I walk that path so often
In these subsequent times
Hoping for one glimpse of you
Among the dark pines.
I stand in the sunshine
And search for your bright smile,
Your golden hair
Against the blue-eyed sky.
I drive that road every day
And nearing that hill pray
That over its crest I find
Your slim, tall figure
We are propelled into the future
Like a semi on our bumper
Every moment farther from those we loved
And who loved us.
We leave forever behind
The hour we last shared
And any last chance
To offer a caring word
A kindness, or needed help
To save, or at least ease
The loneliness and pain,
Or just simply afford us now
Some small fragment of peace.
They tell me you are at peace
I neither know nor care
You should be here with us
But never will again.
So in this aching emptiness
I spend my hours
In some sense waiting
To someday be with you.
I would glance at him over the years, the little boy, then the pre-teen, and finally the teen-ager and young man. And I would be so proud of the child for whom I had waited so long, a handsome son, full of energy, laughter, caring, and promise.
But over the years, clouds would increasingly appear over his bright brow. At first I thought it was adolescence, and that he would someday outgrow this moodiness. But the clouds broke into showers, then thundershowers, and then storms. We tried to help him, tried in so many ways to help him, to get him help. But in the end no one could help him. No one could stop the rain. And then one particularly strong storm swept him away.
Over those years I began to feel that we were kindred spirits in many ways, he and I – I had (and still have) my share of bad psychic weather. I could deeply empathize with him. We didn’t talk a great deal about our feelings. We shared these mental states – the bonds were there in goods times and bad, but the communication was often unspoken. Now those bonds, and that promise, are gone. I am lost, and still trying to comprehend the reality of living without him.
I now imagine him – I practice visualizing him - in his
room, at the pool table, in the car. I see him in front of his bathroom mirror,
brushing his teeth in his undershirt. I talk to him about whatever's on my mind.
I visit him and invite him home. But in the end, I lurch forward without him,
against the unrelenting internal hum of guilt, and the unfading recollection of
the horror of that day. And I construct the fantasy scenarios, and present them
to God, and pray to be given that chance, for his sake, maybe more for mine, all
the time knowing that prayer will never be answered. There is an almost
physical pain in my chest. My heart, which is still filled with love for Steve,
is now also filled with sadness, and it feels like it will burst.
Where do I start, to try to say what you mean to me, Steve? Maybe with the best times, our play times together. There were the Hot Wheels eliminations, and the electric football league. We would build block castles and send the mechanized monsters through them. There was quarterback/receiver catch football in the front yard in Avon – we would take turns being Bernie Kosar. And there was basketball – countless games of ‘Horse’ - and later, table tennis and chess. And finally pool, the last major fun activity we shared. I loved watching your skills increase so fast. I went from letting you win to trying so hard to beat you. It was nice that you were an only child in that we could be together so often. We would also draw a lot, each working on half the picture.
I also loved watching you play with others – I never missed a soccer, baseball, or basketball game - you were a good first baseman and pitcher, and I have the videotape to prove it. And I read to you for years at bedtime – from bunny books to Tolkien. Camping was always fun – picking sites, pitching tents – you loved taking care of the campfire, and you had such sharp eyes for woodland creatures.
The other good times we had were when we worked together - splitting wood, building the garage and the game room, putting the pool table together. You were quick to learn, sometimes impatient, and always intellectually challenging. You questioned me, tested me, eager to do it yourself – I guess you were precocious.
I remember taking you out on Halloween when you were young, I would carry you home when your bag got heavy and you got tired of walking. On hikes, I carried you up a volcano, and out of the woods. When you got older, and tired spiritually, I couldn’t carry you - I could only watch with heartache and worry as you struggled.
For eighteen years I watched you grow - from strollers to bicycles, skateboards to cars, from Thunder Cats to Nirvana. From birthday parties to bonfires. From frogs to earrings.
You were the artist, the dreamer, then later the budding iconoclast. I could relate to all of them – there was a lot of me in you. You were my son, and it was endlessly fascinating to me to notice the ways in which you were like me, and the ways you were different.
I wanted most for you to be happy doing something you loved. Over the years I tried to give you experiences, tools, knowledge, skills – to introduce you to as many things as I could, to give you the best chance to live a life feeling good about yourself and others. When at the end, you lost interest in everything, I again hoped it was temporary. I hoped that something deep inside yourself would pull you through, that you would learn to live with the demon, and find some contentment as an adult.
But it wasn’t temporary. You will never use those tools and skills. We will not play a game together, share any more experiences, or talk about the times we've had. And how do I reconcile the past we had, and that future we won't have? There is only the present now, and there are only memories. And the horror that, in spite of everything I did, or that I tried to do, for you, I might not have done the one thing that would have kept you here. But what I am sure of this - I will always love you, son, and I'll remember everything about you as long as I live, and hope to see you again after that.