Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Nik and his friend, Jackson, trekked to the back ten at the Samuels house, to Aguirre Island, in search of adventure. “Don’t go along the back fence,” I yelled, “it’s mired in muck.” No surprise, 30 minutes later, Jackson found me in the garden pulling weeds. The lower half of his body, coated in mud, made him look like some type of mutant cannibal.
“Nik’s stuck in the mud,” he shouted. “You have to come help.” “Sounds like I’ll need my camera,” I said, getting up from my knees, my hands as dirty as Jackson. My brother Rex, he lived on the property with us, pulled Nik out of the mud before I got my photo. I still have the after photo of Jackson and Nik, mud buddies, grinning; Nik with only one shoe, the mud having consumed the other.
May, the month of mixed blessings, coated in muddy memories, passed with no standing ovation. The snow, gone, the weeds, tall, and the daffodils, having reached out toward the sun, lost their sunshine, their pedals curling, browning, and disappearing into the soil. Nik’s memorial garden, glad of yellow light tinged in blue, erupts with color, the first iris bursting in purple, followed closely by the chocolates, the snow iris coming in a close third.
The garden at the Samuel’s house has passed into obscurity. Every new renter exclaimed that they loved to garden, and of course, would buy the house, eventually. By the time the fourth set of renters had moved in, the garden, once rich with raspberries, strawberries, an apple tree, mint, oregano, thyme, and of course, irises, was long gone, and I no longer believed that they would eventually buy the house. My hope was that they would pay the rent on time, and not destroy the carpet or paint the walls the color of baby poo.
Nik, he enjoyed working in the garden. The tomatoes were his favorite, because he wanted to use them to make salsa. Of course, he proclaimed that whatever he cooked was the very best. Like his father, he didn’t depend on recipes, but rather on his taste buds and his creativity. His cooking palette improved with age, like a fine wine. And although the tomatoes did not always ripen on time, we would put them in pager bags and let them color in the dark.
My kids, DaNae and Niko, and I canned back then—pickles, relish, and chutney. We experimented with fried green tomatoes, turned whole pumpkins into pies, made applesauce for Christmas presents, turned berries into sweet jam.
Nik’s memorial garden is mainly flowers that color my sometimes-dark horizon in a rainbow to remind me to smile. The Samuel’s house has finally passed to the final set of renters. We closed yesterday. A mixed blessing. A letting go of the home where my kids grew up. Joy that I am now debt free. May, the month of mixed blessings…
Saturday, April 15, 2017
Time flows, one-directional, never stopping or stalling, except in my brain. The month of May carries the heavy burden of your death, balanced by the day of your birth, me stuck in an endless time loop, still hoping I will awake to find I have been living in an alternative reality, and you, my son, are tucked in your bed snoring softly, like the purr of a cat.
But reality settles in when I leave my lavender scented sheets. I live in a different house, your sister, engaged to be married, lives in Seattle, your faithful dog, Cholo, has joined you in heaven, along with your uncle Rex, and I have just returned from warm beaches in Cuba to the cold spring of Idaho, a mixed up mess of weather as turbulent as the grief that waits to sucker punch me in the eye.
I carry you with me wherever I go in a locket that settles near my heart. On my trip to Cuba, a met an 18-year-old man/child with your smile. He had olive skin and a crooked smile, and as he spoke English, he became our guide on our ride to the city of Holguin in a 52 Dodge station wagon loaded with 11 passengers and the driver. Like you, he was willing and eager to lend us some assistance, making sure we had the best seats and reached our final destination.
You are forever stuck, a day before your 18th birthday, while time continues to march for me, giving me new wrinkles, new gray hair, new aches and pains. I shed a tear for our new Cuban friend, a man/child about to serve his country for two years, his mother’s eyes gleaming, like mine. I miss you, Niko. Everywhere. Everyday.
Monday, February 20, 2017
Winter holds, gripping the ground in white, dripping from gray skies—heavy with sorrow, longing for the birth of spring, the joyful return of the chickadees singing, “Hey Sweetie.” I look out my kitchen window; when the snow crashed off the roof, the inside critters would cower in corners, whimpering, “the sky is falling.” A calico cat sits on the roof berm, looking into the house, begging me to open the window and let her in.
I let my grief in, remembering my blue-eyed boy, the young man who would shovel my roof and rescue neighbors that slid off the road in front of our house on long winter days. I look into his eyes, mine brimming with tears, and say, “I miss you.” In my mind, we hug, and he catches my tears, reminding me that the snow, and my tears, are all a part of the circle we call life, and that the spring will come, that the flowers in his garden will bloom, that the lavender flowers will send their scent to butterflies and bees, and we will all sing and laugh, that my life will go on, that he will wait for me on the other side, that he does not need to forgive me for my transgressions, because love is all that matters.
I watch the snow fall like laser lights, bright drops of sunshine to be, and I thank my higher power for the gift of my son, for the time we shared, for the love and courage he continues to deliver, even when he is not here with me in this physical dimension. He tells me that he lives on in my heart, and so will always be with me.
I remember the bitter days following his death. How getting out of bed became a chore, a drudgery, a forced action bereft of reason. I remember finding the courage to continue and to become a better person—a better mother to my daughter, a better student of life, a better daughter, sister, and friend. These small measures give me solace. They were a direct reaction to Nik’s death, and so, in some small measure, gave his death meaning.
I set aside my grief and suit up, donning my green airman’s suit, my wool socks, heavy winter boots, furry warm coat, felt hat, and gloves, and slowly make my way through the ice, the seasonal creek, the patches of melting snow to the barn, to feed the horses. Spring will arrive in a flourish of green. The birds will sing, and we will dance in Nik’s garden.