Let me paint a scene for you. I want you to open your mind up, envision a room, a large L desk dominates the scene. There are other things, but those are lost in the background, out of range of the fading light cast by the single lamp that sits atop the desk. The radius of light is not weak, and casts shadows about the room. It is the single candle, fighting off the darkness around it. Holding the room to a somber glow.

Around you can be heard the sounds of a jazz piano, specifically Norah Jones, singing Don’t Know Why…”I don’t know why I didn’t come, feeling empty as a drum.” The surround sound is doing its job perfectly, speakers placed about the room give the song a feeling that it is in the room, not coming from the room. No matter which way you turn, the sound can be heard, the song is enveloping you. Her soft, sultry voice wooing you into a walk down memory lane.

It has just now turned 1:00 AM, the clock rolling over into a new hour. Though sleep has not come, the promise of a new day is still fresh, no longer is it late Friday night, it is early Saturday morning. There is a palpable feeling that the day has passed, and that a new one has been born.

The only other light in the room is from a computer monitor. Every five seconds a new picture flips onto the display. The word “new” is really relative to the last five seconds, because each of these pictures have been viewed over and over.  Were they actual printed copies they would bear the worn wrinkles of a years worth of shuffling. The printed originals, however, are tucked safely away in a desk drawer.

The subjects of these pictures are two kids. Blond haired, with shining blue eyes. One is a boy, and the other a girl. Some pictures are posed, but the favorites, the ones that demand the most attention were snapped with a cheap cell phone camera. They are grainy, as if the lens of the camera just wasn’t strong enough to capture the truth of the moments in which it was being used.

In your mind it is important that you know that these are your kids. You might not be  their biological parent, they were not sprung from your loins, but you have made your claim, based on time spent. Due to circumstances outside of anyone’s control, your kids are no longer accessible to you. It is important to you, oh so very important, that it couldn’t be helped. Because on the lonely nights, it is that thought that makes everything better.

As you watch the pictures flicker by, you don’t know what they are up to. But as you think that, you realize you do know. At 1:20 AM, they are asleep. They are dreaming the dreams of children. What you also know is that they are missed. On most days you stay busy enough not to notice the emptiness that has crept into your life. It is a simple kind of empty, it doesn’t scream of lingering pain or stabbing loss. It is the type of emptiness that only catches hold occasionally, when you are forced to acknowledge it.

So you close the door and you sit in the darkness, and for just that little bit, those few hours, you let the world slip away. You think about the good times, and you think about the bad times. You remember every bit of that time and you hope to God that you did some good in their lives when you were able to. You think about the time that you will have your own kids, and you hope that you can be good to them like they deserve.

You let a couple of tear drops fall, because there is no dam in this world that can hold them back. Sometimes you let more than a couple fall, and then you stop and you pull yourself together. You push the emptiness away, and you turn off the music. You stand up, you turn the slideshow of pictures off, and you go ahead and get back into your life. Because you have to. Because if they were there, they would need you to.

Happy birthday, buddy. I miss you.