The memory keeper
I have held off writing for nearly 11 weeks. In that time, I didn't write at first because I was afraid you would never be able to read my words. Later, I was afraid of what would happen to me if I started to speak; I feared that if I opened my mouth at all, I would start screaming and just not know how to stop. How would that help anyone?
It is the morning of Thursday, February 17. Around this time on Friday, December 3, you were up early. You had plans to go to Birmingham to pick up your new bike, and you were so excited that you practically levitated as you bounced from room to room, getting ready. Your backpack. Your new layers of clothing for the cold-weather ride. The check to pay off the bike.
Your new blue thermal shirt, the one you bought from Land's End, made your eyes seem especially blue. In the past few years, you've worn mostly earth tones, because they're easier for you to mix and match, and it's been a while since I've seen you in blue. It's a favorite of mine.
I went to work in my jeans and sweatshirt, and you headed to Birmingham in a one-way rental car so that you could bring the bike back. You called during my lunchtime to let me know you'd picked up the bike, and you were cheerful and excited, but vague. You were going to try to bring the bike home, but it was understood from our previous conversations that if you ran into bad weather, you would stop.
I have played that conversation back in my head countless times. I was busy, and the details of your conversation quickly escaped my mind, like normal conversations often do. In the first few weeks, I have asked myself over and over if my remembering the conversation more clearly would have made any difference, and even though I know now it would have made no difference at all, I still beat myself up over it.
During lunch, with my coworkers, I admitted my fears. I had not wanted you to buy the bike, but you were insistent, determined, focused. When you asked me on Thanksgiving if you could purchase it, you asked me one thing: What do I need to do to make you happy so I can buy this bike? I ranted about it around our department table, and my co-workers reassured me that you would be fine.
What happened next was both utterly simple, and gut-wrenchingly complex. You didn't come home.
There are voicemails on your phone that I don't have the emotional stability to listen to just yet. As Friday night went on, I began to shift from curiosity to concern to outright worry. The tenor of the messages began to change. When will you be here? shifted to I know I'm probably being a worrywort, could you call? and then to Look, I'm starting to panic, could you call me? I'd feel much better if I could hear your voice.
We are independent, see. Probably one of the most independent married couples I've ever known.
It turns out, though, there's a situation that punches every button I have: not knowing where you are.
I spent Friday night sewing on Tamara's quilt top, trying to stay positive, trying to steer my thoughts away from the boy who didn't answer his phone or reply to text messages, trying to remain strong and independent. Trying to wait for you to come home.
* * * * *
I dread writing these things publicly because I do not know what to do with the outpouring of sympathy and remembered grief that will come, but as the weeks have gone on, I realize that I must speak. I am your memory keeper now. I must hold these remembrances until you are ready to take them back for yourself, and if I do not write these remembrances down, I will lose them.
If I lose them, you lose them, and I can't allow that to happen.