Today at lunch time I took another toe-stretching walk in the conservation area. The sun was bright and warm, the air was fresh, the clay and loam were moist and cool. Afterwards I sat at a picnic table near the parking lot, soaking up what little sun we have left this year, and I started thinking about Jody, as I tend to in quiet moments.
It occurred to me that the summer that just came and went was the first season that's passed since the winter of 1978 without him in it... the spring of 1977 if you count life from conception. Jody died at the end of the spring... it was summer by the time I was in Dallas. Summer ended in the middle of last week. That whole season came and went, empty of his presence.
Just lately it's started to feel like a long time now. I think of June 4th, the last time I spoke with him (via ICQ). How casual that was. How I just waved and trotted off when the time to go home arrived, never realizing those were the last live words we'd ever share. What would I have done, had I known? Called him up at home? Hopped on a plane to share this last hours? Reminded him again and again how much I'd come to love him over the years, and how empty things were going to feel when it would occur to me to share something with him, and him no longer there? What would I have done, knowing it was his last weekend? I sat on the warm picnic table with my face to the sun and my feet in the cold wet grass and thought about how things had conspired to deny him even a simple pleasure like this, never mind all the other things he was bound to have achieved, given enough time.
Right now I'm kind of waiting to see what his dad will tell me. Right around now, he's talking with his doctors about the growth in his lymph nodes. God only knows what they're saying to him right now. He's already told me that if it's back, he's not going to fight it. He's going to live his life as well as he can, with the time he has left. Visit people. Say his good-byes. I hope to God it doesn't come to that. No, he's not as young as Jody and he's lived a pretty full life, but it's still not time for him yet, it seems to me. I want to hear there are options, ones he's willing to accept. I don't want to say anymore good-byes this soon.
So here we are in autumn. I'm 36. I suppose I'm at the end of my own personal summer, or at least in its closing weeks, speaking in terms of a lifetime. Then again, who knows? A little over two years ago, I would have told you Jody was barely in his summer. None of us knew — how could we know? — that his own winter was already well upon him. He had his own personal Indian summer last year... a few warm months of health and contentment, hope and optimism. At least he had that. I guess some people get cancer and never get a break. Still, would it have ruined something fundamental about the universe if those few months had been a few years instead? Or better yet, a few decades?