Twenty one years
Twenty-one years I am mourning.
I am caught off guard by it yet again. Heading up the canyon for a run in the woods, I look down at my phone and see it. August 4. My throat closes up and my teeth clench. I wish it would pour buckets of rain. I wish lightning would crack and trees would blow over, and I’d run like a beast through the storm, my tears mixing with the mud and washing down the mountain. But it’s sunny and warm and the dust kicked up by the mountain bikes rattling down the trail sticks in my wheezing throat. I wish I had a piece of him to carry with me: a lock of hair or a finger bone. I want to bury my sorrow in some black, gothic death ritual involving ravens and full moons and vials of blood from the deceased. But these are the mementos of other centuries. We have the clean snap of steel latches clicking shut, and lawns mowed smooth over headstones set flush with the ground for convenience.
Brother, even after twenty-one years, every once in a while my breastbone cracks open and I can clutch my heart in my hands and feel the missing beat. I am still broken.
When we were kids approaching the awkward years of puberty, I would wait until the house was asleep and then sneak across the hall to his room. We would play Legos and talk about being children growing up. He had taken up weight lifting to try to pad his bony chest and arms. I spotted him while he bench pressed, and we played Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” over and over again. He carefully feathered his hair right before going to bed, just in case he met any hot chicks in his dreams.
Maybe five or six years later, the day before he died, we laid shoulder to shoulder on his bed for hours, listening to music and giggling. He was nineteen and going into his second year of college, and a proud, muscular chest he had. I don’t remember what we talked about, but it was goofy and silly and honest, and I felt that I would always have this; my best friend in this world, my guide and hero, my rock.
I finish my run and the lake is beautiful and the mountains are bigger than life. Late summer hovers over the trees and I catch the first scent of autumn coming. I think about my silly daughter and my sincere, loving husband, and all my gifts and good fortune in this life. And just like that, I ease back into my happy existence and the tasks of the day. Goodbye sorrow. I am sure I will see you again.