There is no easy way to segue into this, so I'm just going to blurt it out; today is the one-year anniversary of my nephew, Tavis's, death. He was sledding last year on his family property after an ice storm, hit a bump, and ended up in a ravine, where he hit a tree full force with his abdomen. He was awake enough to call up to the house on his cell phone, and got his twin sister, who in turn got their mother and went looking for him. When they saw how bad off he was, they called 911 and his father. The entire fire department came, because Tavis's dad is on the squad, and they had to use ropes and pulleys to get him up to the waiting ambulance. When they finally reached the top, his dad arrived, and they were all together when, moments later, Tavis lost consciousness for the last time and essentially died in their arms. He was life-flighted to Hopkins, where he was officially pronounced dead. While I wasn't there, I did see the life flight, since media crews were there to show the whole thing, and were waiting for his parents and sister when they arrived home from shock trauma. He was sixteen when he died, working on getting his driver's license, dating his first girlfriend, doing all the things he was supposed to be doing.
There is a list, I think, of people whose names we expect to hear when the phone rings too-late at night. Grandparents, uncles, that cousin you never see in Chicago. It's never, never a child's name.
I think I'm able to tell the story in a pretty concise, matter-of-fact way these days, simply because I've told it to a hundred friends, and it's easiest on everyone involved to keep the details out of it. I've found that no one is comfortable hearing that his spleen was ruptured, or that his father knew from the instant he saw him, when he was still conscious, that he wasn't going to make it because of the way his pupils looked and the way his abdomen was distended. My friends don't know what to say, and I found that several people avoided me altogether in the days and weeks after it happened, just because they were at such a total loss of words and everything else seemed trivial in comparison. The funny thing is, that was when I needed mundane details the most, and now that I've adjusted enough to be able to talk about him without crying, it seems inappropriate to do so. A dead child is a real conversation stopper.
What is bothering me the most, at present, is that I will no longer have the comfort in thinking about him in the recent past, like 'last year at this time, we were all doing xyz'. As of tonight, in two hours, I will have known he was gone for a year. Time has marched on, but I'm not ready to leave him behind, and have him get further and further away all the time. He was a wonderful boy, a rarity among teenagers, a boy who actually loved his little cousins with all his heart, and played with them whenever he was with them. He taught both my children how to be 'Santa' at the family Christmas get-togethers. He helped them at Easter egg hunts. He held them when they were babies. Those memories didn't seem so far away before today, but now I feel them slipping to that place in the photo album, where someday my grandchildren will point and ask who that boy is.
In the midst of dealing with all this, I got a call from the county today. Recently, we've discovered that our home is slated to be 'eased' - taken by the county to make way for road widening, in other words. We live in a hundred year-old american foursquare, four stories, on a quarter acre. Soon, it will be a turning lane. The nice man (for he really is nice, even if his job sucks) called today, of all days, to tell me that the appraiser will be here in two weeks to start the process of moving us out of our home so it can be demolished. The appraiser will come, the deal will be made, and we will leave. Someday, I will drive to the store over the place where my beautiful home once stood. I'm sure that people have been born and died in this house, maybe someone was married in my living room, had their first night as a married couple in my bedroom. This house was the last place I ever saw my nephew, where my dog, who died of cancer three weeks after Tavis's accident, has his memory box buried under the six story tree in the backyard.
I understand the need for progress, but time really, really is relentless. I have always heard that phrase and never thought much of it, but now I understand. No matter what happens, today, and all future January 19ths, will be a bitter pill to swallow.
3 months ago