The Chromebook is cold against my wrists. It sat on the floor under my bed last night, and here on the second morning of October, 2017, the temperature on this north slope below the Eastern Continental Divide is in the forties. I made the second fire of the season, and the old Papa Bear Fisher stove is putting out heat as I sit beside it. The cold metal laptop allows me to sit by the woodstove and write you. Cold wrists, warm shoulder. Polar extremes. I need both of these extremes right now. I need you.
Heather came by with her two girls yesterday; do you know how they’ve grown and are big versions of little girls now? Still little girls inside but taking on a more grown up body. Oy veh.
We went through some boxes of your stuff that were brought to me from the homeplace in Ashe County. Apparently, mice were getting into them and your dad told your brother and sister to go through it all when Sean and his family were in town in August. Then they brought the rest to me. It would have been cool if I had been invited to that, but I’ve learned to let go of the things I can’t control. God grants me the serenity if I beg long and loud enough.
During the first three years after your passing, I began to wonder if there is some quota of anguish that God needs for some reason, kinda like when you get pulled over for barely speeding at all, but the officers have a quota of violations and penalties they need to fulfill. Of course, you never got any speeding violations, despite zipping all over California and North Carolina. I doubt you ever had reason to notice a speed limit sign or look in your rearview mirror for the rotating light atop a patrol car. Once the cop came around to your car and saw those twinkly blue eyes and your goddess body, and then got hit with your smile, the violations book vanished from memory. It might have actually turned to dust and ceased to exist. People who didn’t know you think I’m exaggerating, but those who loved you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I can’t do it alone, anymore. In the beginning I had to do it in solitude, pour over every inch of everything you left here. This material world you left behind when you departed. Departures. Sudden departures. Honey, the human heart just doesn’t know what to do with that. Whether it’s a job or a home or a pet or a wife or a child, we walk around like, well, zombies, going through the mechanical motions of our lives. Zombies don’t really know they’re not human. Know they’re missing something, teeter around with desire seething from their poor old bones, but don’t know what to do to help themselves. I think that’s the fascination with zombies, really. At the heart of it is the fear that you have a big gaping hole that others can see, and the feeling that everyone else has some kind of peace of mind you don’t. We think: “If only I had what they have….”
So Heather gave me the moral support, and the loving presence, to open these boxes that have sat stacked next to my bed all summer. I don’t mind sleeping next to your stuff. Heck, I sleep with a snake in the bedroom, too. Ryan gave it to Ethan, and it didn’t work out as the best pet for him. Probably because he is so tactile and loves small, soft, fuzzy things and had been hoping for either a kitten or a rabbit. Snakes are cold blooded and don’t really need petting, and feeding the snake involves the torture and murder of small, fuzzy, defenseless, young mice. In the wild, this is nature’s way of controlling the rodent population, and it’s perfect. But as usual, humankind has to go and mess with the perfect order.
What I really wanted to say is that I was glad for the chance to cry with Heather. Your brother and sister don’t cry about you in my presence, and I try not to cry too much about you in front of them. It seems that we have all been trying to protect each other, protect ourselves, and now, after four years, it’s a hodge-podge of feelings and memories and questions and love, and…yes, peace. There is the peace that comes with acceptance. But it’s still a very unreal reality to try to accept, that you are not out there in Northern California loving life and about to marry your sweetheart.
I miss you, honey. I’m always wanting more connection; it’s a problem with me.
You and I live in the eternal, and I know that you meet me there all the time. I'm just saying...living there with you and lifting out of "the grieving mom" reality is mighty high work for a mom.
Heather sat on my bed, so respectfully, not touching anything until I pulled out a piece of your stuff and marveled and mourned over it and handed it to her, and that was perfect. She would touch each thing as if it were a golden angel wing that fell to earth, and she would tell me something about you that I didn’t know, or from an angle I didn’t have.
That is like a breath of life to me. Like life support.
Somehow she understands that it’s all ritual space for me, that when we touch your stuff, the air is full of you, full of angels and I don’t know what else, There is so much presence, and my heart is flooded with “this is all sacred” and “this is all sad” and “why aren’t you still here?” and that is why I need for the process of touching your stuff to go slowly. Inchworm slow. That’s what Heather gave me yesterday.
After she left, I put on my leather work gloves and stacked more firewood outside. Lifting each piece of oak and hickory, mixing in some poplar judiciously, sizing it up, stacking it like pieces of a puzzle, nuzzling each piece into its spot…it heals me. There is never-ending work around this place, but doing the outside chores causes so much to get worked out in my head. Worked out of my head.
As a teenager, you found Heather, and then she came to be best friends to all three of you, which hardly ever happens in any family. Now, she is now a full-fledged daughter of mine.
The older I get, the more I realize how much human beings need connection. And I have become heart-and-soul connected to the women and men who loved you. Your friend Maggie came to visit all the way from Minnesota. She also told me stories about you that I’d never heard, and brought me pictures on her cell phone, God if people only knew what they give me when they do this.
One thing Maggie said, talking about when she found out that you had vaulted off the earth, was, “When I found out, I connected with some of her other friends, and I said, ‘She was my best friend,’ and they said, ‘She was my best friend, too,’ and then we all realized that Corey had been the very best friend to a hundred or more people. She was just that kind of person.”
So thank you, honey, for giving me all of these new daughters and sons. We have you, and each other, so deeply in our hearts.
(c) 2017 The entries in this blog are protected under copyright law and are part of an upcoming book about love, grief, and being an empathic person.