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What I remember most, six years on, is the dark.

It seemed as though the night went on without interruption.

I remember bright, late November sunshine that shone down on the morning of the funeral. Bright sunshine as we walked away from the grave and climbed into the black car. Bright sunshine as we drove away and my son collapsed into my arms crying, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.

The rest of it seems to have happened at night. In the dark.

It gets dark early in late November.

Dark, when we left the hospital just past midnight and drove home.

Dark, as Dan and I walked down to the dock. Dark, as we stood there and I put my arm around him and looked into the darkness of the Hudson and asked, can you believe it? Lauren's dead.

Dark. as I drove alone through mile after mile of nighttimes in that longest of winters, listening to songs that drew the tears out of me.

Dark, as I walked with my father through the streets of this dismal old town, as he talked of his childhood, knowing not else what to do, hoping he might draw a smile, or a flicker of recognition, or a moment in which I might think of something other than that which I could not forget.

Dark, as I poured a glass of wine and retreated to the back yard, to look up at the night sky and wonder if she waited for me somewhere out there.

Dark, as we celebrated Evie's third birthday, just nine days after, dark outside and dark in the kitchen as we turned off the lights and lit the candles on the cake and sang to her.

Dark, as I left the nursing home where my Nana lived, after our first visit. She had lived through the same thing, sixty-one years before me, and when she saw me that day, she nearly collapsed at the sight of me, knowing I did not even know what lay in store, and knowing the awfulness of it.

&&&

Past nine at night and dark as I picked up Bailey from his basketball tryouts the past few nights.

Parents parked in their cars along the curb outside the gym.

He said a lot of kids were trying out and he didn't expect to make the team. He's in ninth grade; tenth and eleventh graders made up most of the field, he said.

As I waited for him the first two nights, I saw a couple kids come out sporting beards.

Damn, I thought.

My little boy, with nary a hair under his arms or on his face, up against older kids banging up against outright manhood.

I thought back to the first year he played organized ball, back in third grade. I remembered the games, again, with the dark always lurking outside. The year his mother died.

That season started in a gym less than a half mile away from the hospital where his mother lay, deeply comatose, hanging on to life by less than a thread.

I remember feeling like my guts were bleeding as I watched all those other mothers watching their kids play. Why the fuck is HIS mother in a coma? Why him? He's eight, a month away from nine. Why does any child that age have to go through this? Who decides all this, anyway? Some sort of god? I didn't want to believe in any sort of god throwing these kinds of arrows into the hearts of innocent children.

It was years before he stopped saying to me, Mom never got to see me play, Dad. Not once.

&&&

My little boy, not so little any more.

He may not need a razor any time soon, but he has grown to almost as tall as myself, I stand six four and he shades six three these days. I've noticed lately that when he tests me, when he goads me into fighting with him for a rebound out in the driveway, I have to use a lot more force and effort to push him aside. Time drifts by, and inside that little boy lies a man about to break out.

&&&

That same gym, a few weeks later, maybe a month after she died, another game, halftime.

I walked alone down toward a set of glass doors, and I stared out into the dark. Christmas around the corner, and I didn't have the slightest idea how to get us all through it.

I felt a tap on my shoulder.

Excuse me.

One of the mothers of the boys on Bailey's team.

I thought she would tell me I stood too close to an emergency exit.

Yes?

Hi.

Hi.

I heard about what happened to your wife. My son told me. I'm sorry.

Thanks, I said weakly, still looking out into the darkness.

I just wanted to say...

Yes?

I've been where you are. I lost my first husband. I was twenty-eight years old. It's a little different, we hadn't had kids yet.

How'd you lose him? I asked.

An accident. Funny thing, I used to always tell him I was going to die before I got to thirty-five, but he beat me to it.

Yeah, I always used to tell Lauren there was no doubt I was going to go first, and I had no doubt about it. Little did I know.

She talked to me for a while. She pulled no punches. She said the first two years would be a nightmare (and they were). She said "getting over it" was bullshit, and that I never would. She said she had just passed the twentieth anniversary and something about it being twenty years made it particularly difficult.

My husband is very understanding, she said. He was there for me. I'm lucky.

I thanked her profusely for speaking to me. One of the many disheartening things about widowerhood was watching myself disappear into the dark shadows of anonymity. My family and close friends were there for me, they stuck with me through thick and thin, but so many people who knew me and Lauren back when began to act like I had died, too. They looked away when I tried to say hello, they pretended they didn't see me in the supermarket or in the school parking lot. It was like they thought widowhood was a contagious disease they could catch by acknowledging me.

&&&

Wednesday night, tired, late, at a quarter to seven, I drove Bailey on up to the third and, he claimed, final night of tryouts.

Coach is making cuts tonight, he said.  

You sure it's tonight?

Yeah.

Is he going to tell you there or is going to call people tomorrow or something?

I dunno.

OK. Well, good luck. Try your best and hope for the best.

A couple hours later, I drove on up to fetch him.

Oddly enough, Sheila had left a CD playing, one I used to play all the time as I drove through the darkness all those years ago. I forwarded to one cut, "Shankill Butchers." I remembered the way it cut through me back then, as that whole album did, but this cut especially. It was one of the ones.

"'cause everybody knows...if you don't..."

The way he sang the word don't used to gut me.

"...mind...your mother's words...a wicked wind will blow...your ribbons from your curls..."

I pulled in behind the line of cars at the curb, hit rewind to start the song over. Dark outside, save the curbside lights.

I remembered thinking, back then, that our children would never have the words of a mother to mind.

A gaggle of six or seven kids came out in their shorts and sneakers. I looked into their faces as best as I could, trying to detect either elation or dejection. One of them was one of the ones with a beard. They all looked lean and athletic, unlike Bailey, who, though he has thinned out compared to a couple of years ago, still carries what Lauren used to call puppy fat.

They got into their parents' cars and left.

I watched the doors in the dark.

No one came out for a minute, then two minutes, then five.

I lowered the volume and started "Shankill Butchers" again, keeping my eyes peeled. I knew Bailey would be embarrassed if he'd opened up the passenger side door and this tune came blasting out.

Finally, one kid came out, then another, then a bunch of them, and then I saw Bailey.

I couldn't tell.

He got into the car.

Well, I didn't make it, Dad, he said. I got cut.

My heart sank.

Just kidding, he said.

I made it. The coach said he was a little sweaty about keeping me and he said I probably won't get a ton of minutes this year and I have some things he wants me to work on. But I made it.

I turned the music off.

I wanted to say something to my son, but I felt on the verge of tears.

I knew how badly he wanted this, and I wanted it for him.

I stuck my fist out toward him, and he bumped it back with his fist.

Aw, Dad, this is the greatest day ever! he yelled.

Oh, I thought, that your mother could have lived to see a moment like this.

Aren't you happy, Dad, he asked.

Yes. Yes I am. I'm thrilled.

I'm trying not to cry, I almost said, but didn't.

&&&

I walked outside a few minutes ago.

The moon is nearly full, and earlier tonight, it lit up the sky and cast white light down upon the autumnal ground.

Now, well past midnight, the moon sits behind a veil of hazy clouds, and once again the darkness reigns; you can see the moon, up there, but the light of it has faded badly.

I walk through the streets, and it is cold, cold enough to snow, I think.

I think back, of how we got so little snow that winter.

We got cold, and we got some ice, and we got a lot of rain, but no snow.

Mostly, we got the dark.

Originally posted to PapaChach on Sat Nov 16, 2013 at 10:08 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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