Andrew and I used to talk to each other often. Whether it be over the phone, via e-mail, texts, or whatever, we communicated a lot. I loved those father/son communications. They made me feel part of his life, made me feel that I was needed, and that my advice was sought after by my son – something any father can appreciate.
That has all changed. The communication is now one way, and I am not sure if it is actually communication anymore. I talk to him, but does he listen? Does he know what I am saying? People are going to tell me he listens and he knows what I am saying, of course, but who really knows? I still have the need to talk to him, I still need to tell him what is going on in our lives and, most important, what I am feeling.
Where do I talk to him? Where do I go visit him? There are a few places.
One is in temple. That is probably the hardest place. It is in the sanctuary that I last gazed upon my son’s beautiful face. It is where we had his funeral, where I last talked to him face to face. It is also where we had happy events: his pidyon haben when he was born and welcomed into the Jewish religion, his Bar Mitzvah when he became a man, and his Hebrew school graduation. It is where we went for his friends’ Bar Mitzvahs, and for the High Holidays. We spent a good amount of time in that sanctuary – all of it happy until the very end.
I stop by the temple once in a while to sit there alone, in the dark, and gaze at the front of the room where his casket once sat. I talk to him. I tell him how I miss him, how we are doing as a family, and ask him how he is. Dorothy and I go together to temple Friday nights, but there are others there, and the mood is much different. I look over at Dorothy once in a while and see a tear in her eye, and I know what she is seeing and what she is thinking…without saying a word. I enjoy going there; I recall things there that I cannot recall anywhere else.
I also visit him where his body now lies. He is not there spiritually, but his body is at peace at the cemetery. It is where I can see his name inscribed in granite: “Beloved Son, Brother, Grandson, Father.” I am reminded of the cold truth that he will not see his son grow up, of how much his grandma and bubby miss him, and how much his sister’s life has changed since he is gone. I also know that he is at peace there, alone but for a few other graves nearby, listening to the stream just a few feet from him, and that Daphne, sitting next to me, knows that something is special about that spot that we visit. I think it is only his body there, not his spirit, not who he was, but it is still nice to visit that small plot of grass that is forever his.
Where is he that I can talk to him? I think I connect to him most in our backyard; what is now called Andrew’s garden. Andrew and I sat out there many nights during his last summer home, built a small fire, and talked. There is nothing out there that was his, nothing with his name on it, nothing that he played with or held dear. But what is there is the memory of how close he and I were. He told me all about his life, about how he learned so much from the therapist he was seeing in NY to cope with his anxiety. He told me how much he looked forward to his senior year in Boulder, and how he was thrilled to be a psychology major now. We talked about everything, including what I do for a living, how much I enjoy my work, and what he wants to do for a living, and hoped that he enjoys his life’s decisions as much as I do. He so much wanted to help others and knew that one day he would. He asked me about the cars I drove growing up, and how he loved to drive his stick shift. There was no topic that was off the table. It was truly a special summer talking to him by the fire for hours.
The last place I talk to him is in his bedroom, which is right next to my office, and pretty much the way he left it. Of course we have cleaned it up a bit, and we have gifted or donated some of his possessions to people who mean something to us, but it is still the way he left it. We gave Andrew’s desk and his suits that he only wore once to Guillermo, who told me whenever his grandson wears them he thinks of Andrew and says a prayer. We gave Todd his snowboard, so we know it is being used by someone who was Andrew’s closest confidant. We gave away little things here and there so that the memory of Andrew lives on in other places, and with other people. But there is so much more of him in the room.
I go in the room and sit on his bed. I smell his pillow, and I run my hand over his guitar. I look at the pictures of him, and at the things that he held close. I see his glasses that he loved to wear, his Rubiks cubes he loved to solve, his hockey trophies, his team jackets, and his other toys. I sit there and I ask him how he is, where he is, and let him know how much we all miss him. I ask him why he is not here anymore, and that he really should be here. It kills me that he is gone, that my son is not with me anymore, that he will not grow up any more – and I tell him that. But my pain falls on deaf ears.
But as I said before, the conversation is one-sided. I talk; that’s it. Sometimes I look up when I talk and ask questions in the hopes that he sees my face from above…and remembers me, and sees my love for him. Other times I hold my face in my hands to hide my streaming tears. It is different every time.
But I still talk to him, I still talk to my son, every single day.