the schwan’s man

Life is better when you get a little soft. When you rest your fists, slow down, and listen more than you talk. Life makes more sense when you let yourself see ghosts, pray to God, and believe in Santa Claus.

Educated ignorance is bliss. A giving up and coming together all at once that helps me ease old fears, calm the nerves, and rise every morning thankful for breath, the light, my wife so warm next to me, and that full-body, orgasmic stretch that releases whatever’s left from the day before and unsettled dreams and a lack of sound sleep, so I can rise and shine fully aware that this is my only chance to have this moment, this day.

It’s a gift I’m supposed to share, no matter what, with everybody.

My kids on stage with dozens of others during their Christmas program. Waving, smiling, and singing so loud and clear, I swear I hear them above all the other sweet voices because they are doing this not for the hundreds in the crowd, not for themselves, or their music teacher, but for me and their Mom, their Grandparents and Uncle.

The brothers I miss. Our big, fun extended families that have splintered apart because of dead patriarchs, matriarchs, and general selfish pettiness. The friends I’ve neglected. The strangers I take for granted. The woman 2,443 miles away that will tell me Tuesday if our small life will be able to run a little freer in a bigger house only a block and a half away.

And the Schwan’s Man. Taking my order, giving me my total, and returning to the yellow truck—where he’s already spent twelve hours—to find my brats and dogs and six-cheese-ravioli as I stand in the doorway admiring the sprinkling rain and multi-colored glow of Christmas lights on the pillars of our porch and I’m suddenly sure there’s a woman–a ghost–standing with me. She’s large and warm and dark-haired and waiting for her son to finish his route so she can guide him home.

Matt—that’s the name I finally notice embroidered into his coat—comes up the wet steps smiling. I wonder how a man can stay so upbeat driving around a frozen food truck, but then the woman speaks up, “He’s my baby!” but Matt can’t hear her and I cannot say a word. Especially if I want him to return in two weeks and knock on our door. So I smile and pay and wish him a Happy Holiday.

~ K.J.

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