as recollected by Robert's family, Christmas 2019
The season of giving and thanks leaves pause for reflection. Grief is a dungeon – formed of nightmares in broad daylight – as wide as it is deep. You may wish to put this missive aside for another day – but you are part of the memory that refuses to be ignored, shouting for attention. My memory is drawn to our summer exploration of Colorado where we visited Mesa Verde – a sacred place I first experienced 25 years ago. The people of the Mesa vanished 800 years ago but I knew I would return to share their memory with my family. The story of an ancient people literally carving an existence from canyon walls using the narrowest of trails was lost on the ladders – linking levels – allowing access to the Mesa. The Anastasi traversed those ladders for hundreds of years. A nine-year-old boy now faced 32 rungs of Pinyon pine with no reluctance. This memory - one of a kaleidoscope of hazily focused images – none feeling quite real since he’s gone. Relating the right one is the horror of the dungeon. Terrified that we would be on the ladder – if he slipped, we would fail to catch him - a parent’s obligation. The irony is he was as solid as the trees composing the ladder – 200 years to reach maturity – reality that he would fall at home and his parents held him but had to rely on you to catch and save our family. A debt that cannot be repaid.
The ladder is a metaphor - growth, maturity, reaching. While the ladder ascends, we are pulled down- backwards - by memory - while looking forward to what might have been. Today, the images on the mantle capture our moments but he will be the one frozen in time – as we grow old, he will be the same little boy on the ladder of life. Here lies a petrifying verse of poetry, love and devotion that if left undocumented runs the risk of a fading memory. He devoured the winter – an increasing sorrow as the snow falls – it’s the time when sounds are the sharpest - booming - falling frozen to the ground. No echo. Fear that life has no reverberation and that memory melts like the crusted snow. Ice once thawed by a child’s energy – now washed away by our own tears. The season will grind towards spring and the ladder will remain – inviting each to risk the climb. No final rung exists for us. We reach with an awful weight – empty arms – beckoning the incline. Fearful in our insecurity – knowing you are behind us. Recollecting he clambered to the top - commanding a medal for the accomplishment – a family on the verge of the greatest lesson - life’s climb requires effort and energy; traits making him exceptional – the medal comes from a lifetime of steps. A parent’s dream.
There’s a cadence to the wind chime – a kind gift in our sorrow – the sound carrying the same rhythm as climbing a ladder – the jingle fades as the breeze dies – but the ascent continues. Our appetite for his presence is swallowed whole by the hunger for his memory. Only an empty feeling remains – all sustenance consumed by a patch of grass and monument – separated. We would sit together, belonging to each other – asking if he thought he would ever be too old to snuggle? Never! How long will you be our boy? Forever! At the top of the dungeon is a faint reflection of light – maybe a far-off strike of lightening? No sound. In each crude step lives hope that the light emanates from his smile – an unbroken energy. It lives in each day – not confined to a season.