New Memoir Tuesday! This weeks prompt was: Affection. Some of us show it easily, hugging relatives each time we meet. Wrapping our arms around friends. Some of us are more reserved, rarely touching other people. And then a few of us hang out somewhere in the middle. Hugging our children, but limiting our affection to handshakes with others. This week we would like you to write about how the show of affection has played a part in your memory. Choose a time when either the abundance or lack of affection (either by you or someone else) stands out, and show us. Bring us to that time. Help us feel what you felt.
My phone had been ringing all morning, but the loft office space our publishing company shared with other small businesses was loud and my phone had been insulated in the pocket of my gray wool winter coat. Taking a breather from the pinging energy fueled by the hope of dreams further realized, I finally check my phone and find nearly 20 messages from a variety of Christopher’s relatives. My heart sinks as I slowly lower myself onto the cold marble steps of the entryway. Finally, I reach Kathy and though left stunned and blinking by the news I snap into crisis mood, numbing my own emotions and quickly throwing myself into action.
Explaining to my boss what has happened as shove my arms into my coat, I grab my purse and fling myself into traffic, forcing the yellow cab to stop instead of hitting me. On what feels like a long and slow journey to Christopher’s work, I mull over how to tell him. No matter how clever I can be with words, there are none well crafted enough to soften this.
I throw open the doors to his work place and when his eyes brighten at the sight of me, my heart cracks. Slowly, I walk towards him and take both of his hands in mine, not breaking his gaze and I can see that he knows what is coming next, he just doesn’t know who. His eyes begin to flick around the room in panic and with a voice that sounds thicker than mine, I hear myself say, “I’m so sorry babe, your father had a massive heart attack…” I see hope flare briefly in his face, “…behind the wheel of his truck. He died instantly.”
Grief scratches his beautiful face and opens his mouth in a silent wail as he turns and rushes towards the privacy of the mens room. I gather his things, talk to his bosses and when he returns I grab his hand, needing to propel us both into action. Quickly, I make plane reservations, throw our clothes into suitcases, and try to gently hold him together as we traverse through the now agonizingly public spaces of subways, airports and planes until I deliver him into the solid, warm hug of his cousin, close like a brother, and then finally to his mother.
The morning of the funeral we climb the stairs together so he can join his sister, brother and mother as they gather in front of the coffin to say goodbyes. He lets go of my hand and reaches for his family as they tumble together in a tangle of arms across shoulders and around waists, a pack, a pride. Their grief gathers and grows in the center of their embrace. It begins to spin, funneling itself upwards into the air, borne on a song of lament. They pour into the funnel all that is in their hearts and as the sound waves crash against my body in an unrelenting surf, I gasp and add empathetic grief bound with a visceral understanding of a family flawed, but close. I imagine for a brief second that I can finally understand the hidden words in the notes surging through the air, then shake my head, reminding myself that this isn’t for me, but for him and I wipe my tears, take his hand and lend him all the strength I have.