Day 296: You Are the Everything

At times, memories of Miles come back to me so powerfully. I hear his voice so clearly or I feel his presence. It is bittersweet. The memories are a refreshing reminder of him and his spirit. I am reminded of his kindness and warmth and humor. I hope such experiences occur for the rest of my life.

These memories also remind me that Miles is frozen in a place and time. On one occasion when his presence came to my mind, it occurred to me that I could never measure how tall he is against me, back to back. It also occurred to me that I could not compare his height to his brother. Owen has grown a lot in the past and I wanted to see how he compared to his brother. I do not know how tall he is compared to Miles. The thought made me very sad.

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Day 243: Maps and Legends

I write to Miles a lot. I write letters. I tell him what is going on as if he is away at camp or on a long vacation. I also tell him how I am feeling. I share with him my ups and downs. I tell him what made me break down in tears. I tell him about the dreams I had where he was present or missing.

Last night, I dreamed I was on a college campus, but in fact it was my high school. The halls were busy. The air was the mixture of late summer heat and early morning dew combined with the antiseptic odor of the building, cleaned for the new year after three months of inactivity.  I walked the halls and it occurred to me that Miles should be here. He should be on campus in the fall–somewhere– for his first day of college classes. I found a spot away from people and I cried. Someone was nearby, someone I used to work with at a college. He saw me and he started telling dumb jokes in a ham-handed attempt to cheer me up. It was so pathetic that I had to acknowledge it just to make him go away. I wandered off the campus and into the forest on a back road. I saw a woman with car trouble and I walked past her.

I write to Miles about my experiences and I speak directly to him. As I write, I realize that I am writing for a way back. I am leaving rocks along my path so that I can follow them back to the places I can only now know through remembering. I tell him about what happened in my day and I tell him about what memories of his life were prompted by my dreams and experiences. I am developing a mnemonic I can use to follow my way back to something akin to him.

The paths are strewn with rocks and stones. They are there in case I need them to get back home.

Day 236: Sitting Still

Miles would have graduated on June 9.  It is one of the milestones, one of a lifetime of milestone I will have to endure. Father’s Days, birthdays, college graduations for friends. I will wonder what Miles might be doing and what his life might be like at those same moments.  Friends of his will get married and have children and grow older. Miles will forever be locked at that age, 6,458 days old. I will wonder about his thoughts, his accomplishments, his own aspirations and plans and problems. All of it has been short circuited and instead of a lifetime of new experiences and joys and triumphs, I will have speculation. A second life in the subjunctive. Imaginary worlds about what music he might bring home this Thanksgiving and where he might spend his summer. What more can I do to help? What can I do to make him better? Make him happier? Ensure his success? I will get old and weaker. I will witness the world with the shadows lurking around me, ghosts of what might be and how we all might be different. We are lesser for his loss but better for his presence. We are improved by those 6,458 days.

Day 138: Voice of Harold

REM’s album Dead Letter Office is my The Gods Must Be Crazy.  The film The Gods Must Be Crazy is about a primitive African tribe. A pilot high over head drops a Coke bottle from his plane. It lands among the tribe. They wonder about this gift. They fight over it and conclude that the gods must be crazy for giving them such a divisive gift. This simple tossed-away thing means so much to them.

Dead Letter Office is a series of B-side songs. These are the songs not good enough for the album. As a teenager, I didn’t know this. To me, it was a legitimate album no better nor worse than any other REM albums. I only had one other REM album, so I did not have much to compare it to. I also did not know that songs like “Toys in the Attic” or “There She Goes Again” were cover versions of classic rock songs. I didn’t know better.

I also did not know that “Voice of Harold” was simply a different set of lyrics sung over the same music as REM’s song “Seven Chinese Brothers.” I had not heard that one either so to me “Voice of Harold” was just a great song and not derivative of anything superior. Sometimes is OK not to know better.