I want to say something about yesterday. It was my granddaughter’s twelfth birthday, and it marked thirty-three years since my brother’s funeral. Because the house is for sale, Sam and I needed to be away while strangers walked through it. I went to the lab to get blood drawn for the annual doctor visit, Sam ran an errand, and then we had coffee at a new neighborhood coffee shop. We sat outside in the still slightly cool of a morning that would later turn into a near hundred degree day.
The simplicity of the morning was comforting, far easier than preparing to touch and say goodbye to the lifeless, hard body of a loved brother who took his own life. Years passed before I could think of anything more than, “What did I do wrong?” and spend anniversary days crying. In the early afternoon Sam and I picked several dozen peaches from a backyard tree and talked to our granddaughter on the phone after she was home from her riding lesson. She’s not too sure she wants to be a teenager next year. She’s seen what it did to her older sister.
I would be fine with having her stay this dear age of clear guileless eyes, bright smiles, and an innocence that will slip away. But life doesn’t wait. One of a thousand things that was changed about me through my brother’s death was realizing that life is like constantly coming inside and having the screen door lock behind me. I could turn around and look. What just happened is there to be seen, but as soon as any event is over my view is obscured by intersecting wires, making it appear as a jail. I don’t know if I ever see history clearly.
Later in the day, about the time everyone left my mother and me alone in the house she shared with my brother, I left with a bag of peaches to take to Sam’s sister and husband as a thank you for sharing cucumbers, eggplant, and green peppers. I stopped at the cemetery for about twenty minutes.
When Sam and I move to Arizona in a few months I won’t miss cemetery stops. No, I don’t think I will miss them at all. I think the reason I go twice a year is to affirm love to my brother and to make myself face the reality of his desperation in the hopes looking it in the face will continue to dissolve its power.
Then I met a friend for dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant where I had never been. We sat on the patio and visited for two hours. The heat of the evening felt like a winter sweater. We said goodbye just about the time mother began to tell me in a new, lost voice about her early years of motherhood.
The screen door stays locked. I look back now and I have a history of life that has taken place on August ninths. For all life’s sorrows there’s been more good, and I can say with a truthful heart I am grateful for this life.