I smiled, my face turning red in embarrassment.
At my age I felt silly, but the glee in Ryan's eyes and his innocent tone of voice awakened something in me.
I went through the box and found myself drawn to a white teddy bear.
I picked it up and held it, examining it.
"I think it's the one for you, Uncle Michael," said Ryan.
I rubbed its fur, leaning its head on my shoulder.
A strange unfamiliar delight came over me.
"What do you think his name is?" Ryan asked.
The name Zoby popped in my head.
"His name is Zoby," I said, surprised how the name came to me so fast.
Ryan laughed and looked at me.
Kids have a way of seeing right to your very soul.
"Yeah, he's Zoby, and he'll be glad to have a new home.
He's been in that box too long.
Don't you agree, Zoby?" he said, tapping Zoby on the head.
That night I took out my journal and wrote: I grew up because I had no choice.
I experienced cruelty first-hand by an unstable father.
The years obey certain laws of gravity.
Chests fill out.
Little boy fat is slowly transformed to toned muscles.
Hormones awaken a budding libido.
More and more ideas take shape and residence in the mind.
The intellect blossoms.
The heart opens up to the joys and sorrows that Love and Life have to offer.
The years passed.
I earned a living and played some along the way.
My heart throbbed in joyous anticipation of dreams waiting to come true.
I trembled with excitement, soaring the heavens of unlimited thought, and took comfort in the company of yesterday's heroes, who made peace with doubt and fear and fulfilled amazing destines.
My hopes dimmed and faded.
Mediocrity set in.
I survived as the resourceful creative ones do who can always find a way to numb pain.
I took to drink.
In time, the fruits of Bacchus emptied me.
I saw the roses of life but grabbed the thorns instead.
I was not whole, because I was an unhealed child, only half-complete, and needed to search for the wound.
It lived deep inside, where I cowered, not knowing which way to go, frozen in time.
I, a middle-aged man, needed the teddy bear.