I remember when Ethan was sick once. We were in the old house and I stayed up with him into the night, trying to get his fever down. Trying to keep him cool and let him rest. And he kept alternating between crying and sobbing and I felt helpless.
He filled this house. With noise. With laughter. With spilled bathwater and muddy footprints. With school work and practice. With smoke from burning pancakes. With broken things that just exploded. With desires unmet. With dirty laundry and dishes and open cabinets and drawers. He filled my life. With music and energy and fidgety motions.
I remember in middle school when he came to the ropes course at Pali with his class. I was working the platform on the zip line. I helped him up and then hooked him in and gave him the go ahead. And he froze. He asked for a push. I told him I wouldn’t do that. That he had to go on his own. I told him to lean forward. To shift his weight onto the rope. To hold it against his shoulder. And even though I couldn’t push him. I was right there… and I put my hand on his back. He leaned forward and after a bit of a false start, he leaned forward a bit more and slid down the cable. Half way down he was yelling with joy.
And high school. And college. All grown up… almost. And then it stopped.
It has been three years.
Three years since that phone call. Three years since my life forever changed. That moment. He was already dead.
I still hear his voice sometimes, but not as often. And I still see him in crowds. I still wait for him to come through the door with a bang and stomp up the steps. I still wait for a call or a text that will never, ever come. It seems more distant and darker and wispy like smoke rising… dissipating into a darkening sky. He is out there.
There are songs that bring tears and some make no sense.
If Stevie Nix sings “I keep my visions to myself” or Duran Duran talks about “this ordinary world, Somehow I have to find” or I hear the opening horns from a Streetlight Manifesto Song… I lose my breath. I remember him. In music he is there.
There is this image of Yosemite Falls- the one at the top of this post. And at the bottom in the mist is a gigantic flake of granite on the left that makes a bit of a shelter. Below that triangle is a tree. And I know Ethan is there.
My heart misses my boy. My heart misses his laugh, the child and the man. And it keeps beating in a silent slow rhythm. And that seems wrong. I am still standing.
I tell you what I will do. I will sit here with my laptop and cry a bit. I will pick up this brush and paint a bobcat because it will make me focus. I will say a short prayer.
And with every word of that prayer I will listen for the breath of God and feel for His touch on my cheek.
Living was not so much of a challenge three years ago. And I did not know then that I could survive this. Or that even though it hurt so much, that I could still be standing. Three years. And then tomorrow. And then the next day. Like beats to a slow song. Like walking on rocks in a river.
Tomorrow when you see me, I will be polite and smiling. And I will tell you that I am alright. I will not scream or sob or fall to the floor. I will not sink into the earth under the weight of a father’s grief. And I will take roll and pass out papers and give instruction. I will look and sound teacherly. And even if the hours pass as slowly as heartbeats I will stand and breathe and look you in the eye. It is an act of survival and if nothing else, an act of defiance.