All That Terrible, Beautiful Music


What can I say, my daily mood is underscored by intense sadness. I lose my son every minute of every day—in the grocery aisle, at a red light when a BMW 350 xi passes by while an NPR guest discusses how breathwork and yoga changed her traumatized brain, saving her life. In every store I enter, the aisles blaring Christmas tunes, and the television shows we never tired of: Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown’s Christmas— all that terrible beautiful music. The melodies that flowed through his fingertips to the Grande soundboard sleeping under the polished lid, across from the chair where I sipped coffee with Gilbert, and A. Rich, and the Purple Finch mining safflower. Every sensory experience is plaited into the life we created, together. The life I created with David, with Richard and Shina, with grandparents and cousins…

            This loss is cinched to the loss of my husband, and second marriage, like a stringer chain of slayed Bunker fish immersed and kept alive in an ocean of longing. Bunker being the most important fish in the sea, convert drifting living matter into packages which are crucial nourishment/sustenance for others to survive.

            I remember when Davin was two-and-a-half. It was 1995. Daddy and Davin wore matching argyle sweaters. Davin came down the stairs Christmas morning, clutching his Teddy bear, to unveil his first set of wooden trains. Dave and I had set it up in the living room on a lauan plywood board that he cut, mitered, and sanded as smooth as a fine rubbed carving board, and I painted a colorful country scene of grass, sand, and water. The entire miniature world was set in the center of the room atop the pine slab coffee table he had belt-sanded and sealed with several pourings of polyurethane, the reminants still evident on the basement floor.

            1996 was the year of our first live Christmas tree. I was 37-weeks pregnant with Dylan and Davin and I made all of the ornaments from pinecones, paper, and dough so we could chuck the entire spruce, with all of its environmentally-friendly trappings, to the curb when my water broke.

            All those Christmastides felt like a blur; school assemblies, gift shopping, baking pecan pies and painting sugar cookies, wrapping gifts and stuffing stockings past midnight, while maintaining a busy Speech therapy practice. Then suddenly it was over. Five-years later (2001), I was mail ordering the boys gifts to be sent to their cousin’s house 400-miles away. Joy had left our home and we escaped, leaving our house unadorned. Today, twenty-years later, I’m trapped in the void of their absence.

            The high holiday season scales the protective crust that forms over my wounds, exposing the most tender parts of me, opening the gash to weep into the dawn. It’s exhausting.

            The current buzz feed on many people’s minds concerns holiday plans. There’s chatter on the walking path of the many spiced Christmas cookies—whether to bake them before or after the kids and grandkids arrive, “Do you think I could put candied ginger in the gingerbread?” Some friends are baking sweet breads and pies with sisters and daughters, and whether to serve a turkey, or spiralized ham, or both. The thoughtful husbands who photoshop holiday cards and scale ladders to string synchronized light shows around their homes. (Which both, by the way, had always been my job.) Others said, “I ordered the cutest ornament for babies’ first Christmas.” “I’m worried that the matching Christmas pajama’s I bought for the entire family, may not be delivered in time for Christmas Eve.”

            And there’s no dismissing the inter-familial cold wars regarding vaxers inviting, excluding, or carding non-vaxers under the mistletoe.

I wish my son was living. I wish my surviving son wasn’t hurting. I wish both of my sisters and I could share recipes in a kitchen together. I wish my sister wasn’t waking up in a shelter. I wish I’d had my own mother to sip wine with. I wish I had a person, to hold my hand on a beach, warm sun on my skin. Someone brave enough to be with me even though I don’t have the perfect circumstances. Willing to rub the many colored salt-smoothed shards of bits. Someone able to see the beauty in the brokenness with a kind heart to go easy on me. I don’t need sugared cookies, flashy lights, or filigree hooks to hang my ornaments from. To be known, to live a meaningful life with purpose, to belong to something with continuity and caress a fragment of joy swaying from the mantle, are the miracles I long for.

            From 1993 to 2018, I too had created photo cards and one page synopsis’ highlighting the kids’ milestones and our family ventures. And although I fully understand how nauseating these types of things can be for others to read, especially now that 50% of my cast are gone, I am glad I wet stamps through all those hiemal midnights, because that 25-page collection of family cliff notes comprises the one true palimpsest of our existence. Evidence that our story was real. We had thrived.

  I used to cherish seeing the traditions carry on from my mother through me, to my boys. Especially, because they would ever know her. And I’d imagined the delight of seeing the continuity through grandchildren. Now, no tradition makes my heart sing. I feel disconnected from the joyful noise in the beating drum of my collective losses. It all hurts.

            So, following a two-year hiatus, this is my holiday greeting. The Garcia Express-ion of 2021: Dylan is thriving, I’m surviving, the house will be sold, and the ornaments of Christmas will remain tucked in our hearts. This year, Dylan and I will fly away to vacate in a place where we have no memories. To leave the trappings behind and venture to a place where we can begin to create our own peace on this Earth. Maybe.

            Meanwhile, the Christmas photo album lies on the pine slab table David sealed with a pouring of polyurethane twenty-five years ago— the spine broken, images scattered within the folds, calling for new pages to be bound to.


© Deborah Garcia, 2021, All rights reserved
Images by Deborah Garcia

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