It was only three days ago that I wrote about how things seemed to be settling down. Conflicts had been resolved, good news had been heard (and shared) and my calendar appeared — for the first time in a long time — to be clearing up. Even the flu-like symptoms I had been experiencing since Friday evening in Chicago were subsiding (for the most part).
I woke up Tuesday morning, looked out window (figuratively speaking) and saw the foot of another mountain–another mountain I knew I would have to climb. I think hearing the track from Rent started me up the hill, then writing the blog on Tuesday morning got me thinking about the first ridge–widening my view to allow me to see every possible reminder. Whether it was the mousepad on my desk at work from Micah’s last season of house hockey–Spring 2007, or the pictures of Micah in the living room, or today–preparing the program for the choir concert next week.
This shouldn’t be a difficult task. I’m updating dates, typing in the names of songs and their composers/arrangers, correcting the names of school administrators for a new school year. Somewhere in the back of my head–and heart–I knew that eventually I’d get to the point where I would have to remove Micah’s name from the Concert Choir list. As I girded myself up for that moment, but did not expect the preliminary tremors from just entering the names of the new freshmen in the Women’s and Men’s Chorales. As I typed, I thought about those new kids, fresh out of junior high, just like Micah was a couple years ago. Excited about the future, enthusiastic about vocal music, and looking forward to their first high school concert. Young choir kids that would never the chance to sing with Micah, to hear him do his Barrack Obama impersonation, or watch him perform a Frankie Valli song like only he could.
My mind wandered to Micah’s teachers…Mr. Flora in the choir room, Dr. Koehn in the theater classroom, Mrs. Trombley walking into the office, saying hello to Micah as he sat on the same bench with the same friends, just being Micah. I thought about the pictures I took of Micah during choir performances last year–Micah lightheartedly complaining that kids were commenting that there seemed to be a lot of pictures with him in them. My favorite subject for photographs during choir concerts–my Tenor, my actor, my gamer, my goalie, my son, my Micah. My memories.
I sit at my desk, unable to focus on much else, just staring at that mousepad, tears in my eyes. I should probably get in the car and go home, but I feel like I need to somehow get a little composure first…hoping maybe writing this will help.
Then my internal calendar reminds me that I need to call the cemetery to get the contact information for the monument builder who will help us design his headstone. This, of course, put on my mind earlier when I updated our budget spreadsheet–staring straight at the line that says “Headstone $xxxx.” Back in January, this was planned out for October–giving plenty of time before our projected small memorial service, one year from his death, when the headstone would be installed, always marking Micah’s grave. Micah’s grave. His grave.
His grave. The reason why I don’t think we’ll ever move out of Arizona. How can I even think about planning to leave Micah behind?
Micah never wanted to leave. We would talk sometimes about Micah trying out for a hockey prep school or a Tier travel hockey team somewhere back in the Midwest, in Las Vegas, in the Northeast. All those conversations ended the same way–Micah wanted to stay home. He wanted to stay in Mr. Flora’s choir class. He wanted to stay close to his friends. He wanted me to be at all his hockey games. He did not plan to make hockey a vocation–it was a hobby. He wanted to get better grades and go to University of Arizona or Northern Arizona University to study music or musical theater. He wanted to build his future close to his family and friends. And now we’re building his final monument here, where we–his family and friends–must now build our futures close to him.
You know, I spend my work days trying to find issues to help people that have squandered their rights to their kids get a second and third chance to have their children back in their homes, back in their lives–to actually be parents again. Parents that let drugs, alcohol, mental illness, disorganization, or just extremely poor life priorities get in line before their kids. Where is my appeal? Where is my chance to argue to someone that I deserve to have my son back? What I wouldn’t do, go out of my way for, find a way to pay for, to have Micah back in my home. To yell at Micah for having his girlfriend in the house without my permission. To have to confront Micah about a low grade, or doing his homework, or not taking out the garbage–just so I could hold him, hug him, let him know I love him–and hear his voice. I don’t care if it’s talking, yelling, singing, humming, or cursing at his friends over the Xbox.
I know…he’s watching. He’s here. He’s reading this as–or even before–I write it. It’s not the same. I should be planning for how we’ll pay for his choir trip to Carnegie Hall in March, not for how to pay for his headstone. I should not have to only see Micah in my memories and dreams. When I stop by his door every morning and say goodbye and I love him, I should hear him say, “I love you too Dad.” I shouldn’t have to imagine, to listen to my heart, to hear it. I know when I make my debut for the Roadrunners that he’ll be there listening, rooting me on–but I should be able to turn around and see him sitting behind the glass, not just in a picture or other totem I place on the table before me.
May no one else ever have to write a story like this. I wish you could all read my writing in another format–a short story, a novel, some piece of creative writing. I never dreamed my first published work might be the story of a father who lost his 15-year old son.