13 December 2013
I sing you this last lullaby
Even though you’re too big to hold
Too cold to sigh
Too young to die
No words of comfort for your mum
No jokes, no words of advice
Just that smile that beguiled me from your first breath
In photos posed for patiently
On your coming and going
One final pose, the long sleep, tucked in
22 February 2012
I began this on January 17, 2012. People recommend one write to help with the grief. When I write, I can never finish anything because I end up weeping. This is as finished as it gets.
I wasn't looking forward to Christmas. I’d been downloading Christmas music, listening to it in the cabin, in the car, trying to gain some enthusiasm for the season, but after John and I had a couple phone calls, a couple emails, suddenly, we were going to spend Christmas in Atlanta, with John, and I started to get excited.
The plan was to finish the semester, all the grading and calculating and submitting of grades, then drive to Georgia. We would leave the 21st or so, take two days to get there, spend Christmas with John and his girlfriend, then drive home over another couple of days.
They take the day off to go biking. Something – a barbecue place – takes them to Gainesville, Georgia. They enjoy their meal and get back on the road. The girlfriend says she’s cold, so he turns around on his newest prized possession, a 2006 Harley Road King Classic. They approach a notorious intersection when a 67-year old woman driving a Chrysler minivan absent-mindedly decides to make a left turn into Kroger’s. John applies the rear brake, so he won’t lay the bike down or flip. He applies the front brake. The girlfriend is thrown from the bike, nearly into oncoming traffic. John smashes into the passenger-side pillar of the minivan, the blunt force trauma transecting his aorta. He falls to the cold pavement, face down, nearly dead, if not dead already. The aorta is the largest artery in the human body, originating from the left ventricle of the heart and extending down to the abdomen, where it bifurcates into two smaller arteries … The aorta distributes oxygenated blood to all parts of the body through the systemic circulation.
I’m still not over the week-long cold I've had. Orvy goes out to feed the horses because it’s cold and damp outside, and he wants me to be well for our Christmas trip. My mobile phone rings. Some woman who identifies herself as a nurse from some ER in Gainesville, Georgia, asks for Orvy. I’m nearly rude. Why phone me if you want to talk to Orvy? He’s outside, busy. If I can’t take a message, you’ll have to call back in about a half an hour. I start to pace. There’s something wrong about the phone call, about a call from an ER in Georgia, but my mind won’t process, refuses to make any connections. Orvy comes back in. I tell him about the phone call, and he returns the call. I’m still pacing.
Orvy presents the news as if it may be wrong. As if someone is mistaken. Even though I can’t breathe, burst into tears, moan, “No! No! No! No!” I know it’s true. We make plans to drive to Georgia, not in two days, but straight through. I drive over a dead deer and a huge piece of tire tread on the way there. It spatters blood all over one wheel well. It cracks my rear bumper. We make our first stop the motel, check in, and go to the hospital to visit the girlfriend. She’s lucky to be alive. But it’s all true about John. They ask us if we want the clothes they cut off of him.
Over the next few days, I can’t sleep until I’m exhausted. Sleep lasts for a few hours, and then I wake. Reality hits me, and I burst into tears. That’s the way I start every morning. Then I talk to morticians, lawyers, his friends, his coworkers. The girlfriend becomes increasingly distraught. The lawyers suggest we have no further communication.
I bring John’s ashes home in a lovely wooden box. Everything else I have to leave in a storage shed in Georgia. And what of the minivan driver? She has lots of insurance. She has a husband, whose name the insurance is in. She is charged with failure to yield. My 35-year old son who loved to skydive, travel, ride his motorcycle, had been recently promoted, who answered the question, “How are you?” with “Living the dream!” is gone. And all I have left is
01 January 2013
Not sure if this is a ‘caveat emptor’ story or what. Give a listen. Many months ago – let’s say six – Orvy and I were browsing antique stores in a little town an hour from here, which shall remain nameless, but starts with the letter Belton. We were actually picking up some furniture we’d bought for the new house, and I found an old English-made mantel clock with face and wood in good condition, a key, and the tag said “works”. Price was a bit steep, but I wound it, it chimed (Westminster chimes) – it seemed – appropriately. So I bought it and brought it home. Seems it wouldn't run for long unless tilted at about a 15 degree angle. We had reason to return to Belton the following week, and I complained to the proprietor. I really loved the clock and didn't really want to return it, but I also expected it to work, as advertised. She said there was a clock repairman a couple blocks away, and if I would take the clock there and have him phone her with the repairs, she’d consider covering the cost. So I did. I carried it there because the car was attached to a trailer being loaded with all our purchases.
Said clock shop is like something out of collaboration between China Mielville and Charles Dickens. One little old man runs the shop, and it’s a wonder he can find his way home, much less what he’s supposed to be working on. However, he seemed confident that the problem described was easily fixed. So I left it with his guarantee that he would call the antique store owner with the estimated cost of repairs. I reported this to the antique store owner, too, and left my name and number with her.
Weeks went by and frankly, I forgot about it. When I remembered and phoned, the antique store owner said she’d been in hospital but maybe her husband knew something. She’d phone back. Nothing. So I called the little old clock repairman. He said he’d call me back. Nothing. Then I phoned him. Yes, he’d found my clock (it had a sticky note on it) but it hadn't been fixed. He’d get back to me. He didn’t. I phoned again. He was sorry but his wife had been in hospital. Meanwhile, the antique store owner seemed to wash her hands of the whole mess, and I resolved never to shop in her store again. Perhaps she won’t miss the considerable business we threw her way buying furnishings for our new house.
School started; house construction started, I may have made a couple more useless calls and received many apologies, but no repairs. I announced to Orvy that if I were in Belton any time soon, I was just liberating the clock, fixed or not, because we’d paid a good deal for it. He agreed. But we never really go to Belton, except for antiquing and gun shows.
So, Orvy found himself at a gun show a few weeks back, and on the way home, stopped by ye little old clock shop to find that the clock repairman was just as kindly and disorganized as ever, but the clock wasn't fixed. He worked on the clock as Orvy waited for some time, but Orvy was supposed to meet me at an auction in Waco, and he finally had to leave. After another phone call or two (I completely abandoning talking to anyone about this clock and leaving it up to Orvy), Orvy found himself in Belton this past week (29 December, to be exact) and he picked up our clock. The little old man had managed to scrounge a key that fit well enough to wind it and said some things about ‘sorting themselves out’ and ‘if the hour chime’s wrong, that’s really difficult to fix’. He wouldn’t take any money for his work, but Orvy being who he is, left some anyway.
He brought the clock home, carefully wound it, and I’ll tell you what we have: a lovely oak English-made mantel clock with Westminster chimes with a German key. At 1 PM, it rang 13 times (which would be great if it were keeping nautical time, but it’s not). At 3 PM, it rang once. The Westminster chimes seem to be operating perfectly, even if the clock is running very slowly (now about 20 minutes behind). Of course, fixing the speed is easy enough with a pendulum adjustment. Perhaps the hour chimes will sort themselves out, too. I hope it’s worth the time and money; at the very least we have a conversation piece. Perhaps I’ll go to Antiques Road Show some day and find out it’s worth a fortune?