Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year, Old Memories...

Every year when the big ball drops, it's simply a big reminder of how I've dropped the ball. "Resolutions" that were never resolved; made with little or no plans for their execution, just prompted by a thought of "wouldn't it be nice...".

This year especially. This year when the ball drops, I'm going to remember what a child I am. I'll remember how I let my thoughts get the best of me, and deprive me of the best experiences with the most beautiful person I ever met. I'll remember her laugh, her eyes... I'll remember the adorable and distinct little sounds she made when she sighed, or cleared her throat. I'll remember all the Little Things. Strangely enough, the Big Things are byproducts of the Little Things. Just like that saying, "It's the thought that counts". Those big actions, or inactions of mine; the statements and omissions, were all because I thought I knew. I listened to those little thoughts that creep in and say 'don't worry about it...' or 'why tell her? she knows you care...'. And then those big thoughts, the kind that almost deafen you, that say 'You look like a fool!'. or 'You know, it's a matter of time before she gets sick of you.' Despite all of these thoughts, I told her I loved her, I asked her to marry me, I carried her over the threshold into our new home. We got comfortable, but those thoughts were still there. And the one that echos in my head to this day, 'one day she'll be gone, and you'll never see it coming.'

Gone she is. And I never saw it coming. It was New Year's Eve, she was going to kiss me at midnight. She had been staying with her widowed mother in Kansas City since Christmas, I had left her there the day after Christmas for a business meeting in Fort Worth. But we were both going to be back in San Diego for New Years. We were going to meet on the pier and take a ride on the ferry to watch the fireworks. I waited for her on the dock. She was going to catch a cab from the airport. I waited. The ferry left, I waited. The fireworks spewed from centennial park while I was calling her again. She didn't answer her phone.

Then I got the call--a total stranger. She wasn't going to be coming home with me tonight.

When I got to the hospital she was on a respirator, wires plugged into her left and right, she was going to the OR. She couldn't speak. Her body was covered with a thousand lacerations, her hair was matted against her forehead with blood and sweat. As I ran along beside her stretcher I took her hand and spoke her name over and over. She squeezed my hand and a tear from her eye, washing a trail through the smudges of blood on her face. She moved her lips imperceptibly, spoke inaudibly behind the fogged mask of the respirator. I tried to hear what she was saying, but it was drowned out by the rattle of the casters of the stretcher and by the EMT's shouts.

A week before, she had cried in the doorway to her mother's guest bedroom as I repacked my suitcase for my flight to Texas the next day. "Please, stay with me?" she said. I could have... I could have canceled my meeting and no one could have faulted me for it. But I wanted to be professional, so I chose to be irritated by her plea instead of touched. That night, as we lay in bed. She asked me again "can't you stay?" and I sighed "Please don't do this. I'm tired, and I'm not in the mood." With that I rolled over and stole some more of the covers. The next morning she took me to the airport in her mom's Camry. As we reached the airport I had nearly gotten up the nerve to apologize to her. She got out at the drop-off to see me off. I gave her a hug and a short kiss. Instead of apologizing, I smiled, kissed her again and told her "I'll see you at home, okay?"

She died twenty minutes after the surgery started. She had been pried out of the cab with the Jaws of Life. The cab driver hadn't survived the collision and it was no wonder why. An intoxicated truck driver had run a red light as the cab was taking a left turn. The cab looked like a soda can that had been run over by a bicycle. What should have been 5 feet of back seat became a space barely wide enough for my wife to occupy, she was essentially pinned between the doors. She died of internal bleeding and brain trauma. The doctor told me she had been paralyzed completely. He couldn't explain how she had squeezed my hand.

In the days that followed I realized how very little I knew what I was doing--how young and inexperienced I really was. I had never lost anyone, and now I was burying my bride. The Funeral Director asked if I would like to play her favorite song during the service. I had him play "Everything I Own"-- we had played it in honor of her late father at our wedding nearly a year before.

Even after another two months had passed, I couldn't sleep in our bed. I couldn't sleep. I tossed fitfully on the couch. I wore the same clothes over and over to avoid opening our closet.
When finally I had the wherewithal to box her things, my months of mourning all came rushing back to suffocate me. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't swallow. I couldn't see.

As I packed her T-shirts I could still see her perfect neck and arms filling the holes. As I took her coats off the hangers I remembered how she would have me pick between two--if I was lucky, and usually went with the other anyway. Her underwear drawer was the last straw. She had saved all the little notes I had ever written her. They were abridged versions of what I really wanted to say. As I thought of how many times I had opted to leave a note, I realized how much I wasn't around. I had usually left for work while she was still asleep, or in the shower. All those notes were missed opportunities to kiss her goodbye. The lacy underwear that had once been such a turn on, now seemed so silly. And again, I wished that I had been focused on her eyes, her smile. These things had no sentimental value, they were simply evidence of yet more opportunities missed to really show her my love. Reminders that I was distracted from being the best husband I could be, because I was too busy taking in my perfect wife.

On the closet shelf above her coats, I found the photos from our wedding, and in them a mixed CD from the wedding reception. Full circle, I now listened to the words of the song we danced to on our wedding night; the one I played for her before she was laid to rest.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

"Everything I Own" by Bread

You sheltered me from harm.
Kept me warm, kept me warm
You gave my life to me
Set me free, set me free
The finest years I ever knew
Were all the years I had with you

I would give anything I own,
Give up me life, my heart, my home.
I would give everything I own,
Just to have you back again.

You taught me how to love,
What its of, what its of.
You never said too much,
But still you showed the way,
And I knew from watching you.
Nobody else could ever know
The part of me that cant let go.

I would give anything I own,
Give up me life, my heart, my home.
I would give everything I own
Just to have you back again.

Is there someone you know,
You're loving them so,
But taking them all for granted.
You may lose them one day,
Someone takes them away,
And they don't hear the words you long to say

I would give anything I own,
Give up me life, my heart, my home.
I would give everything I own
Just to have you back again.

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