I have seen the psychiatrist… and he has affirmed that I am doing well.
I have a bottle of pills that are supposed to ease anxiety and compulsive or racing thoughts. I haven’t taken one yet.
But I have to circle around to what I feel and why I feel it:
My son was not supposed to die.
My son should be entering adulthood and running out on his own.
My son should be growing older as I grow old.
And I should at some interval, be able to call him on a Sunday and hear his voice.
I should not have to feel this awful emptiness… this loss. I should not have to feel bereft.
I should not be looking into this profound void and feel it sucking from me every last hope and joy. I cannot help be astonished to think of today, and tomorrow and the next day… facing the reality of loss. The heavy, visceral, solid reality.
But that is the reality of it. A reality that no pill can erase. A reality waiting for me at the end of every moment of joy, or upon every moment of waking, or at every silent moment.
I imagine you, not as some human headed angel playing a harp on some cloud.
I can imagine you dancing. I can imagine you laughing.
I can imagine you eating a whole pizza and then complaining.
I can imagine you doing a funny walk, just because
Or wearing a new hat.
I can imagine you with long hair, or a shaved head.
Or being bored on a Saturday morning.
I can imagine what a phone call on a Sunday night would be like.
Or another long drive across the plains in Texas.
Or watching you play percussion.
And most of all, I can imagine your arms around me tighty… lifting me off my feet a little.
And really, that is all I can do.
It seems strange to miss someone so much for so long. To sit here with my sadness like we were feeding pigeons in a park… just two old friends- me and my sorrow.
Ethan would be 25. He would be done with school and out there doing something else… maybe teaching music somewhere. Maybe in grad school. And maybe his demons would be all behind him- the insomnia and depression… those moments of poor impulse control. Maybe. There is no way to know.
And I don’t know if I would be struggling with depression and anxiety… or having to pep talk myself into just doing life today. Or if there always was this persistent and overwhelming feeling of meaninglessness just beyond that next corner. Or if I would feel so isolated… I have to think that this mess that I attribute to grief, may be something that I have always had in some form, that without the distractions of youth, and struggle, and business… has always remained hidden.
There are moments still when I shed tears at certain songs, or feel a deep sense of longing or loss in a place or because of a smell. There are other moments when I just feel lost. And still others when I am edgy and irritable. Most of all there are these long pauses where I think about stuff… and I think about Ethan. Where I try to remember the sound of his laugh, or a specific memory of a time and place now long long gone. And I want time to walk and breathe and think… It is like all the noise in my soul- if I had the time, I could sort into chords and notes and arrange it so that at some point it rises and falls, and it runs through the dissonance to some final resolve.
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.