Dear Winn – 18 March 2016

Dear Winn:
Thanks for your letter. I truly loved what you wrote about Seth, how he wants to eat the same food and to visit the same places every time the two of you head to a Clemson game. I believe that sense of constancy is one of the things our children most want from us. From always eating at Zaxby’s (I’ve eaten there too, not bad) to always kissing them goodnight before bed, these routines somehow make the spinning world a little less spinny. Those same-old-same-olds invite us as children to trust the earth, and that is not a slight thing, not at all. I think that’s why my heart seizes up every time I hear of a couple w/kids filing for divorce. I do believe there are times when its best for two people to unmake their vows, I do. But its feels far too common these days. Its not that I don’t think about the couple, but when there are kids in the picture I always think of them first, how the ground beneath their feet is suddenly crumbling, and how fear takes up residence in their growing bones. Our beloved Conroy said “Each divorce is the death of a small civilization.” You know, I haven’t heard a sermon on divorce in a month of Sundays…
We’ve got a two-hour delay this morning, about 4-5 inches of snow outside, just fell right outta the sky overnight, sorta like manna. I’m tempted to go plug in the Christmas lights on the roof, yes, the lights that are still on the roof here mid-March. There are things like that I’ve a tendency to let slide. Winn, I’m worried one of these days there’ll be birds nesting in my beard, I’ll be the neighborhood freak show and people’ll pay to drive by and see me and the birds and the lights. Of course maybe all that’ll give a bit of constancy to a skittish child’s heart. If so, so be it.
My birthday rolls around next week, a birthday you know I share with Abbey. I also share it now with memories of my friend Kara. She died a year ago, on our birthday. She was the first person to die close to my age in my immediate circles of friends. She was here, and then she was gone. Damn death. There were times over the last year when I felt completely out of sorts, like I could not get my clown act together. I see now it was the dark blue sadness over Kara’s death. It would ease for a spell, then kick up and cause me to flail: ease, flail, ease, flail. It has kicked back up the last few weeks, and I’ve been able to at least name it. I miss her.
I’ll share this story and then I’ve got to go shovel manna. I was driving home on Wednesday and took the same exit ramp I take every time (Baptist Road, no lie). I pulled up to the red light and across the way stood a man hitchin’ for a ride. Winn, he was the spitting image of my Dad, his face looked just like him. And the fact that he was wearing a Stetson of some variety coupled with one of those long cowboy duster coats, man, for a split second I thought it was Dad. It was the strangest moment. He had two cardboard signs lashed to his backpack. One read WYO – his desired destination, and the other read JESUS SAVES – I’d like to believe his great hope. In the time it took for a red light to go green the thought crossed my mind “Well there it is, Dad up and left for WYO.” But just as quickly the truth rushed in – “No, Dad stayed.” There must have been days he wanted to grab hat and duster and make out for places west, but for whatever reason(s), Dad didn’t. The light greened, I turned left, over the overpass, and headed for home. There are things I do not understand, Winn. I am simply grateful, down to my bones.
For pete’s sake, the district just called a snow day. Definitely gonna plug in the lights.

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  1. David Blase on March 19, 2016 at 2:22 am

    John, I loved your thought about me! Yep, I stayed but in my dreams, I “wandered”.

  2. literarywanderings on March 19, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    Thank you for articulating the variables of grief. So important to remember that saying goodbye is not one and done.

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