Time is an intangible distance. When someone you love dies, all that separates you from them is time. Unlike the miles, state lines, or oceans that once divided you while they were alive, time has no retrograde. You can never physically return to a place in time. Even with the strongest of memory, details dissipate. Was his shirt blue? Was he wearing his glasses? Was that freckle on his right or left cheek?
I don’t remember.
All that remains intact are two fragments of time. I open up the door as I walk into the house, he’s sitting at his favorite spot on the creme colored couch with a newspaper by his side. But I don’t see him anymore, even in this memory all that’s left of him is a shadowy figure. I still hear his voice though and I know he’s smiling as he gets up to greet me “Ashee Mawee.” I’m 8, maybe 9 years old. I hug him tight as he asks if I want to watch cartoons. I joyfully decline and say he can watch the game while I do my homework. I’m distracted as I can’t keep my eye off the game. The game ends. There’s something on the news about Selena being shot. My eyes get watery andhe tells me it’s going to be okay as he dances with me to “Bidi bidi bom bom.”
I’m 19 as we sit on the green bench in grandma’s garden as he counsels me on matters of the heart. It’s the last meaningful conversation I can recall having with him. It’s the last thing I remember about him. Despite the fact that he only lived a mile away from me, I didn’t visit much in his final year. I didn’t want to remember him in the shape he was in. So thin and pale hooked up to oxygen–at times unrecognizable. I knew he was dying and my first instinct was to run away because I refused to watch him die.
Only now can I see how truly selfish my actions were. I wasn’t there when he needed me most. To make him laugh like I did when I was a kid, or to read him the paper as he had done for me when I couldn’t. To tell him it was all going to be okay and hug him as he had done for me.