As I Approach the Twentieth Anniversary of September 11th
The pressure begins mid-July, with the surge of email, postal letters, and ramped-up 9/11 media aggrandizement. On August 1st, the tunnel of lasts and memorial making opens its dark eye, drawing me into the force that always unfurls my sons and I into the bedrock, with the others, to gather, to mourn, to embrace, to pray. It’s good not be alone.
“We’re preparing for the 20th Anniversary events. If you would like to read names at the ceremony, please respond to the link to enter our lottery.”
“As we approach the 20th Anniversary of September 11th, please join us for a presentation: Ways to cope with and prepare for the commemoration of this important milestone.”
“We are hoping to interview select authors to create content that would be shared by the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and other organizations.”
“Your local Public Radio is interested to know how 9/11 has impacted your life…”
“Engrave a brick for our new village memorial.”
“In the aftermath of 9/11, the Office of the NYC Chief Medical Examiner made the long-term commitment to identify the remains of 9/11 victims as new advancements in DNA techniques were available. Please indicate if you would like to continue to be notified of remains identified of your loved one in the future.”
“Please do not sign a statement that President Biden is not welcome at the Ground Zero 20th memorial.”
“Join us for a rally next week in Washington, D.C. to demand transparency of documents detailing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s role in the terrorist attacks.”
After two decades, I’ve had to reconcile with this darkness, my old friend, moving through the endways of an epic life like a Disney coaster through Magic Mountain —the last boat ride, the last Little League pitch, the last kiss. Though each year the course shared with fellow mourners is the same, there is a continuous progression of change in relationship to my late husband, the Fates, and the tasks that I’ve been given, shaped by time into a long poetic composition which is uniquely my own.
However, this time is different. This year flags the punctuate slash in the pre- and post- mortem continuum of mine and David’s relationship—twenty-years together, twenty-years apart. Beginning in 1988, Dave began filling my birthday cards with fractional analysis’ of the narrowing difference between our ages: “When I was 4 and you were 2, you were 2/4 (or 1/2, 50%) my age. Then when I was 8 and you were 6, you were 6/8 (or 3/4, 75%) my age. Now you’re 27/29 (.93%). “you’re catching up!” How did he know?
Because time is a relative concept invented by humans as a measure of our existence, perhaps we cling to the succession from our past experiences to cede to the present in order to move ourselves into the future. However, time is an intangible ruler of life. We can’t touch it, taste it, nor control it. It is unmalleable and irreversible. So, what is the metric of our existence? If Dave and I continued to exist together in this life, if I hadn’t chosen the second Tuesday in September to begin my new work arrangement which altered his schedule on September 11th, how long could we have continued before the figures cancelled us out?
When we met on a college campus twenty-years ago, I thought there was an infinite measure of time ahead of us to create our lives and live out our dreams together, that the hands of time were moving the union of David and Deborah forward into a future expanding toward an unseeable horizon. We hadn’t known that our clock had been wound in elapsed time, shifting the measure of our existence. In September of 1981, we had 100% of our life left together, 20/20 years. When we married in 1987, we had already lived through 30% of our history. In 1993, with the birth of our first child, 60%. In 1997, with the second birth, 80%. August 27th, 2001, on a ferry crossing the Long Island Sound returning from our Maine vacation, 99.33%, fourteen days remained.
In the mad chaos of career building, home restoration, funding IRA’s and 529’s, and piano lessons, we were unaware that we were receding toward the tolling bell, rapidly. On September 11th, 2001, we were startled awake by the morning sun blazing through the bedroom window. We thought our alarm had not gone off.
Beginning September 12, 2001, a clock re-wound, beginning the life of Deborah, without David, single with children, parted by death. The betrayal. The endlessness. This clock also had a specific measure of time, like lemon bars setting in a temperate oven. In 2002, we were 95% together, 5% apart. This somehow seemed like a banner of validation that the lifetime of Deborah and David was so much longer than the contrary. Together more than apart. I somehow felt deeper in the union than not, more wed than unwed. In 2011, we were 50% together and 50% apart. As of August 20th, 2021, we are .66% together, and 99.33% apart. Future and past reconciled. On this important milestone, what remains? A narrowed groove on my ring finger? A familiar wrinkle in my son’s brow? Perhaps what’s most binding is the ceaseless pulse in my core. An energy which flows through everything. A Chi.
The tenth anniversary of 9/11 marked a midpoint in this slide rule of time, which expounds the power of something intangible. Perhaps the metric is a shifting of relationship, from the ebbing of an earthbound union of physical bodies to a boundless evolution of souls. That heartbreak is a passageway to what we love and have loved. Even though I had remarried by this time, I relaxed into the solace of self-forgiveness to love and be loved in both my physical and spiritual relationships. I had become comfortable accepting that I could embody both simultaneously—the love that lived beside me and the one tucked deep inside.
Just as this year’s twentieth anniversary marks a significant time-stamp in history that has changed all of our lives over the span of a generation, it also marks the transition unfolding toward another measure of time, the beautiful cadence of David and Deborah. On September 11th, 2021, the metric of our relationship slides beyond the shrinking fraction of our tangible existence toward the inevitable expanding ratio of the intangible. Has the time we were together been cancelled out? Today, the ratio of our ages is 58/40 or 29/20, I am currently 145% of David’s age, and the dimension that divides us is expanding.
I believe that I’m not alone in defining a relationship that is no longer tangible, by articulating the essence of our loss in countable increments. It’s a normal phenomenon of mourning. I recall doing this in August of 2001, feeling a clock was unwinding in the days leading up to my 38th October birthday, the age at which my mother died from breast cancer twenty years past. After receiving a negative mammogram, I exhaled my beastly portents on a lengthened breath and celebrated in David’s arms. My life would not be cut short. I would live beyond my mother’s age!
A deceased loved one can’t be seen, nor heard, nor touched, however maybe, we can conjure a life with a measure of their essence. Assign a #hashtag as a form of user-generated cross-referencing to contextualize our existence, as a meta-expository. David and Deborah from 1981 @WTW #lovestory #911 #timeless #Chi.
© Deborah Garcia 2021, All rights reserved
[Images by Boynton, Deborah Garcia]