Sand in the Gears

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Fourteen

March 7th, 2010 Posted in Fatherhood, Snapshots of Life

You would have been fourteen today. Amidst the chaos of cobbled-together derby cars and robot obstacle courses and four sweaty boys we might have made a cake just for you. I would have made you spaghetti, because it is your favorite. We could have walked across the bridge in the late afternoon, to sit on the swing that hangs on the other side of the creek. Maybe it would have been awkward, because what do I know of raising teenaged girls? Perhaps it would have been your mother to sit with you on that swing, and this would be just fine with me, to look out our back window and see the two of you there, talking or maybe just quiet, allies in a house of men.

I think they might be gentler with you here, your brothers. You might have soothed something in them. Or perhaps instead they would be roused to even bolder feats of stupid bravery. Perhaps instead of racing their bicycles down the hill and sliding to a stop before toppling over the creek’s steep bank, they would have tried to leap it, for you.

I told Caleb today, as we left your grave, how you used to lay your tired head on your mother’s belly, knowing he was inside. You called him your brother-baby. This is what your mother remembered to Caleb. He smiled, and he was sad because for two years he was an only child who was not our only child. I wonder if something in him, in all of them, knows this presence of absence as your mother and I know it, grieve it, breathe it in and breathe it out.

What your presents would have been, I have no idea. I don’t know what 14 year-old girls want. We only know, now, to buy you flowers. Fourteen roses for your grave, a larger bunch of them here — your mother has them in vases. They are here because you are not, and they are here as you are with us still, a sudden sense of belief within a cold heart, a breathless ache, a distant sound that was once so familiar we could forget the fleetingness of life.