This is where I was on your fiftieth birthday.
And some of the other birthdays, too, mostly in the twenties. And some other days when my wanderings led me back to this town, to the narrow path where I parked and walked up this short, steep hill.
This is where I cleared away weeds that grew in the planters long after the rose bushes surrendered to the elements. This is where I sat leaning back on my hands in the thickness of upstate July evenings until the lawn’s image transferred to my palms. This is where I brought my broken heart for years and returned again after it had mended.
Years passed and I grieved for you every day. Every day I thought of you, maybe just for a moment, maybe just when an echo sounded like your laugh. Every day until, until I didn’t. And it was okay. I missed you still, but I mourned less.
But this town, this town that was never my home, this town became a ghost town for me. You were gone but you were always here. On a quiet night not long after we married my wife and I talked about loved ones lost and the ritual of the cemetery. She said, I don’t have to visit the cemetery, I know he is not there. I said, I know she is not there, either – but that is where I am when I am with her.
So I came back, but less regularly and with fewer tears. And with time I found peace here, peace with your death, peace with the schoolboy who loved you, peace with the man I became.
This is where I was on your fiftieth birthday. I laid my head on the ground and watched an eagle float in the stiff summer wind, so perfectly outlined against the clearest blue sky. And I was filled with peace.