A few years ago, I stepped out of a grocery store on third ave, into a cold, half drowned, windy day, one of those throwaway afternoons when everyone wishes they were anywhere else, or at least home; only to be overcome with the sensation that I was my dad, alive for this brief moment, embraced by this amazing wind, the rain's delicate fingers tapping my skin; exultant to be carrying bags of food, to see the hundred kaleidoscopic grays of the sky and leafless branches. The music of of tires on rainy asphalt, again and again. I could feel each person who passed me by as if they had brushed against me and whispered something only they knew. I could see how the day would unfold but what matters was I was here, on third avenue, alive, even for this moment alone. Reprieved.
I'm told that New Orleanians are a bit too comfortable with their dead, with death.(I hear the post-burial second line bothers the hell out of folks from out of town, when it's associated with an actual funeral.) I suspect that's one reason Rice set so many of her novels there. But I wouldn't give up my relationship with my own dead, even if it's really a relationship with parts of myself that they represent. Too much would be lost in cutting them out of my conscious world. That doesn't mean I think it's ok to be preoccupied with loss.
I'm afraid, I think, to let Jesse that far in, to give him the reins as I did my dad. It's already so unbearable to have lost him, and to have lost him in so many ways. In trying to get to know who he was as a young man (in those ways that parents can't know their adult children), I've sometimes asked his friends to tell me things about him; but it's not the same. Not knowing reminds me too much of how far apart we'd grown, of the destruction of trust we were helpless to prevent.
Jesse and his girlfriend had broken up two months before he died, but they had remained close friends. She has become family in a way; she and my sister are friends, as are she and I. I think she'll probably need more time to work things out for herself, but nothing would make me happier than to see a picture of her with her new baby on my photo wall, right next to the one of her with my sisters' baby, from a few months ago. We're the only people she can mourn Jesse with, and I have no inclination to protect her from her own process and feelings. I do however, think twice before asking her to help me with mine.
I'm trying to settle with going back to times in his life when we were closer, when he and I really let each other in, and to connect with him that way. I know what he loved when he was younger. I know what hurt and what he admired. I don't know how it is that I knew my father better than I knew my son. I knew them both almost exactly the same number of years. How is it that these bookends of death have placed themselves in my life?