmistakable creak. The massive old door groans again in useless protest. A man about my age limps inside. Funny, he also uses a cane.
I ease over to face him. He uses his metal walking stick to tap mine in an awkward attempt to make a long lost connection.
“I saw your light,” he manages to whisper.
All I can think of to say is, “Welcome home, brother Sean.”
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