There is light on the horizon at 7:00 a.m. now . The dogs shift and whine in their kennels restless to be let out for the morning. I feel like I have overslept.
My daughter and her husband (I am getting used to writing this) have returned home and head back to work today much to their dismay. The house is quiet without them and the two extra dogs. Where I sit typing this the clock is ticking out a march rhythm right over my head and why today I notice it is beyond me. So many times I been right here in the past months, trying to sort through all these images and emotions and never heard the clock.
There is a picture that was taken on Christmas morning in this same spot. My son is on the little wooden bar stool, a mouth full of hot tea looking up at the camera, he either about to swallow or about to spit the tea back into the cup because he is going to laugh. He wears a tee shirt we bought together at one of our favorite stores. It is a shirt made by Patagonia. It has a simple cartoon image of a seal with a fish in its mouth and underneath the image block letters say “Live Simply”.
It is good advice. Advice he lived by.
He wore that shirt a lot. He tended to do that. Find something comfortable he liked and that is what you saw him in, like a uniform. In that picture his hair is tousled, as usual. He seldom, if ever combed it. There is a slight shadow on his chin from where he has not shaved in a while, but then he could get by with that. On his right arm is a red scar from where the lipoma was removed a few months before.
He is with his at home with family in that picture, caught candidly as all photos of him tend to be, never one for posing.
I asked my daughter if she remembered seeing that shirt when she packed his things from his apartment. I was afraid he had been wearing it the day he died, and if so they had cut it off of him and it was gone. I don’t remember what he wore that day and probably never will. She disappeared downstairs to where the boxes of his things are, boxes that need to be sorted but we haven’t the heart to do so yet. She came back with the shirt. “I don’t think it has been washed in a while” she said. “it smells just like him.”
My daughter admits that she tries not to think about “it.” She told me she thinks she is “doing it wrong. but that is how she is coping.” I can’t fault her for that. I have no idea if there is a right way or a wrong way.
The problem is I feel him with me all the time and so I talk about him whenever I need to. I cry whenever I feel like it. I walk into the room with all his things and breath the smells I associate with my son.
I buried my face in that shirt and held it for a while. My daughter clouded up too. I don’t have to linger long there any more. I touch base and move on. We took the shirt back to the room in the basement together. I told her that I worried that the smell would fade and she reassured me that some of the things she has of my mother’s still retain her fragrance after three years. I have no compulsion to visit the fragrance of my mother’s things but I panic when I think I will loose those associated with my son.
When I hold my daughter in my arms I breath deeply of her neck. She smells as beautiful as she looks. It is the smell of life, the fragrance of vitality.
My son’s clothes smell of lightly and only slightly disguised sweat and dogs, tea and ginger, fresh air and dusty books.
When my daughter and I discussed the way she is trying to cope I suggested that she might consider trying to give herself more space and leeway to experience the grief, as her father and I have been allowed to do – bit by bit as it comes. I don’t try to fight it, though in given circumstances, for my own privacies sake I do postpone it. I give it as much space as I gave him in my life while he was still with us and that was a lot.
There are not many leaves on the trees. The Fall season is about spent. The nights are cold with frost and sometimes on the upper elevations snow. Jupiter is visible in the evening sky and we looked at it through the telescope the other night and saw 3 of the moons. We looked at face of our moon and saw the craters.
We are trying to think of what to do for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those holidays have been centered around our children for 29 years. Suddenly the wheel is off balance and I can’t figure out what we can do to fix it right now.
It helps to have people around, but sometimes having people around also puts a big spotlight on the empty seat – the person who is no longer here.
For all our sakes we will try not to overly complicate things. In that it makes it easy to honor our son without making a production of it. It is as simple as a nod in the direction of those things he loved. As simple as a cup of tea at 3:00 p.m. or taking a moment to listen when the wind blows through the trees on the hill, or watching the screech owl that has taken up residence in the box for that purpose. I will always miss talking to him, and the smell of him and his arms looped around me. I will always yearn.
I will plan loosely, go with the flow. My advice borrowed from what I observed from him – to see where our hearts take us, to live simply.
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.” Max Erhmann