I have taken a week break from writing. My husband and I visited Savannah, Georgia. We stayed on the waterfront in the River Street Historic Hotel. It is a nice place, though perhaps a bit disorganized. When we go again, and I say when, not if, we will probably find a bed and breakfast somewhere on one of the squares.
We walked a lot. We visited shops, toured museums, ate a lot of food. A couple of our friends joined us there. Their presence made our time in Savannah that much more enjoyable.
We were not trying to escape memories or thoughts. That is impossible. We were trying to find a place that could make their impact softer. Saturday was our son’s 30th birthday.
I have always cried on my children‘s birthday, usually at the end of the day. I always mourned the passing of that precious time of childhood. Each year meant they were closer to taking flight.
As a child our son looked forward as most children do to “what they will get” for the birthday. There was always cake and at the least a family celebration. When we came to live in the mountains and he was older we would host a sleep-over for him and his friends. Since it was February it was usually fairly cold. The boys would bundle up and take to the woods in camouflage. I miss those voices now. I look at the old pictures and it makes me smile.
Our son would usually flee when we started singing “Happy Birthday” to him. I am not sure if it was the song or the attention being given to him.
I remember his 18th birthday in the year 2000. The group of friends had been ordered by the court to stay away from each other because of the incident with the port-o-john. It was a sad birthday. We went to a restaurant in another town so that we would not run into anyone in our own small town. I can remember where we went to eat and the shadow that seemed to hang over us.
As years passed and our son moved out west, birthdays were spent talking on the phone for well wishes. Gifts arrived by UPS.
I think he always wanted people to pay attention to him, but on his terms. His physical appearance was striking. Very tall and very thin. Handsome without any idea that he was so. Sometimes in public you could tell he did not know what to do with himself. Long arms and hands and always an impish slightly lopsided smile. I would watch him reading on the couch; book or computer propped in his lap. His face was all concentration and he would reach up with either hand and suddenly rub his head, whirling the hair around in a circle on the top of his head. Then he would pick up a strand on the side and twirl it between long fingers all-the-while his eyes locked on the page.
In Savannah I thought about the fact that it had only been a little over a year since he had been there himself. He
attended a conference in Savannah for Philosophy. He came back talking about the historic city and the food.
We did not go there because he had been to that place. I have no memories of him there, though I could imagine his enjoyment. Perhaps it did enhance our enjoyment knowing that we were seeing some of the things he had seen.
For the most part, we held it together. Getting out and walking kept us busy. The weather was beautiful. Our friends a welcome distraction.
On Saturday our friends departed for their home and we stayed one more night. It was our son’s birthday and we were determined to stay the day and depart on Sunday. We went to supper at a restaurant that was connected to the hotel and on the river. Saturdays are noisy and alcohol saturated on the riverfront in Savannah.
Over the music and laughter our waiter introduced himself, his name tag big and shiny. He had the same name as our son. Serendipity?
My husband and I looked at each other. The young waiter had a puzzled look on his face. My husband and I fought back tears. I have no idea what the young man thought was happening, if he was paying that much attention in all the confusion around us.
We ordered food anyway. We fought the feeling of wanting to just tell the waiter to forget it and retreat to our room.
Savannah is a place that I would like to visit again. The pace is easy, the people gracious, the food delicious. It is so drastically different in landscape from where we live and not like the coast of North Carolina that my husband and I are familiar with.
We made it through this birthday. We had no choice. My husbands birthday will happen in March. It will tough for him, as was my birthday and our daughters. We are missing a part of us.
I have wondered if as this huge hard stone of grief ever really does erode and smooth at the edges. If it does will it become a more manageable load to carry? Will it lodge itself somewhere in my heart and like some oyster my own protective devices will turn it into a pearl? I don’t know. Right now I can’t imagine how this feeling can be any less. But there it is. It is what we have.
In the graveyard we visited in Savannah I noticed that the deaths were inscribed as a date. For the young people they also stated the number of years, months and days that the person had lived. Immediately I understood why.
In Chatham Square there is a house called the Kehoe house. Actually there are two houses on the Square that the Kehoe family resided in. The first one was outgrown by the family who had 10 children to make it to adulthood -something unheard of in that day. William Kehoe ran an iron foundry and made a good living for his Catholic family. He built another house across the square that is now run as a bed and breakfast inn. On the balcony of the first house there is a statue of a weeping mother. It is thought to represent Mrs. Kehoe mourning the death of one of her children who did not make it to adulthood.
The pain of loosing a child has never diminished, in all time. My son lived a good life for 29 years, 4 months and 28 days. Happy Birthday baby.