Saturday was your birthday. I thought about you all day in between cutting dead branches off of the twisted dogwood tree behind our garage. It felt good to break sticks and tear off limbs; it even seemed right when I broke the saw blade. I did a lot of sweating, burning wood, raking and…living. I breathed big and deep and thought of you.
I can’t believe it’s been 21 years since I walked off the elevator at the hospital and those same lungs had the air sucked from them like the hallway was an enormous vacuum; my vision and the air swirling around me and wooshing down the corridor past the rooms with beeping machines and nurses going about their business. And, you were gone.
There was death before that, but there was no death like that until that moment. I don’t know what I was thinking. That a grown man with Muscular Dystrophy would live forever? Yes, I think that’s what I believed. You were bigger than any disease. In this universe, among billions of people and planets and stars, you were a giant and as strong as any force I had ever known.
I think of you so often; when the house is quiet except for the buzz of a Reds game on TV, when I look at the closed end of Ohio Stadium and spy the spot where you used to sit behind the scoreboard and watch the Buckeyes, when I see someone in a wheelchair and know there is a human being – not a disabled person – sitting in the seat.
A couple of months ago I asked your sister if I could borrow a pen and she handed me this…
I remember this pen cradled in your hand as you wrote. I wish I had saved every scrap of paper that touched it and that I still had your words to read. You and I were kindred spirits with our writing, though as with everything, you were better at it. You would have been a great sports blogger, what with your knowledge and snark. I’ll do my best to post enough of the latter for both of us.
It didn’t really surprise me to know that this pen has never run out of ink; that your sister has carried it in her purse for more than two decades and it’s still working without ever having been refilled. You have ways of making sure we remember you.
Though, I can assure you, we wouldn’t ever forget.