Wednesday, June 21, 2006

the first day of summer

She once said, looking out the window by her hospital bed, that she didn’t want to die in the winter. She was used to Indiana winters, sparkling and clean as a Norman Rockwell painting; she hated the city snow that piled up by the freeways, turning black from exhaust, the bleak gray skies.

She died on the very first day of summer.

It was, of course, the worst day of your life, and the smallest comfort you could get from this fact was that nothing would ever hurt you that badly again.

And the days stretched on interminably as you picked out an urn for her ashes, wept against your brother’s shoulder at the memorial service, listened to the horrible animal moans from your parents’ (no, not anymore, just your father now) bedroom late at night when he thought no one was listening. And you rocked back and forth in your own bed, keening.

There is no healing from a wound such as this, but you do learn to cope. You see loud and senseless action movies, you eat bad Italian food, you go on blind dates, you laugh again and, eventually, you stop feeling guilty for going on with your life. You stop obsessing over every adolescent roll of your eyes, every nasty remark spit out in the heat of anger. You know she forgave you, though you never asked for it, nor did you deserve it. You begin to focus on those moments of such blinding happiness that, all these years later, you remember with such intense joy that you find yourself clumsily swiping tears from your face with the back of your hand.

She is with you every second of every day of your life.

You take her along with you, entwined in the infinity signs of your DNA. You think of her whenever you read a really good book or see an excellent movie. You smile when you think of how much she’d like your boyfriend. You take her with you to Paris, to Oslo, to Tokyo, to all the places she would have loved and never got a chance to visit.

You could no more forget her than you could sever your shadow.

NLC, August 16th, 1946-June 21st, 1997