I’m driving and listening to music and there is this definite split… between what I know and this compulsive, irrational thirst… this emptiness…
And I know, I know, I know
I know what it was like five years ago to get the news over the phone and to know that it was true. I know what long silent drives are like. I know what memorial services are like. I know what it is like to be a parent that has outlived a child.
I remember the time I said goodbye to his body. To look at a face with no life. To touch this head and to feel how cold his skin was. And the truth was undeniable.
But I will look for him… I feel for warmth and breath and life… and I will always want a future that isn’t going to happen.
I know I have a different future. I know that I have another son. I know I have a wife. I know that everything is okay. I know to breathe, to be thankful, to count my blessings. I know to remember the best, to take my time, and to appreciate the now… but still, my heart keeps looking.
I was thinking about Ahab… and this compulsive search taking him further and further away from shore, from profitability, from sanity.
I am a father who has lost his son. And I know he is gone. Dead. Lost to my touch. Gone from sight. Gone silent.
By my heart keeps seeking… but I know he is gone and it doesn’t matter what I know.
I know he is not in the crowd, by I look for him. I hear him in the rush of voices. But he is not there. But I will look and listen. I will want something. I will wait for someone. I will keep seeking, keep searching, even though I know. I know. I know.
He is not here, and he and he is not in the ashes in the urn.
He is not in the photos. They are just pictures. And no matter what comfort a thing, a memory, a set of words
I know the rational truth about death and permanence.
I know that he is lost.
But my heart would have me sit in the room and stare at the ceiling light.
And you can tell me he is at peace, and in the arms of God…
And my heart will still search.
Whatever the comforting truth is… My heart doesn’t care
And as the time passes, I get further and further from sanity
Because my heart says that I will keep searching
Some years ago I was shoveling out feet of freshly fallen heavy wet snow with Ethan…
And today it is clear and cold and there is no snow.
And I miss the snow.
Today the cat is being especially cuddly and clingy
And following me from room to room
Trying to sit on the keys as I type.
Today is a long day
Of classes and kids and lesson
and today, I just don’t want to.
Somedays it seems like I look for reasons
To match my mood.
I feel angry so I look for something to make me angry.
I feel sad so I look for sad things.
Or I feel tired so I look for a reason to be tired.
Long ago I was outside in the dark
I didn’t want to shovel. I didn’t want it to be so early
Or so wet. Or so cold. Or so heavy.
And even my best boots were not keeping my feet warm
And the snow was heavy, so my back ached with every turn
And it just seemed like so much snow…
And there was Ethan… shoveling with me.
And I miss the snow.
There is something about the shorter days that weighs on the soul
There are things that can’t be said
There are feelings that rise late in the cold blue morning
There is a shallowness to the breath and the brief cloud of fog
And passing memories
like music written
And like so much of life
Defined by the lack of day
lack of leaves
lack of heat
Lack of time
Lack of light
And a dry cold wind blowing through the trees
And so comes another year… year five is approaching. March 18th.
Four Christmases. Four Thanksgivings. Four Ethan Birthdays.
Each is still hard and I guess I am getting used to it.
And really I think the anticipation of the grief is as big an issue as making it through another holiday season, another birthday, or the date on which he took his life.
I remember the day I picked up Ethan’s ashes from the post office.
We had gotten the yellow slip a few days earlier… but the post office was closed so we couldn’t pick up the box. And then, even though I left work as early as possible, it was closed by the time I reach it the next day.
So, intent on not leaving the ashes behind the counter in the post office, I determined to leave work a little early. I spoke to the principal and got permission to leave when the kids left… and not hang out to our contract time. I walked down to the back gate… but it was locked. The teacher with the room next to that gate has the key… so when I asked her, she refused. She lectured me about professionalism and contract time.
I couldn’t respond. My throat went dry and I walked away, fighting back tears. I went out the front gate past the students and walked all the way around the block to the back to get my car. By that time I was crying. And I cried all the way up the mountain and into the post office.
I think it sort of surprised me that I somehow skipped over the depression and anxiety for Thanksgiving… but it found me anyway. I talk about what I am thankful for.
Really it is always there… but the intensity and tone might vary quite a bit. Sometimes it is quite manageable. Thankfulness helps.
I made it through three courses of food I shouldn’t eat in the amounts I ate them… and I slept very, very well.
And the next day I climbed a mountain… not metaphorically. Literally… two miles up to Echo Canyon with family.
And then the Japanese American National Museum. We have come so far… And then then the UCLA game. Which they won.
And the next day, watching Fresno State… who also won. I know he would have watched and cheered loudly at the screen.
And if I said I wasn’t missing Ethan every step of the way, I would be lying.
My brother has the tubby Corgie named Coda… and Ethan used to pick him up… which was never easy, nor enjoyed by the dog… yet he did it every time.
And I think I can do this… Turkey. Stuffing. Sitting and wondering if he would have beer or wine with dinner.
It is neither depression, nor anxiety to wonder these things… what would he be like four years down the road… If he would have resolved his demons and found something, or continued lost… If he would have finished college and started a career or continued on for a Master’s…
We get a week off for Thanksgiving… and so I kind of kept busy and really didn’t get pulled down into that vortex that seems just beyond the curtain.
And then the week ended.
And going back to the usual routine… the thing that feels like anxiety and depression isn’t wondering about Ethan, or missing Ethan, or thinking about all the what ifs… It is continuing on. It is going forward missing a mission critical element. Carry on Carry on. Carry on… And trying to think about why? Why bother? What is at the end of this all, all the effort? Wasn’t the whole point about being a father… that the children would carry on? So now what?
I’m running on a treadmill… not a metaphorical one… a literal treadmill. Yesterday, I couldn’t find a rhythm. So I did two solid miles and then cooled down… Today was better. I’m carrying on. The mission continues even without this critical element.
And I am thankful for what I have.
I wake up before my alarm every day
And for a moment I have forgotten that Ethan is gone.
In the dark… I have this moment of peace and the world is not totally fucked.
Then the moment is gone.
And sometimes in the quiet of the house
Not all the time. But sometimes…
And then the alarm goes off.
And the world is as it is…
And last year I lost my brother Paul.
And I think about what a life he had…
And how it seemed that something was taken from him…
And how I lost him when I was seven years old.
And how we all lost a bit of him here and there along the years.
And that morning moment before the world is totally fucked…
I hope you had those moments too.
I am thankful for those moments.
I am walking just one more mile on this broken foot.
The pain– it is familiar now
and adds nothing to my burden.
But my shadow?
My grief is slightly lighter than my shadow.
And I carry it.
Or rather it comes along with me.