I walked home from work last night. It was unseasonably warm and I wanted some time alone to think about you. Today is your Deathiversary. How do you like that word. I've been calling it your Deathday forever, but I saw something on the Biography Channel the other day that talked about Johnny Cash's Deathiversary.
Deathiversary it is. That's got more poetry to it than Deathday, and it's more accurate. When you think about a birthday, it isn't the day you're born, it's the anniversary of your birthday.
I stayed up late watching a movie called Scottish Flyer. It was about a depressed guy who was a bicycle racing champion. I fell asleep on the couch watching it. The only problem with sleeping on the couch is I don't get to hear the rain hitting the skylight in our bathroom. And it has been raining. A lot.
Which brings us to today. I'll be the only one wearing boots to the cemetery. We are the family of inappropriate footwear. I will try to remember to bring rags to make sure your headstone and grandma's headstones are clean of goose poop.
Cold, wet and miserable is great for being sad, but not so great for visiting your grave. It is almost the exact weather conditions of the day you were buried. Just a few degrees warmer.
You know, year-after-year I struggle to find the right way to spend this day. I know that I want to focus on you with everything I have. But it never seems to never work out 'cause your brothers or something else from work or life demand attention. We honor your memory 364 days a year. Today is to think about you and cry.
I'm feeling kinda lucky today. Your brothers are in school. Mom is upstairs working on her book. Here I am sitting alone in the basement reading a story (the perfect story for today) in The New Yorker magazine, listening to sad songs, typing this stuff and looking at photos of you.
I am getting my sad on.
Mom just came down and asked if I want to be sitting in the dark. Of course I do. I know how to work a light switch. Wonder why she asked that question. Maybe she wanted to talk. I know that when I used to be really sad after you died it worried Mom. But not so much anymore, because I am not as sad as I used to be.
It is amazing how things work out. First thing I picked up this morning when I rolled out of bed was the New Yorker so I could finish an article. I finished it and just started flipping through the magazine and my eye caught an article which I started reading but had no idea it would be the perfect thing to get me focused on you.
The story is written by a dad about his daughter who literally dropped dead last December 8. His daughter was grown up, she was in her 30s, and she, her husband and children lived/live in Bethesda, where I grew up. You know how I am always looking for coincidences, but maybe connections is a better word now that I think of it.
It wasn't until the second paragraph that you learn about the woman dying.
This sort of activity has constituted our life since Amy died, last December 8th. The night of her death, Ginny and I drove from our home in Quoge, on the south shore of Long Island, to Betheda, Maryland, where Amy and her husband, Harris, lived. With Harris's encouragement, we have been there ever since. "How long are you staying? Jessie asked the next morning. "Forever," I said.
Yup, I started crying from that second paragraph on. I bet we heard about this woman's death last year. There has to be someone we know who knows the family. I am certain of that.
When she was six, I was driving her and three friends to a birthday party. One of the girls got carsick. The other two girls backed away, understandably, with cries of "Ooh! and Yuck!" Amy drew closer to the stricken child, to comfort her.
That's you. That is what I want Mom to bring out in her book.
Jessie's teacher occassionally invites me to visit her first-grade class. They ask about writing. But the first-graders seem to know at least as much as I do. Ms. Carone asks me how a character is developed. I bumble through an answer. She askes the children to write a story with a main character, then list his or her qualities -- loyal, jealous, brave, generous. Each child stands before the class to answer questions. Arthur writes about a superhero.
"Anything you'd like to ask Arthur?
Ms. Carone says to the others.
One girl asks, "Does your superhero tell the truth?"
Arthur thinks and says yes
"Always?" the girl asks.
The article has it all. Bethesda. December. Death of a Child. First-grade. Superheroes. Redskins. Coincidences. Connections. How did this happen?
In April, we celebrated Amy's birthday, too. When we blew out the candles, Harris asked Sammy what he thought Mommy would wish for. "To be alive," Sammy said.