Yesterday

What is there to say today that I haven’t said a thousand times already, and thought a gazillion times more? I miss him desperately; it isn’t fair; I want him back. I’d like to be able to add “but”… but I am getting better. But I am hurting less. But it’s not so bad anymore. 

I can’t. 

The best I can do is say I keep crawling through this murky sea of molasses that is the process of learning to live with Jackson’s death. Today is the very worst day of the year, the one where my anger competes with my sorrow, and sometimes wins. It is the day when I truly feel hate. How dare those two men be so selfish, so careless with the life of another person? I often wonder if it would be easier to forgive them if I thought they desired forgiveness. Maybe. Probably, in all honesty. 

I walk to the Elfin Forest and sit on the hill by the side of the highway like I do every year on this day. It’s important that I go on this day, because seeing the beautiful memorial of plants and rocks for Jackson that some unknown person erected here fills me every time with gratitude, and I need this gratitude to mitigate the anger. On my way home I pick a few sprigs of sage, then a twig from a butterfly bush, another from a New Zealand tea tree, some tall yellow flowers that I suppose are considered weeds by the side of the road, and a few stalks of lavender. I add some rosemary, the only blooming flower from the California Carpenteria plant in my yard, under which Mugsy lies, and as an afterthought I pick a long stem from the jasmine bush trailing up my fence, fragrant and slightly sticky. I bundle them all up together to take to the cemetery. Usually I take a simple bouquet of rosemary – rosemary for remembrance – but today I want as much color and smell and texture as I can get my hands on. I place it on his headstone, then lie down on top of the grave and stare up at the sky like I always do. I look for clouds, to try and assign a shape to this one or that one, a game we used to play when he was a little boy. A zebra! Look, a dragon! But the sky is cloudless today, clear and blue. 

Everyone else seems to have forgotten the significance of this date, or if they haven’t they choose to keep it to themselves. The only ones I am certain remember are his half-sister Jeanna, who every year without fail writes to me on both his birthday and the anniversary of his death, to say she is thinking of me; and my almost-daughter, whose birthday is today. One of life’s sick jokes, that is. She rarely calls me on this day, but I know it isn’t for lack of remembering. I mean, how do you forget something like that? A couple of years ago she asked me if I’d like to spend this day together at some point. Covid came along, they moved, and it hasn’t happened, but I like to think it will, and that being with someone I love so much and concentrating on her rather than dwelling within will restore some of this day’s natural hopefulness to her, and by proxy, to me. One stitch at a time.

Tomorrow I’ll call Dad to wish him a happy Father’s Day. I can hear the conversation in my head. I’ll try very hard to keep the tremor out of my voice, and he’ll try very hard not to hear it. “I’ve been thinking about you lately,” he’ll say. I’ll hear the very slight hesitation in his voice, like he knows there’s something he’s forgotten, that it’s nagging at his subconscious but won’t bare itself. He has done what most people I know have done, neatly organized and boxed his thoughts of Jackson into memories, from present into past, so they are quieter, less ragged and ill-behaved. Less demanding. It’s a choice I’m not free to make, not yet anyway; perhaps I never will be. That remains to be seen. He’ll know some landmark in my life has come and gone, but he won’t remember which one. They sort of jumble together when he allows himself to think about it. After a few minutes of small talk, he’ll let himself say this aloud. “What day?” he’ll say. Then his voice will trail off. In the wake of my silence, he’ll start again. “What day was it Jackson died? I’m afraid I’ve forgotten.” 

I’ll take a deep breath before I answer. “Yesterday, Dad. It was yesterday.”

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