Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Solace of Memories

We made it through a year, the first one without our son. The actual death anniversary wasn’t much more upsetting than many other days leading up to it. That may change in future years when we are less focused on grief and the date seizes us without warning or becomes a time to retreat from daily obligations.

As with other special dates, it helped to have a plan. We planned to go to Noah’s favorite local surf spot and taco stand and walk along the strand. It was a glorious spring day, sun glinting on the waves and the slick wetsuits of the surfers. They surfaced at a distance like a pack of seals. I could almost picture him among them, paddling out expectantly. I used to sometimes be able to pick him out of the crowd from the tall, thin, concave silhouette of his torso leaning out over the board. 

It brought back a raft of memories to be in that parking lot again where I brought him so many times before he could drive. His constant check of the online surf reports. The rip in the shoulder of his wetsuit. His loading up on donuts early in the morning. His eagerness to get to the water. His cool nods to the more experienced surfers, covertly watching their moves. His turning back, thankfully, in a fog so dense I lost sight of him within seconds of his going in. Old hippies on the sand in Santa hats at Christmastime. I used to wonder if he would become one of those grizzled old guys who never stop surfing.

I hadn’t thought about any of that during this bitter year. It took being at the beach to recover those memories. I rushed to write them down, for fear I would lose them. Unlike other family memories, they can never be recalled together with him in some relaxed, reminiscing moment. 

There were a number of gifts during the week of the anniversary. The realization that I didn’t need to carry my child’s pain in order to love and cherish him. The readiness to make plans for some traveling. The widowed friend who said there are no rules about grief other than the need to be gentle with yourself. The many kind cards and e-mails.

But the most precious gift was recovering those memories half-buried beneath the sorrow—and receiving a few new ones in an e-mail from one of Noah’s college friends. The friend told the story of how on a visit to NYC, Noah was the only friend willing to go with him to an obscure dive of a dim sum place that the friend knew from childhood and eat a dish of tripe and pancreas without a gripe or a grimace; he only reached quickly for his teacup. That made me smile on a sad day. Adding to that storehouse of memory is such a comfort, a thrill even. As if our loved one is still alive and telling the story himself.

No comments:

Post a Comment