I visited you today.
Wind moaned through the oaks while leaves blew through the markers. Clouds scuttled in the sky like oversized gray-toned crabs. The grass the men planted didn’t cover the red earth and I knelt to pick up a quartz stone at the foot of your plot.
No stone for you. Soon, I’m sure.
We grew up in the 60’s. Hide and seek and homemade ice cream. What a combination as families gathered to sit on the cinder-block wall that brought together my house and your grandparents’ house. We licked spoons. Vanilla. Banana. Strawberry. Chocolate. Laughed. Listened to stories with nostalgia’s comforting ring. Then we’d run away. Find somewhere to wait while the next kid searched.
Your life was like that. You couldn’t find yourself through the black curtain of addiction.
Sorry. I left out what came before that, which is more of what made us friends.
Hide and seek gave way to placing pennies on the railroad track to be picked up and admired after being squashed flat and shiny. The hikes through the woods led to fishing at the lake that led to bicycles downtown that led to dirt bikes on narrow paths.
Didn’t you break your collarbone that one time?
I do recall my bicycle spill at your house. Who’d have thought two boards placed on a red wagon on its side would spread when the front wheel hit them at speed? Or that a bike and a boy could flip so many times before landing? Or, for the most part, that dirt tastes like dirt? How nothing—except the bike—got broken I’ll never know. You took me in so your mom could check me out. If I didn’t thank you then …
We talked about all that. We tried to stay strong. Did you see?
As we neared our late teenage years I regret how we grew apart, though I doubt it would have made a difference. You were searching. I wish you had found it somewhere else.
I stopped by your parents’ house the day before. Thought if I were going to cry I’d do it then and get it out. I couldn’t because your dear sister held onto me for maybe five minutes. Said they had been talking about our boyhood escapades. She loved you. Loves you. We all do/did. Wanted so much more for you.
I think it likely she left the miniature cross at your site.
The next day they asked me to walk in with them. Said I was family. To simply say I was touched beyond compare does not compare.
I sat with them on the front row. Listened to the minister. The sadness hung over it all.
Again, wishes for more than fifty-four years of life for you.
Once more I’m getting ahead of myself.
In line I waited. For my turn to say words that couldn’t convey the weight of grief upon hearts. That weight fell fully when I hugged your dad.
Later, outside, we stood around your casket. It was cold. The coats were many. The smiles of remembrance.
The quartz rock sits on a book where I can see it. It’s stained red. So many wanted your life clean and perfect. Life’s not like that, is it? You came and you lived and you did the best you could. You got to see your grandson. I think I got enough of a look at him to see that your red hair crowns him. Your daughter looks like you. I’d never met her.
When I see your family we hug. When that happens I’m hurt and comforted. The grief clings, the want for more, the want for your happiness.
I like to think that’s the case now. How do Heavenly drums sound? Are the sticks pure gold or ethereal wonders of rhythm? Do you get to play with your rock idols who went before you? It’s a cool consideration, anyway.
The quartz is ice warm in my hand. Within its many imperfections is fleeting clarity. Glassy and glowing when held to lamplight.
Possibly, that’s how we all are. We wished clarity for you but addiction clouded it over. Clouds. Wind. Sun and rain. We fare the best we can. We love, create, tear asunder. Do it all over again and hope.
See you soon.