I can still so easily remember a time when he would wake me up in the middle of the night, crying to be fed and given a diaper-change. Together, we would pad down to the kitchen, I'd warm a bottle of breast milk, settle into a chair in the living room, and try not to fall back asleep while feeding him. Seems he's woken me again. It's just after two in the morning as I write these words.
Today is the 38th anniversary of the birth of my son Keith. I don't use the term birthday any more. That word expired when he did in October, 2010 (I noted that occasion with a poem in this journal - I'll re-post it below).
His birth, life, and death take up a sizable footprint in my forthcoming book Into the Thin, a work currently in the later stages of its own birth. In those pages, one will find a lovely account of his entrance into this world. I'd entertained the idea of lifting an excerpt to note the day, but the copyright goes into effect in 2020 and I don't know if it's okay to do that yet. Just as well, I suppose. I wasn't rattled from sleep to post old words. New words reflect newer understandings.
I don't mourn as I once did. Grief, like most things, is fluid. These days it's more about wondering. Mourning tends to be preoccupied with why. Wondering leans toward how. I was 25 years old when he was born. It's odd to recall this now at 63. I'm not that 25 year old any more, not even close. How I'd have loved to tell my 38 year old son what it was like then, how scared shitless I was, but also the understanding his birth gave me about how life appears (and disappears)...about how we don't come into this world as much as we materialize out of it. And then dissolve back into it.
I'm cursed and blessed with the noble stage of grief that is acceptance. There is no 38 year old son. He dissolved - and forever I might add. Back into the All. The Everything. The Only. An exercise in memory, but more lovely as years pass.
Here are a couple of poems, the first one a mystical recounting of an actual canoe trip we took many years ago on the Delaware River, and the second its more recent companion piece.
All In A Dream (A Remembrance)
We beached our beautiful canoe
on a sandy shore beside the river
just past a fine rapid-run
and made a good camp
at the edge of the flood plain forest
with a proud fire we made from friction
and dry things
We ate well and drank cleanly
as dusk fell-in
and all around was good quiet and blue light
and our voices which never rose above a whisper.
Never had to…so quiet.
Sleep came right there
beside the proud fire
and in the morning the light was golden amber
and the mist was rising thick from the river
and he was missing.
I made my way to the river’s edge
to where the beautiful canoe had been.
And looking down river I saw him fading,
into the mist
rounding a forever bend.
I called but no sound came.
No sound could.
All in a dream.
The water flows
along its course
a flat current through stream or river.
Until a whirlpool forms,
who knows why or how?
Maybe the water just wants to spin and dance a while.
But from the always-water
comes a swirling for a time,
and then something changes
who knows why or how?
Maybe the water wishes some rest.
And the whirlpool dissolves
back to the flat current
of the always water.
Around the bends
and over the rocks
and under the keels
of beautiful canoes.