Life as We Knew It

The first few weeks it was comforting to discover stories, poems and photos of Max I had not read or seen. It was like he was still around.

I thought I had gone through everything he left behind when one day, doing laundry in the basement, I spotted his small suitcase. He had stored stuff in it when he moved to my house, after his diagnosis. It was hugely sad and pleasing to open it. There were a few clothes, boots, another pair of rainbow-laced tennis shoes (the “old” ones I guess), some connectors for electronics, a few socks and a ball cap I’d forgotten about — but not the one I’d been searching for.

I realized, though, that in time there will be nothing new. No more photos, clothes, writings or little surprises. I will have seen everything. Max will be frozen in time. I could even publish his writings and develop his works in progress into full-fledged finished fiction. But not forever, because at some point there will be no more discoveries.

Some folks feel like their deceased child will communicate with them, through psychics or mediums. I’m not a disbeliever. But philosophically I am a perfectionist. I truly believe something only if there is no grain of “maybe” left in it for me.

I am not convinced I will hear from Max on the other side with new messages — though I’ve had signs. Surely he can’t “send” me full-fledged poems or new writings. I’d think my own mind was making it up — or turning on me. If I truly believe Max is in an incredible place of light and beauty, he is only pure love and does not have concern with my (or anyone else’s) earthly direction, accomplishments, or intentions.

And if I decide to believe we’ve all fooled ourselves with religion and we’re just biological things, then he’s still gone.

While I am thinking about this, sands are trickling through the hourglass toward the end of discoveries about Max.

Someday I will be 70, Max’s older brother will be 42, and Max will still be 22.

Maybe I’ll be alive at 90, his brother will be 62 — and Max will still be 22. We’re getting farther apart from him.

I grew up lost, heading in any direction away from home. As a son I was fiercely independent, and most of my life was hidden from the rest of my family. Later, I was never a great husband. As a worker I’ve only been adequate. As a writer I’ve published a few pieces but am in no way defined as a success.

All I ever thought I was great at was being a father to two wonderful sons. They grew up to be terrific young men. And now half of my results are gone.


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