Letter to My Son
This letter has taken me eighty-one sleepless nights to write, this being the longest night of the year. It is also the night of the “Great Conjunction” of 2020, when Jupiter and Saturn come the closest to each other since the year 1623—which occurred during the years Galileo was studying the stars. The two planets will nearly converge in the sky to appear as the Christmas star known as the Star of Bethlehem. The two planets appear as a single bright star. But as fate would have it, clouds block my view. The last time this event occurred, you were seven years old.
2000 was the year of the new millennium, a time in history when the world was gripped with fear that global banks were at risk of shutting down because computers were not programmed to read three zeros. It was also our last Christmas together as a complete family. The photo holiday card captioned you and your little brother, in matching pine green sweater vests sitting embraced, in front of our old Kincaid piano. A music certificate award is in the background. The first paragraph of our holiday letter ends, “when what to our wondering eyes should appear but the promise of another wonderful year!” 2000 was the year we drove to Disney World for Easter and visited Aunt Nancy and Uncle John, and your little cousins. You and your dad got lost in the dark on Great Pond, ME after an after-supper fishing venture in August.
That October, you and your dad went on a great surprise adventure to pick up the boat he purchased from the New Jersey Marina, across from the World Trade Center and motored it up the Hudson River to New Hamburg, where it was docked nearby your grandparent’s house. You marveled at the ginormous tankers and tugboats you passed and sketched them for your holiday notepad gifts. This was the year you learned to read, write, add, subtract, and multiply. You also learned to ski, roller skate, and canoe. You caught a fly-pop in on a little league diamond, served an ace on the tennis court, and played Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in the holiday piano recital. For Halloween, you wore a fur-lined bomber hat and pushed your stuffed husky on a sled that your dad made of PVC pipe—as Gunnar Kaasin, the sled musher, from the Balto story you watched over and over. You were a Lego master builder, building worlds of your pure imagination. You were having a wonderful life, by all appearance.
Davin, I miss you terribly. Some moments each day, I forget at 6 PM that you won’t be bounding into the kitchen with a bag of groceries; a gallon of plain, unsweetened almond milk, a bag of yogurt-coated pretzels, and pound of Guatemalan coffee beans. And that I won’t hear the whirring rattle of the coffee grinder in the morning, from my office where I’m writing the story of our life. I remember the last meal you prepared for me, It was Wednesday, October 21, you went to Montpelier to the co-op you like, and proudly purchased a pricey filet of bluefish for supper, my favorite. You prepared it in the most delicious light tomato-caper sauce. I was also impressed by the orange cauliflower you sauteed with garlic and delicious spices. I said, “You didn’t have to go all the way to Montpelier to buy me bluefish.” You said, “It’s the only place that gets it. I don’t mind, I know it’s your favorite.”
I want you to come home. From holiday planning, to shopping, to baking, I’m feeling a compounding dirge of crushing grief. I’m having difficulty with time and accepting you won’t be returning. You won’t be calling, or texting, or sending a post card. Twenty-seven Christmas’ together. No, no, I can’t. As the holidays move nearer, the days grow darker. It’s closing-in on me. I’ve received a few Christmas cards; Happy Holidays!, Hoping you find Peace and Joy in the Season and in 2021. I just drop them in a basket, unopened. There are no bows on the maples lining the driveway, no window candelabras, no cards to mail, no Christmas music, nor tree, nor stockings hung from the mantle. The holiday letters that captioned our young lives, are happy memories in an album. Though I fear receiving one in the mail, I’m glad I have the touchstones of you and your brother’s lives, year to year. They are the points of light in the dark nights ahead.
The timeless cartoons, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and now Frosty the Snowman, and Charlie Brown’s Christmas are replaying on Television. I remember the joy, the singing, the lessons. I remember you playing the spirited tunes on the piano. Hearing the music, any piano music, rips me open. You would be playing those tunes now, mixing them on your keyboard into new modern compositions.
All of the wonderful opportunities I steered you towards, the solid and loving relationships you had, the perfectly formed and healthy body, intelligence, and energy. None of it matters, if you’re not meant to survive. I’m glad you had these gifts. I’m glad I was able to hold it all together for you, us. I’m glad you had uncountable good times, adventures, and were loved by many. Despite all of the gifts, you couldn’t love yourself enough. You couldn’t see the value of you in the world, to all the people you had touched. It makes me feel very sad to think, how did I raise and love a human so dispirited, he couldn’t see himself in the world?
I can’t help to ask, what is the lesson? Perhaps today, it is this; Hope is the mortal fray between fear and faith. It is the dreamy guidepost in the journey, the flint that ignites us to continue into the unknown, urging us forward along the path to our becoming. Hope waits at the door of fearful judgement of others and self, faith waits at the door of loving kindness. Don’t react to the fear carried by others, by the unknowing world, your path is not theirs. Look beyond this dark raven to see the love in the shadows, for here is where faith rests and waits for your coming. Here is where hope is no longer needed. Faith is trust in the order of all things, that we are an essential part of everything and everyone. It’s the prize of freedom for not courting fear, for walking beyond the darkness, and standing beneath the million lamps of love.
I am heartbroken. Heartbreak begins the moment we are born and are severed from our mothers. It is the moment we are asked to let go but cannot. It colors, and inhabits, and magnifies each and every day.
We can see it not as the end of the road or the cessation of hope but as the close embrace of the essence of what we have wanted or are about to lose. Heartbreak is an opening to what we love and have loved, an inescapable and often beautiful question of someone who has been with us all along, asking us to be ready for the ultimate letting go.David Whyte, Consolations
Oh, how will I ever return to joy in the awakening of your absence? For twenty years, since your father’s leaving, I’ve made it my daily practice to capture joy by cheering you on through home plate, recording your music recitals, and baking it into buttery Christmas toffee. Joy is a measure of our relationship to death and our living with the darkness, my old friend. Joy is a practice of selfless generosity, a deep form of love. It is the raw engagement with the seasonality of existence, the fleeting presence of those we love, understood as gift. It is the beautiful frontier between loving presence and a new expanding absence going in and out of our lives; faces, voices, music, the weight of a child in your lap with a book, the aromas of the sea air on a summer’s first day, or a wood fire on a long winter’s night, or the felling of a Christmas spruce on a snowy field, or the taste of amber maple syrup dripping over warm apple pancakes on your tongue. I miss this all with you. I miss you feeling all of this in your life. In our life. I miss feeling the joy and seeing the joy flow out through you. I remember the joy and I miss you. Miss you. Miss you.
© Deborah Garcia 2020, All rights reserved
Images by Deboreah Garcia