We are almost at the day of your anniversary. It’s strange to think of how many years fit between now and then. I was just a boy then. I was a boy on the verge of manhood. I was a boy on the verge of a new way of life and a boy on the verge of understanding the difference between life and mortality.
When I boarded the bus from Monticello to home, I was months away from previous self. I had not change that much that I had forgotten who I was or what had happened to me. I was not gone long enough to undergo a complete transformation. I was better, but yet, I was still sick. I was only gone long enough to have the fog lift in my mind. I was gone long enough that my name fellupon the socially vacant shelves, which is what happens when a seventeen year old leaves his circle of social influence.
I was not gone long enough to feel remorse for who I was or what I had done. I was only gone long enough to have sobered up a little—I was gone long enough that I was no longer mentioned in a way that made you or anyone else in the house uncomfortable about the fact that I was who I was.
I remember that bus ride home very clearly. This is when I tried to make a deal with God. I sat quietly near the rear of the bus, sitting in a window seat, and occasionally looking at the other passengers with their backpacks and various packages. It was Christmas Eve. I looked at the expressionless faces of others, staring through the window like I was—their eyes moving along with the landscape on the sides of Route 17—moving back right to left, almost like their eyes were typewriters, and when reaching the end of an imaginary ding; their eyes returned to the beginning. The overweight bus driver looked straight ahead with his dark, lonely eyes appearing tragic and sad while focusing on the road ahead. Snow was falling and t the best of my recollection this was the last snowfall I can recall on Christmas Eve.
I was heading home to see you and hoping to be there in time to say goodbye. I wondered what you would look like when I say you. I wondered of you would look weak; I wondered if you would look old, and more importantly, I wondered if the look of death would be obvious thing. Even at a grown age, there is no real preparation for moments like this. They say even if this is quick or you know it’s on the way, dying is a painful part of life.
There are questions I still have for you. There are things I wonder if you knew and there are times I wonder if the wedge between us was too big for us to meet each other halfway.
Of all I know, I know that you were my first hero. I know that when we used to take our yearly walks together on the beach at Point Lookout; I know that I made sure to step in at least in of your footprints so that one day, I could follow in your footsteps.
I’m not sure what happens between a father and son after death comes into play. I’m not sure if you are able to see me as I am now or if you know that I honored your wishes.
I made a deal with God on the bus that day. The deal was if you lived, I promised to be good. I swore that if you pulled through, I would walk the line and keep it straight.
I suppose God had other plans that week. You passed away on the 29th of December; however, before leaving us, you gave specific instructions. I am proud to say that most of us lived up to your requests. We took care of Mom like you asked us too. Dave is doing well and is now and shall forever be my second hero. Mom is with you now, which comforts me. I hope at least now while you two celebrate eternity together, you both can find some way to visit us.
They say upon the death of a loved one that we do not weep for them but we weep for ourselves. Those that pass are no longer of body. They are no longer earthly and no longer tied to the earthly pains of illness and loss. It’s hard to believe that the last time I saw you in the flesh was 27 years ago. I still weep. I still miss you and I still mourn the loss of the relationship I wished would have had.
You used to always tell me, “You’ll understand when you get older.” You would say that about a lot of things. You would say that about working for a living. You would say this about love, relationships, friendships, family, and women. You would tell me, “You’ll understand when you get older,” as an answer to a lot of my questions. In most cases, I do understand now. In other cases, I’m still just a little boy; I’m a little boy, wishing we had more time together. I’m still a little boy wishing we had more memories than the yearly walks on New Year’s Day.
27 years . . .
It’s been a long time, Pop. But wherever you are and if ever this letter finds its way to you, I’d like you to know something. No matter how long it’s been and no matter how far the distance between us is—I will always love you. I will always do my best to honor your final wishes and above anything else, whenever I walk along the beach, I look up at the sky and say “Hello,” because to me, this is where you live now.
Sleep well Pop
Hope to speak with you soon
All my love. Your son