Do you remember, dear reader, two Christmases ago when my big beautiful tree fell flat on its face, ornaments and all? And we (my son) had to wrestle it across the room and tie it to the bannister with twine to keep it upright? Here it is again. More or less. Well, definitely less. This is the top part.
As you know, this has been the year of The Downsize. The tree is a little shorter, and so am I. We hold a million memories anyway.
My brother was stretched out in his recliner and I was lolling on his sofa, facing his side. The California sun was going down and its fading light fell over him like running water. As we talked, I became increasingly distracted. He was changing without moving. I tried to keep my part of the conversation going but it wasn’t easy; I was watching something I’d never seen before.
He morphed like some special effect from a movie, and became someone I knew but couldn’t name. Then I realized it was our Grandpa Mauck, whom I hadn’t seen since I was about ten, when he died. The shadows had sculpted everything about my brother that was like our grandpa into our grandpa. Grandpa stayed and talked with me; my brother was gone.
It scared the bejabbers out of me. At the same time I felt there was something wonderful about it. It was ominous and reassuring all at once. I tried to talk myself out of it, but the sense of portent was there. Still it hit hard last week when I got the call: my brother had died. Our last visit was just that.
During this past year, his emails had been uncharacteristically terse. If he thought he was pulling wool over my eyes, he thought wrong. I knew his/our medical history. I knew something was going on. It wasn’t what he said; it was what he didn’t say.
I look back. As the sun went down on the other side of my brother and I could see less and less of him, I saw something more. As he communicated less and less, I heard something more.
And I think about how we grasp what’s there from what isn’t there.