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February 17, 2006

Part Three…The Day That Would Never End

The Phoenix airport was alive with the usual frenetic activity at one o’clock in the afternoon but as I walked up to the ticket counter I felt as if I were wrapped tightly in a cocoon of pain and grief from which there was no escape.  The agent listened intently to my story and accepted my plight immediately, re-booking me on the most direct route home she could, expressed her condolences and sent me on my way.  As I walked to the gate I heard my name announced on the public address system directing me to a courtesy phone.  It was Marissa, her voice clear but strained, asking if I had any qualms about donating David’s organs.  “Of course” I said, “let them take whatever they want,” and then went on to relate my flight details.  It struck me later that I had been too quick and too casual about my son’s body and yet I suppose, in my grief, I grasped desperately at anything that would bring me some good from this tragedy. 

I don’t remember much about the flight home; it was a blur of faceless people in nameless airports, walking down cavernous concourses, aimlessly wandering from gate to gate.  Changing planes but doing so as if I were a traveler in time, disconnected from the people and reality around me and yet powerless to turn back the hand of time.  I spoke to no one, the unspeakable had me by the throat and I was defenseless to the grim hold it had over me.  I changed planes for the last leg home as the sun began to set, somehow found my row and fell into my seat by a window, the weight of my world crushing down on me.  I stared blankly out at the runway afraid to make eye contact with anyone for fear that the torrent of tears would again burst forth and overwhelm me.  A young man about nineteen took the seat next to me and immediately put his head phones on, turned on his CD player and began to play the “gangster” rap that Dave loved so much, and for the first time I wondered would this pain ever stop?

I found myself in a hopelessly confused state, my mind unable to focus on even the tiniest detail.  I decided that I had to focus on something even if it were the most inane topic…and so I started a list of things that I had to do, who to call, who to email, where to go, and most of all what to say!  And then a fearful thought entered my mind, what if there were media present when I got off the plane, not that this tragedy was particularly noteworthy.  What if it were a slow news day, so slow that suddenly the story of a nice kid from a nice side of town who dies from addiction in the swimming pool of a friend, this story gets elevated to page two status.  And so I began to write a “statement” that I would read or give to the “media” as I stepped off the plane, something that would talk about David’s struggle with addiction while asking for the prayers of family, friends and strangers alike.

There was no media, only Marissa and Josh.  Where there had once been a family of four now there were only three, the awareness painfully acute to each of us as we cried together at the gate.  We wrapped ourselves together against our grief and headed to the car.  Marissa’s sister and brother-in-law drove us home, the three of us huddled together in the backseat, no words remembered, the unspeakable holding sway. 

As we turned onto our street I remember thinking our house was ablaze with light and activity.  Every lamp appeared to be lit, cars parked up and down the street on both sides and young people milling about or sitting in the front yard in clusters of two and three.  They held each other, crying softly or talked in hushed reverent tones in the warm June night.  One after another, David and Josh’s friends came to me, hugged me and then made way for the next…it was like the day would never end

February 17, 2006 at 10:16 PM in The Unspeakable | Permalink

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