I think about a lot of things. About courage and bravery and what it means beyond the glorification of war and Hollywood military images. And sometimes I think of the quiet hero… the one that does his job, and leaves home in the dark to a job that is just a job. The guy who left his dreams somewhere back in his youth… for the small humiliations of a daily routine that culminates in nothing more than a pay check to provide for the dreams of his children.
I think of the teacher that loves kids. She gets them to come to school because they believe she cares. She gets them to think about a future and believe in themselves because she believes in them. And how many lives she has saved, she will never know.
And then there is that kid… who’s childhood ended too early, and who never quite learned how to act correctly. And here he is, keeping me late at work… scribbling away on some set of worksheets, and tapping away on some keyboard… to do those assignments that will give him the diploma that will make all of these last 12 years of frustration and failure and setbacks suddenly all worth it. And when that job he works to support his mom suddenly opens up to something more… it will be worth the work,
Sometimes courage is just finding the will to not give up.
Sometimes you just do what you have to do to make it through the day.
I think about the color blue.
I think about the miles and miles of road I have driven over… to see this sight, or visit that site… or to walk where I have never walked. And of the flatness of the desert.
I have not given up.
I think I can dream. Maybe I can think about the future. Maybe I can look up in the sky and see the stars… and breathe
And I can free myself of the past. I can survive being a survivor. I think about the taste of lemons and salt.
“Are you okay?”
Yeah, I’m fine.
“No really…” he says, “You don’t like fine.”
What do you want me to say?
“What is wrong?”
I stare at his face. I don’t want to have a conversation. So I look out the window and sigh.
I’m thinking about the last time I saw his body. On that gurney, covered to the neck. And I touch his spiky hair and forehead and it is so cold… his skin. It tells me that he is gone. There is no mistake. This is my son. I think about the ugly green linen.
I think about … the “life of the party”… who is lonely in a crowded room… and even when his words make others laugh, they grate on that chalkboard inside his mind. And he can’t think Who says he hates people, but needs them around him in a way beyond desparate. And who can’t stand to see pain in anyone else. He can’t sleep. And when he tries, it is worse. He carries with him a pain he can’t name. And really sometimes is embarrassed at how much he hates himself… And a thousand thoughts. And he feels the darkness pulling at him with the promise that the pain can be gone… he won’t have to try to stand out or fit in… or to figure out how to make people like him… or to find a way to fall asleep and not wake up an hour later.
I think about his laugh. I think about that final pot of rice on the counter. I think about what could have been if he just held on for one more day. One more hour. I think about that garage… and the cold concrete floor. And the 12,,. kernmantle rope,,, it was retired and not even good for top roping. Only for hanging that heavy bag in that garage. Or tying down cargo. And I can’t forget that.
And I think about memories…. not the ones that come easy… but the hundreds of days and thousands of moments that have slipped away… unrecorded, unremarkable… carelessly allowed to fade as if I could have known to cherish that minute and that one, and those moments and that year… because all of them… I wish I could conjure into full color and sound and life and walk through them like a zoo. To hear those sounds and taste those flavors. And to be with my boy for those days I was with him. And I think about roast beef sandwiches with spicy mustard.
And I think about ashes. And there is nothing but ashes.