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  • Sign of the times: the local Blockbuster store closed down in our little town. Signs went up to clear the merchandise off the racks: 50% off... 70% off... LAST DAY - all DVDs are $2.00! I went in and picked up a highly-rated drama for my wife, a couple of superhero sagas for my son, and the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's, "The Road", for me. I loved the novel but resisted dragging my wife to the theatrical release. Her heart is far too tender to walk the darkness of McCarthy's powerful imagination.

    There are very few novels that have brought me to tears. "The Road" did. Maybe it's because I became a father late in life, or the strained relationship I had with my own dad, but the desperate tale of a parent trying to protect one's child in a hopeless world tore at my heart. McCarthy's dark vision coupled his beautiful prose still haunt me. I knew the film couldn't stack up to that calibre of talent, but I wanted to see it.

    I borrowed my son's portable DVD player, put my earbuds in and burrowed down in bed. At some point during the movie my wife finished her nightly reading and switched off the light. I sat in the gloom and watched the world die. After the film, I got up and checked on my son, gave him a light kiss on the cheek, and went back to bed.

    I tossed and turned all night. I had nightmares but I don't remember them, only the feelings of failure and great sadness... and the road.

    I asked my mother once if she had any recurring nightmares. Most people see my mom as a beacon of light, charming and chatty and always friendly. When I posed this question I saw her light fade a bit, her smiled disappeared and she told me of a dream that never left her.

    When my sister was born she had what doctors used to be call "knock knees", a curvature of the legs inward. They put braces on her infant legs to straighten out the problem. Watching a beautiful little girl try to walk in those bulky leg braces was heart-wrenching, but it did the job. By the time she was ready for preschool her legs were perfectly straight.

    My mother's nightmare takes place in a hospital. The elevator doesn't work so mom is forced to take my sister up the stairs. She's looking for a way in but the door to each floor is locked, and so they must climb higher and higher. It's slow going up the stairs, holding her daughter's hand and helping her navigate each step in those bulky leg braces. At the top of the stairs, my mother finds an unlocked door. She lets go of my sister's hand to open the door, and then hears a clattering noise behind her. She looks over her shoulder and sees my sister falling end-over-end down the stairs, her leg braces banging out a deadly cadence as she falls.

    "I don't know why I still have that horrible dream," my mother told me, "but I do."

    The road I walk is the staircase my mother must climb, born of love and unbearable loss, and one I pray will remain forever in the darkness of our dreams.

    All of this begs the question, "Why in the world am I watching "The Road" before I go to sleep?" A thinking man would know better.
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