April 8, 2023
From the time your dad slid a diamond on my finger, I dreamed of the home we’d own, the children that would play hide-and-seek in closets, and the adventures we’d take together to experience the wonders of the world before your dad’s world went dark. We’d mix large batches of sticky rice crispy treats together licking gooey fingers, have fun with friends gliding down slides exploding into ball pits, and build sandcastles at the beach under crimson sunsets, when the city crowds had gone home.
In the beginning, I assumed being a mother was going to be the sweetest, most important thing I was going to do. Then one day we were in that future. Digging my toes into the warm, fine Long Island sand, I looked at your dad, your baby brother in his arms as the tide swirled around them. And you, with your big, red shovel digging to find the center of the Earth said; “Daddy how far is the horizon?”
I was happy. You and your brother were smart and strong. You were very eager to socialize with other kids and adults, and we enjoyed lots of fun times with friend groups and cousins – summer cabana shares at the beach, pumpkin picking on the East end, snow tubing in Vermont, and fishing on Great Pond at Bear Springs Camp in Maine. We rode the LIRR to Citifield for Mets games, ferried across the Upper Bay of the Hudson to Liberty Island, saw Seussical on Broadway, walked on stage at the Met before the curtain opening to Hansel and Gretel, and walked among the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History. Your dad and I loved our careers and took great pride in creating a comfortable, enriching lifestyle for our family to grow safe in, building a future for your educations and our retirement, a future space in which I imagined building Lego worlds with my grandchildren. We even hired a financial planner in the fifth month of my pregnancy with you! It was all about continuity.
Today, I’m in another future, 400-miles from the New York island, standing in a muddy yard surrounded by uncountable sugar maples and white ash, my toes wrapped in thick socks, sunk into rain boots, shivering in unforgiving freezing April winds, blinking into the blinding sunrise. A very large house is pinned to the end of a long, winding driveway, only visible on Google maps. You actually named it on the app, Garcia Road. Perhaps you heard me yelling out into the bitter air; what the fuck!” A herding dog disappears into the brush, a cat waits patiently behind a glass door, and I’m alone here, knotting a bag of shit.
This should be a happy day for you. Just thirty-months ago, I had held my breath on your 27th, believing that in your 30th year you would begin to feel the ground shaping around your substance. That you would begin to know the gifts that have always been with you and find some comfort in understanding that the most important thing in life is simply being. The indispensable you. As your mother, I looked forward to seeing you celebrate this landmark right of passage into adulthood. Instead, it wears me like steel-studded chains puncturing icy thruways, popping the atmosphere, scraping every surface it scrolls over. I’m absent-minded, tired, and swallowing Beta-blockers to keep my heart from bursting behind my heaving cage.
It’s natural for most people to not see their strength and focus on the pain, pointing the lens on external realities. My darling boy, you became so focused on the pain you were carrying that you couldn’t see your strength. I think your frustration from holding the dark seedsthat your fear gripped so tight, made you want to sleep through the pain you felt. If you could only get enough sleep, you cried, the pain of living with your past and your losses might dissipate, then you would find the strength to continue to move through life. Son, you hadn’t given yourself enough space and time to understand that this pain and the losses were an important part of your strength. Your wounds couldn’t be cured or eradicated with pills, tinctures, and magical trip treatments. It was your strength that would move you through your life. The life that was meant for you. Your own perfection.
Wholeness includes all of our wounds, and all of our vulnerabilities. It is our authentic self, and it doesn’t sit in judgment of our wounds and our vulnerabilities. It simply says this is the way we connect with one another. Through our wounds. Through the wisdom we’ve gained and what has happened to one another.
You wrote: “I want mommy to always know that I love her very much and I do not blame her in any way for anything. It is my sincere hope that she is able to continue forward with her life, I’m truly sorry for any pain this may bring you by my decision.” Davin, I want you to know that death is not just a butterfly that flutters by on a light breeze, never settling for long before it reaches the end of its life cycle.
Although I know it doesn’t change our fate, I do feel at times, like “Mommy” failed you. And I’ve failed your dad, losing pieces of him, again. Grief doesn’t fade with time. It stays the same and your world shapes a life around it, like a wound on a tree limb. My heart is so broken, I can hardly feel the pulse of the life around me. Death makes a relationship one-sided, holding all of the memories that we have, all that we’ll ever have throughout our lifetime, until we die. It’s hard – when there are things left unresolved, things left unsaid, and things you can’t unsay.
I don’t know how to reframe with this suffering. You are my first born. The one person with whom I’ve lived longer in this lifetime than anyone. Longer than your dad. You are the person who I have spent half of my life cheering for at sports venues, applauding at symphonies, sewing tears in your favorite shirts. I listened when you were at odds with your step-father and held you when you felt scared and sad because you needed to feel your own father’s hand on your shoulder. When you would come and talk to me, you would become the person you were. The person you were as a composer, as a communicator. With your words you could be extraordinary. You became the person you were in reality. My beautiful boy. The splendent child with the gold crown, that I sang to when I first held you in my arms so you’d know who I was. The boy who rode upon his father’s shoulders while resting his teddy bear on his daddy’s head. And, you are the young man who pulled me into his chest to comfort me in the mist of falling waters, when your father’s name pierced the air where a picture frame once trimmed a desk, in a prominent tower, giving form to our dreamy future.
The shape of your absence is a grand piano with the open score of Ravel’s “Gaspard de La Nuit” on the desk. A large pack with four Head racquets, two cans of balls, and a towel inside. A Cessna that grinds over the house where a flight log rests on a shelf, dust-covered. A midnight blue BMW 3 Series with a box speaker filling the trunk. A full moon. Photos of me listing against a single, tall bookend, like a dangling modifier. How the tongue claps to palate to teeth to lips when your name sings through a final upturned line.
What do I do with this space? What do I do with this space? This space.
I’ve lost your name. I can’t say it, to you, to others. No longer spoken by brother, grandparents, your peers, mine — I’ve lost a range of resonant pitch. No longer we. No longer a part of that dialogue of moms and dads with whom I once shared a field bench, an auditorium, a Thanksgiving table. The aperture of the looking glass is narrowing into a sinking horizon. My view of all life filters through an obscured green lens, like a scope in the dark night.
There are some things that happen in life that you can do a lot of work on and move forward with, then there are some events that break you and you’re never going to come back from that. It becomes another part of our life story. Yes, life moves forward, and I am here moving with it, but it’s exhausting and life is so much more fragile now. I know that even though the burden I have to carry is never going to change, my ability to carry it does.
Davin, every night I fall asleep with your essence knowing that I’ll wake into every morning without you in this life. I miss you. I miss hearing your baritone voice calling my name—Mommy. I miss your strong embrace. I miss being able to love on you and be loved by you. Today, I’ll miss the burning continuity of your 30th candle.
If words can outdistance the horizon and breach the heavens, I hope you hear me sing:
I’ll love you forever…
This is a beautifully crafted letter to a son. A lost love. I won’t make too many comments except to say you have written a beautiful and perfect poem in the paragraph that brings with “The shape of your absence is a grand piano with the open score of Ravel’s “Gaspard de La Nuit” on the desk”. Some re-formatting with line breaks and you should consider submitting it to a journal. I do t have any suggestions right now. There is the Rattle poetry prize submission deadline in July. Big hugs and much love, even at this distance, if you remember me from the Vanessa Gabb workshop over a year ago,