These days, fourteen years later, I always think I’m done. I think I don’t miss him anymore. And usually, I don’t. It’s over. That life was so long ago.
Then it’s December, a few days after his brother’s birthday, a few days before Christmas. I don’t know what’s hitting me at first. At first I’m just mad at my lover. I’m distant he says. He doesn’t understand what he’s done. I don’t either, so I make things up. I knew this was too good to be true. I’ll always be alone. But after a while of this attempt to make him the reason I feel so bad, I remember. Oh yes. The date. This damn date. December 21st. And the memories push in. The middle of the night moments when my boy took his last breaths.
And I tell my lover now, and the tears that I’ve been holding in with my emotionless distance slide down as I realize the remembering. The indelible pictures of my boy’s last night with us muscle their way forward. The creak of the rough floorboards as I came and went from his side. The rustle of the sleeping bag I pulled over his failing body before I left for a sip of the dark night sky, a glimpse of the moon. The feel of his hair, silky under my palm as I held his head, warm under my hand for what I didn’t know would be the last time. The rattling of his shell drying out, dying out. The glow of the candle above the bed. The hands of the clock almost at the half hour past one a.m. when he took his last breath. The way we rocked him between us in our arms, our empty arms.
And the pain is so much now that I come and go from cold and distant to hot and sad and remembering. I say I need to be alone, but I don’t leave. And my patient beloved asks me to tell him the story, and I don’t want to. But I do. But only a little. Little pieces. I’m so tired of all of it.
This cat and mouse. This playing with the pain. This trying to hide from it. This opening little windows to it. This has been my life since then. For fourteen years. Only now there’s more space between the openings. There’s more room for other things than the pain. A lot more room. But still it comes. This day of the year it comes. And I remember.
Catharine H. Murray, Author of Now You See the Sky