It was not all that long ago that Micah would sit in the front passenger seat of my car, his right earpiece in his ear, his left earpiece dangling on his shoulder, as we talked about just about anything. This might have been a ride to school because he missed his bus, or a ride to the rink for practice, or one of those rare times that I talked him into joining me on one errand or another. Didn’t matter why–it just mattered that we were there, a foot or two apart, sharing our thoughts about religion, music, games, technology, hockey, politics or just a funny thought he saw on iFunny earlier that day.
After Micah died, I found myself having a number of conversations with his empty seat. I would tell Micah what I was thinking, what I was going through, how much I missed and loved him, about the politics of the day. As time went on, I had fewer of these conversations. Maybe some part of me thought they were silly–either he can hear my words–silent or spoken–where ever he might be, or he doesn’t hear a thing I’m saying regardless of how loud I say it. For the past few months, I just thought about him–but did not speak aloud to him. Until today.
As I drove home from work, I passed a high school. This was not a high school Micah attended, just a high school in the area. My thoughts turned to Micah–memories of picking him up at school, memories of watching him perform in the auditorium, just memories of seeing him sitting on his bench at lunchtime, eating nibbles from his lunch while talking to his friends. I started to ask him how things were going for him. I wondered aloud if he had been following the recent election. I told him how much I missed his singing voice, and how much fun he would have had with us at the Frankie Valli concert last weekend.
As I looked up to the rearview mirror, I realized I had tears beginning to drip down my cheek. Was it the lack of a response? Perhaps. Maybe the tears were part of the response. They were definitely part of my response to my memories of Micah.
I had other conversations today. Every one in some way included a piece of Micah. Whether it was someone asking how I was feeling, or offering their shoulder, their ear, or simply their compassion–they were all conscious of Micah’s presence around me.
As I’ve shopped for Hanukkah and Christmas gifts, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to music. I keep zeroing in on the song It’s Quiet Uptown from Hamilton. The song takes place in the immediate aftermath of Alexander Hamilton’s son Philip being killed in a duel. The lyrics to open the song:
There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
Then push away the unimaginable
As a very talkative individual suddenly rendered speechless, I know this feeling. I know the suffering too terrible to name. I know the unimaginable. I also know this feeling:
(If you see him in the street, walking by himself
Talking to himself, have pity)
You would like it uptown, it’s quiet uptown
(He is working through the unimaginable
His hair has gone grey, he passes every day
They say he walks the length of the city)
You knock me out, I fall apart
(Can you imagine?)
I have been in this place far more than I would like to admit. While I do not seek pity, I know people have seen this side of me over the past 11 months. I hear the “can you imagine?” in the voices of my friends, of my family when they talk to me–even about much more mundane topics.
Isn’t it funny how we’re drawn to music that matches our mood far more than music that might uplift us? This show–Hamilton–speaks to me like no other. I see parallels. Sometimes I think–just for a moment–I know how Hamilton felt.
I try to remain focused on the good I do for other people–for my wife and daughter, for the kids playing hockey, for those that I care about, and who care about me. I think about what Micah would want me to do. He would want me to follow my own path. He thought that might have meant opening a bakery (he SO loved my cookies). He knew I liked singing–might have to do something with that. He thought it might have meant becoming a hockey or baseball announcer…
Every time I make the drive down to Tucson to announce a Roadrunners game, I think of Micah. At the rink, I know he’s listening as I make announcements. On the way home, I look to his seat and thank him for the motivation to do what I love. I tell him that I love him. He guides my tired eyes home safely through the hundred miles of winding darkness…