Some asshole took your vase, the one I dug a hole for, the underground kind. I spent an hour digging the hole in like, 100 degree heat last summer. I kept hitting hard stuff, like rocks and tree roots, and freaking out that I was digging up you, or the guy next to you. Y’all are buried deep, though. Deeper than a stupid plastic vase I ordered from Amazon.
I brought coffee and some granola, full of nuts and seeds, because I am trying to be healthy these days, seeing as I am the kids’ only parent. Only living parent. You are still their dad.
It is a beautiful fall day, colors everywhere but breezy and warm. It reminds me of fall weekends in Alabama, going to Oak Mountain with Suzanne and her dad, walking behind him walking happily with his pipe and windbreaker, following him, dreaming sixth grade dreams, back when life would always be hopeful, the whole world ahead of us. Years still to fall in love, have babies, find passions, so many firsts. I am glad sixth grade me had no idea, no clue that first loves bail, beautiful babies get sick, and suffer, and people you think you can’t live without die but you do live without them, that is the trouble. You do.
This grave is deep. I saw how deep it was, because my little nephew wanted to see, and we crept up to the side of it, hand in hand, and peered down into the 12 foot hole, room for you and later, me. I looked for a moment and threw myself into Neil’s arms, crying on his jacket like a little kid. I have left so many tears on that down jacket of his, for so many different reasons. He never seems to mind.
It is a beautiful day. I am living, and you are not. There is no getting around that. I yelled at John once that he has to live the life you didn’t get to finish. Kids to enjoy, things to look forward to. I am so quick to tell him how brave he has to be. All I want, at this moment, though, is to curl up here in the damp leaves and not move. It is just too hard to go on. I am a hypocrite right now, paralyzed and scared, and glad John can’t see me. You can, but you never cared if I was weak or strong. Ever.
When I go to counseling we do meditations. I am to remind myself that my hands are touching the chair and my feet are touching the ground and try to be present. So right now the damp is seeping in to my jeans, the sun is on my shoulders, and my heart is beating, and pining, and yours isn’t. I’d trade places with you but I wouldn’t wish this on you either. Presumably you are enjoying yourself up there.
I will get in the minivan and drive out to see Jude, and he will ask me about you, and seem to accept my answer, and then ask again a little later. When he asks I will remind myself that I am here, hands on the chair, feet on the ground. I will try to remember what it felt like to be hopeful, to think that beauty and loving things are ahead of me. Surely goodness and mercy and all that stuff.
The grave is deep, but I am not ready for it yet, because I am still alive. Breathing and living and doing the things you don’t get to do, like kissing Eden in his sleep and watching Jude run in the sun and seeing Sage and Meeko grow into men. Unless you do those things when you get bored with singing praises and chatting with other dead guys.
Hands on the chair, feet on the ground. I am here, and I am still alive.