It’s Halloween, 2013. HallOWEeN, Owen’s favorite holiday.
This day was loaded before I awoke. I slept in our guest room last night. I do this when I feel a need to be alone. It’s rare, but when I sleep in this quiet space with a great bed and comfy sheets, I usually wake up more rested, and am grateful. Today was different, slightly odd. I woke up wondering where I was, out of a sleep so deep I wondered if I could function when placing my feet on the floor. An old friend, now a distant memory, had visited me in my just-before-waking dream. She was kind and calm in the dream. I got her a glass of wine, as she asked. She was relaxed, not like I know her in the waking world. I felt sad that our relationship has gone so far south. And, I felt certain that her path is her path, and mine is mine, once I shook off the stardust. All good. All different from what I would have hoped. To what end, I wondered.
I did function today. And, fairly well. I had a great day at work. I wore black with an orange shirt and a skull scarf. I felt like I could do anything. And, I did plenty. It turned out to be a good day for contemplating how far we’ve all come, and how far yet we have to go. I said funny things. People laughed. A good day, indeed.
I talked with a friend tonight, one who reminded me why I do my work in dying, death, and grief. The trick-or-treaters were not at the door yet, so I went to the store to find something quick for dinner. When I got home, I had to back my car up a few inches to open the garage door. When I got out of my car, a man yelled at me from the middle of the street that I had almost run over his kid, and that I should be more careful about backing up in my driveway on Halloween. I yelled back, that I had looked in my rear view mirror and hadn’t seen anyone. He yelled something awful, and I walked into the garage with tears already flowing. I remembered what my friend had said on the phone, “You know what you have to do. Just do it. Write the papers, do your work.”
I did my best to put my groceries in the kitchen and make ready for the ghosts and goblins soon to show up. The doorbell rang and I raced to the door with candy in hand. “Trick or treat” came the salutation. Before me stood a Spider Man, a Batman, and a fairy. Candy dolled out, door closed, and I cried again. I was remembering the years upon years of Halloweens with Nat and Owen in tow – me, the parent worried about driveways and cars, my kids knocking on doors and collecting the treats to be consumed in the days to come. Suddenly, the years were not the years, they were now.
It’s always now when one of your kids is dead. It’s always now when you hear his or her voice saying, “Hey, Mom, can I take a piece of candy in my lunch tomorrow?” It’s always now when you remember the last time you saw the smile that made you melt and know that love survives all life experiences. It’s always now when you drive by the place where his or her body was found. It’s always now when you open the closet in the third bedroom and see his or her clothes, his or her guitars, his or her boxes of books. Everything that happened then, is everything happening now…because memories are not something that happens in the past. They are something that happens every time you remember. And, you remember constantly. This is the complicated grief that does not go away. It lives with you every day. Note: it lives with me every day. I don’t know how it happens for you.
Later tonight, Nat, Anna, and Ruby came by the house. They always do on Halloween. They know how much I want to connect with them on this anniversary of Owen’s special day. Nat hugged me in the way he always does when he knows I’m hurting. He’s hurting, too. He is my touchstone on the significant days. He’s my touchstone on any old day when he visits, and when he doesn’t. He knows, like no one else. We share this profound loss of Owen, like no others. I can’t describe what it feels like to hug Nat when he and I know we’re thinking the same thing. We just know. We hug like it’s the last day. Because, we never know if it might be. This is the gift and the deficit of losing a son and a sibling.
I remembered “Tubular Bells” tonight when the kids were here. I looked it up on YouTube tonight after they left, but none of the posts seemed to say what I want to share. It’s Halloween, so I am sharing a song of Owen’s choosing. He loved the movie “Donnie Darko”. I posted something about this movie a long time ago, can’t remember now. But, as I said, all of it is now. So, here’s to you, Owen. It’s a tubular night, no matter what song I post.