Alone When Not Alone

an ornery old man
looks back
only a single pair of tracks

Iím in a campground surrounded by my wifeís family, and I feel so alone.

I came because itís an annual tradition for her family to get together, and for me to bring my granddaughter so she can be with her adopted cousins. This year, there are 21 adults and 8 children.

They take turns being responsible for dinner and breakfasts. People sleep in Ė so breakfasts are often much later than my usual eating time. People do stuff in the afternoon Ė so dinner is often later than I prefer. In my own frustration with the casualness of it all, I notice the children get agitated as they wait to be fed, and the noise escalates as they expend that energy.

At night the group rallies around the fire pit, pulls into a tight circle, talks well into the night. Often coming to the circle late after taking my granddaughter to the eveningís interpretive nature presentation, I find it very hard to break the circle and make room for myself and my chair. The group welcomes me but people seem reluctant to shift their chairs. Typically, I leave and head back to my RV with my granddaughter in tow to get her into bed and to settle myself into a good book.

However, if I choose to stay, I listen to people talk about memories they share from a time when I was not around; watch children move around a blazing fire, poke sticks into the flames, wave marshmallows around on roasting forks; and worry about the potential for a harmful accident in the chaos of that movement. I sit there in worry and alienation, finding fault to justify leaving, sometimes wondering why Iíve always chosen such loneliness within a crowd.

a young boy hides
from . his father's teasing
fantasies of other places to be