Friday, November 27, 2009

I Can't Imagine the Absence of You

As wonderful a Thanksgiving as I did have, I was struck when I called my family last night in California. All my siblings and in-laws and nieces and nephews were gathered at my sister Seona's house in Morro Bay for the Thanksgiving weekend. I knew this; that's why I was calling!

I spoke to my brother-in-law Jeff whose warm greeting upon picking up the phone made me feel happy and welcome and home. Then my sister Seona got on the line and we spoke about the stuffing. It was a hit she said and I was so glad. And then to my brother-in-law Rick whose crazy "Papa Walton barely made it home for Thanksgiving" work saga warmed my heart that he shared it with me and then I spoke to my nephew Mitch who was excited about marshmallows and bagpipe lessons and talks to me lately like he is a grown up young person man-boy. And then I got to talk to my brother Sean and we spoke for a minute about what I want to get the kids for Christmas and he was on board! He mentioned that our friend Goodie was on the phone from Virginia with my sister Eileen and then I spoke to my nephew Johnnie who broke my heart when he was fed the line "I miss you Uncka Pat, I love you Uncka Pat." I spoke to his mom Leiyan whom I adore and she was going to get her daughter, my niece Oonagh, on the phone but they were all calling for the marshmallow roast on the deck upstairs and the line was hung up as if mid-sentence. Mid-sentiment. Mid- "I miss you guys!"

I returned downstairs to the beautiful Thanksgiving table with my friends and was so heartsick. I felt so homesick and was just sad, but in that deep, painful kind of good way as it is was an acknowledgment that my family means something deep to me and that they are under my skin embedded like armor lined with fur - strong and comfortable - protecting me. I was so surprised that I felt this pain so deeply.

Today I got an email that a guy with whom I play in the bagpipe band's daughter's boyfriend was in a horrible car accident the day before Thanksgiving and they pulled the plug on his twentysomething body today. He is dead. He is not going for his degree any more. He is done.

I have no kids. I have no connection to that in that way, but I can't imagine his parents ever imagined the absence of him. I didn't know him. I do not know his parents, but I feel some associative horrible gasping pain where they must be grasping at what-ifs and filled with rage and fury and roiling with keening paralysis right now.

We move away, we break up, we get older, we terminate friendships, and we know that people older than us will eventually die, and we deal. But with a child it is a glossed-over absolute acceptance I would think (and what else should it be?) that they will be in a parent's life until the elder's last drawn breath though we all know there is evidence to the contrary.

My God, the pain of that loss. I feel it like the phone just going dead, but the killer is they cannot redial. Ever.

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