Letters From the Eastside – Letter Eleven

Dear Mother Directional,

I was thinking about the ending of summer and the transfer between the warmth and the cooler months, like say, the way September rolls in and the heat breaks. Then it’s October. And then November. I was thinking about the holiday months and how they are both happy and sad and both times of great memory and times of big regrets. But that’s the thing about the future; and that’s the thing about introspection – this is hindsight because, of course, at the time of our youth, we lacked the ability to have foresight.

I remember the tables we set before the entire family came over on Thanksgiving Day. I might not have understood how important these days would be to me now. Then again, I was only young at the time. There’s no thoughts about the future when you’re young. There’s no concept of life or death. There’s only the moment. There’s only time and, for a kid, time is something we have plenty of.  There’s no reason to contemplate our health or how long we live. There was no thinking about cholesterol or whether we should eat that last piece of cake. 

My waistline has grown over the years – so, of course, I understand the value of better nutrition now. My health is not the same as back when I could heal or recover like a young man in his prime. But at least my hairline is still good and my face is not that of an old man.

Ah, but what I remember most about my youth are the times that I considered the least. I remember the family dinners. I remember the ease of the autumn months. I remember the glory of the decorations which began around Halloween, then it was Thanksgiving – and then it was Christmas when the town and the stores took on the holiday appeal. There were the Christmas trees and the lights and the decorations. Oh, and then there were the few times when we took to the City to see Rockefeller Center.  

I have this memory from when I was on my way home for a visit. This was not a happy time by any means. This is when Father Correctional was sick. He was in the hospital and towards the end of his life. I know that I still speak of him as if he was still alive, but I have to. This way we can keep our relationship and be rid of the past regrets and pre-death resentments.
I was sitting in a taxi stand waiting for a driver to come and take me to the hospital. The stand was more like a dive. The walls were dirty. The carpet was old and worn from all of the foot traffic. There was a little tree on top of an old television. The tree was a sad display of holiday spirit to say the least. And below, on the television, I was watching the movie, Jesus of Nazareth. 

I felt the honest purity of the season and the wholesomeness of what this time of year is supposed to be about. Then again, I felt the demons in me, reminding me what I had done and why I had been away for so long.
I thought about Father Correctional and what he saw in me – or better yet, I thought about the things he saw last which was far from seeing me at my best. 

I can think of all the times when we gathered as a family.
I swear, I never considered the times when people would pass away and leave behind an empty space at the table.

Ah, but I would rather think about the times when we were all together. I would rather think about the plates of food that were passed around the tables and the sound of family chatter and forks and knives scraping filled plates of food.
I would rather think about the times before the changes. I want to think about the times before I was older – or, I would rather think about the times when I was not old enough to forget about the nonsense of fairy tales or when I still believed in the ever-loving tooth fairy.

I remember being young and hiding beneath the coats in the bedroom where the guests put all of their jackets. Each time someone would come in, I would leap out from beneath the pile of coats to say “Rah!” as if I could scare them – as if by this time, they never knew I was hiding in there. But everyone knew and everyone had the understanding of childhood; therefore, they all had the loving decency to act surprised.

Know what else I miss?
I miss the hugs from people who I only saw on holidays. I miss the feeling of seeing people come through the door. I miss them all. I miss the way a person smelled, as if they had their own smell, which was not to say this in a foul sense. No, not at all.
Everyone has a smell – it’s not a bad thing. But this is something that I remember. Whether it was a perfume or a cologne or the shampoo they used.
I remember this at times when I think about the family we had and those who passed away, like Grandma Goodness and Grandpa Grateful. Oh, and my Great Aunt Enabler and her husband, Great Uncle Keeper. 

Perhaps we all had our own crazy dysfunctions. But they were ours. This was our family and if I could go back to the young version of myself, I would tell myself to hold on a little longer when they hugged me. I would tell the younger version of myself – tell them you love them as often as possible. Let them know this. Appreciate every second of this because a time will come when life happens and those who we love will pass away.

I would tell myself to guard these memories and keep them alive because this is how the people we love will never die.
This is how we keep our loved ones alive forever. 

I think about the people we knew and those who died young or went too soon. I wonder if they knew how special they were to me.
Then again, I think about the times when I was on the edge of indecision. I think about the times that I contemplated a step into the abyss. And then I was faced with real life. Then I was faced with the real cost of living and what dying really means.
Mother, this life is meant for living.
However, I admit to this with an open heart. There are times when the purity of truth and the honest goodness around me are like the painful remnants of that time in the taxi stand. There was peace and love and the tales of goodness. There were holiday lights and an eerie quietness in the Coronary Care Unit. There was love and there was light yet there was the duality of bitter sweet pain. I think this describes life very well. Not sad or depressing, just truthful. Above all, life is always eventual and inevitable.

I have more to do and more to say. Mother, sometimes I’m afraid that I won’t have time to say it.
Sometimes, I’m afraid that I’ll set the stage to pull off my trick and I’ll miss the mark. I’m afraid that I’ll kill it in rehearsal but when it’s time to go live, on stage, I’ll flub my lines or miss the mark – then my trick will go flat.

To keep it simple:
I just want to be good, Mom.
That’s all.
I just want to be good.

I miss you and I miss everyone else too.

Love always,

Your Son


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