I believe, strange as it may sound, that my uncle is a hawk.
So does my Catholic mother, but don’t tell the Pope.
Fifteen years ago, I went to sleep innocent, naïve, Blake’s meek and mild lamb. I woke up to learn death through a telephone cord. But that is not really true. Nobody said “death” or “suicide” just “something has happened.” Nobody said, “Uncle Harry” just “Pack your bags.”
Six hours is a long time to not know the truth. From New York to Pennsylvania, I sat in the back seat bewildered. Nothing was missing from the driveway. The lights were on in the house. Even the door swung open in its familiar way. There were no signs that life had changed; no signs of Death’s visitation.
Now, I sit back on my heels and contemplate how I still do not know. Time did not heal, or lessen, or offer up an explanation or two. Instead, it made me a spectator to the rising sun and its waning lover, the moon. The reckless disregard for permanence convinced me to stop believing and start pretending. To pass the days away; to, hopefully, pass over the pain. I was so fooled that one afternoon I looked into a deer’s eyes, tracked the shifting shapes drifting across the liquid orb, and believed that life was going to be okay.
I have not learned anything, which makes me a liar because just 192 words ago, I said I learned death through a telephone cord.
But my uncle is not a deer, he is a hawk.
And I am getting dangerously close to stealing Faulkner’s genius. As Oscar Wilde said, “Talent borrows. Genius steals.” I say, “If you can’t steal from a thief, who can you steal from?”
Time passes as my uncle soars through blue skies and into white clouds. His wingspan casts a shadow on the living. Sometimes I am in that shadow, but lately I have learned to step away. It started with books, but now has moved onto the pen. The emptiness of a clean sheet of paper taught me that I can look up at him every day of the week, but I do not have to follow his flight. Because he will always fly away; he has no other function. When the wind blows, he can only raise his arms and be carried off. It doesn’t matter how regretful he looks.
The emptiness also taught me it needed to be filled. What use is a bucket with no water?
I believe it is okay for people to run away, that life is too difficult and rotten, but I believe I have the ability to change that. To be a stop sign, an anchor, a light house. Better yet, to be knowledge. Armed with words and memories, I give my uncle back his body, his life. I give him wings because he truly does love to fly.
But what I really give myself is a chance.
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