Rogers: It’s all about our time
I didn’t choke up until I saw one of my very best friends in life at the church. A good two decades had passed since we’d last seen each other. My deceased sister had brought us together. He choked up, too.
The preacher said we each grieve in our own ways. Just so.
I went off script a moment during my turn at the podium, struck suddenly by a moment with my mom at the dining table during our almost two weeks together, just us, which hadn’t happened in more decades than I last saw Mike.
“I think I’m just angry,” Mom said after setting her glass of water or juice down.
“Yes,” she said, more definitively. “I’m very angry.”
“Who are you angry at? Are you angry at … God?”
She’s not religious. I’m not religious. My sister was religious. The preacher and his family were good friends with her and her children. He recalled during the service the movies they’d watched together over at the house, and the laughs they’d had. My sister was a belly laugher. Resistance was futile. The very Grinch would crack up in her company. The Madonna would have been a different painting had she been there.
“No, not God, I don’t think,” Mom said. Not Dana, not God. No, it was the broken order of things, the way this is supposed to go. In this event, parents first. Parents always first. Not daughters for no apparent reason in their sleep. All this was decades too soon. Too much.
I don’t know why I pulled that moment out of my … in the middle of a mostly humorous recounting of a brother’s memories of his sister. It just welled up.
“I think that’s how it is for all of us,” I said and looked over to our knot of family in the first couple of rows and saw nods. Stages of grief. We’d progressed that far, at least, from the initial shock.
Of course, time looms larger in moments like this. The essence of my part in the service was about this. I remembered my sister deciding one day to drive from Southern California to my office then at the Vail Daily. Not telling a soul, just showing up. How we’d driven to Aspen and hiked the Maroon Bells. How now I’d just moved to Aspen to take on a mission impossible of a job, but, maybe when things settled, when we each had some time …
Storytellers are cursed. We don’t get to just unburden ourselves of cherished memories, skipping here and there randomly through that bank. No, we must weave a thread, have a point, finish on just the right beat. And, then, critique the whole damned thing later, as if the form had any importance at all, knowing no one will remember other than maybe how they felt while you spoke. Blasphemy, perhaps, but the words themselves don’t really matter.
This affliction weighed on me as I prepared and then memorized. Even for my sister, especially for my sister. I ended with the line attributed to the Buddha, right there in the Protestant Church with an audience dominated by her holy-roller friends, secure that many, many mere mortals across the denominations had made the same observation, a cliché.
I ended at the word “time” and left the obvious unsaid.
Unsaid and to go unlived.
Mike and I sneaked off to the bar upstairs from the reception at the Canyon Lakes clubhouse. Our wives at last retrieved us, though not before we’d caught up with other and made friends with everyone else at the bar.
He and his wife, Leanne, had their own independent friendship with Dana, and they all saw far more of each other over the years than me, the “prodigal” as my niece joked. I think she was joking.
But if we mark our friends in life by how easy it is to resume conversation, the ease we have with each other, how close to the heart they have remained even when we count decades between seeing each other in person, Mike and Leanne are it.
I’d known Mike since sixth grade, Leanne since junior high and mostly high school, when she and Mike got together. We had the imprinting of adolescence, living with each others’ awkwardness and now humble bragging on our kids and their kids, how they have turned out so far.
And then my son, first on the scent, joined us at the bar, had the same instant ease with my friend, fit right in with the resumption of our liar’s club. I’m not sure when I’ve laughed harder.
We had the best time.
Aspen Times Editor Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.