I remember it because the clouds were so strange that day. May the 21st , a Saturday when I had to work at a gallery I belong to an hour from my home. Six weeks later the world did end in many ways when my son died.
I remember driving on the interstate wondering how many people were thinking about this man’s prediction. I sat at the gallery watching people walk the sidewalks, laughing and talking to one another. A group came to perform in the little park area across from the gallery that day. They were affiliated with a religious group. Their presentation seemed more like a celebration. Maybe they intended to comfort and reassure people that day.
I talked to my son a couple of times while I was at the gallery. He seemed fascinated by the prediction and could not help himself from commenting on controversy generated. It made me nervous. Regardless of what this man had predicted, I knew because of the nature of the world, lives would end that day. It was a sobering thought. It is happening every day. One day will be my day. W.S. Merwin wrote a poem about that fact.
It is not a particularly happy thought. Every year that we live, we pass the day that will become the anniversary of our death.
I am a worrier. It is frustrating and complicates my ability to enjoy certain aspects of living in this world. I have heard the statistics concerning worry. It is said that eighty to ninety percent of what you worry about won’t come true. It is that ten to twenty percent that bugs me.
Now, at this point in my life having experienced some very difficult things, I continue to worry. The strange thing is, that on that day in July when my son went to climb, I did not worry.
Maybe I just worry about the wrong things. Perhaps someone needs to direct me in the pathway of worry for my brain’s sake. There is a Bible verse that tells us not to worry, especially about tomorrow, that each day has enough evil in it to tide us over.
My son’s life on earth ended. It did not take much to make it happen and it didn’t take long. What had taken over 29 years to grow and develop ended very quickly.
As long as his family members and friends live, his memory will live. There is to be a paper published, that may be used somewhere by someone. That person may want to know a bit of the history concerning the writer.
In the field of Philosophy, I think my son held great promise. It is easy to speculate and polish what you think might have been. If the past is any predictor for the future, then his future held promise for my son.
His sister has been preparing his library of philosophy books to be donated to the University from which he received his PhD posthumously. She had a stamp made with his name and has marked each volume with it. His papers will be donated too. I understand very little of what he is saying in them. Maybe, if I had another lifetime, I could wade through some of it. For me, I think it is too late now. I do not speak the language.
While working on the books she sent me a picture of the progress. Stacks of books are scattered around the space he used for his living room. His dog, now his sister’s, sits forlornly among the books. He is keeping her company, anxious to retreat to the comfort of the couch downstairs. You can see the bottom of the windows on the wall across the room. Between the windows on the wall there is a dark patch. It is where my son sat at his desk, his feet against the wall, his long legs stretched out. I remember seeing the marks one time while I was visiting, and told him we would need to repaint or scrub that space. I am sure before the apartment is rented his sister will clean that space.
The smudges of where his feet had been made me feel very sad in some ways and in some ways reassure me. The sound of his footsteps down the hall have ceased but he did walk the hall. It surprises me sometimes to realize that I have know people who have never met my son. I thought everyone knew him. Yesterday, I thought about how much I worry about his memory fading.
I don’t worry about people forgetting about me. I suppose it is linked to how much we idealize our children, our need to have them remembered. They have the potential to represent the best part of us, and move beyond us to do the things we hoped could happen. What I did well in the equation of parent and child for my son was to love him and give him space to grow and develop.
When he left that day to go climb, I did not worry. I am glad I didn’t. I am superstitious enough as it is. I would have thought it a premonition. As it is, he simply left on a beautiful summer day for a day of fun. Since it all has to end for all us one day (though perhaps not as the doomsday soothsayers predict) I suppose I should hope this type of ending for everyone. To wake to face a day unfettered by worry, unmarked by premonition, that will become ,unknown to us, our last.