Back in the day I had a pager. Sat on my belt loop, a buzzing and vibrating nod to beckon me to management’s office. I’d set mine to real-time news updates and checked it often, clearly jealous of life unfolding outside sterile corporate walls. One bulletin came in the early afternoon of April 20, 1999.
“Jeffco Sheriff: Up to 25 dead in Littleton school shooting”
I raced home by 3 p.m. to feed my somewhat morbid fascination with such things, my need to watch. I tuned to local and national, saw it unfold. Beautiful gawky teens, girls in cotton tanks with thin straps and lightly faded jeans worn at the hip running. Running fast, arms behind heads. Many skipped over something on the ground, miming the “Eeek, I saw a mouse” jump-back motion when toes met immovable and unexpected object.
The object was a body. At that point, a dead body.
"My” girls looked like that, non-descript, dark hair often in a pony. I envisioned my girls falling, my girls running. But my girls, not by womb but more, were safe, both nieces not yet in high school.
The initial news blast turned out to be wrong, inflated, none the less soul punching.
An anniversary. Ten years. Why denote tent pole moments in time? The day we quit smoking, took a vow, lost more than we thought we could bear. Is it so we revel in what we’ve accomplished, to triumph what’s changed and chastise what's not? The tobacco not yet picked up again, the adultery not yet committed, the happiness yet found or forever lost. Is it to remind ourselves to mourn, remind us of the anger? Or simply recall what and who is no longer available at the other end of the phone.
Anniversaries. Do I choose to recall February 10th 1990 (God, was it the 10th? Why has it fallen so easily from memory?) the day breath left or celebrate September 16 and the day that would have marked 48 years, nearly 20 since a bullet ended a brothers life. Father's Day 2009 I hope for a safe place and comfort, drinking a greyhound in memory. I'm scared already of the anticipated sadness.
Peace to all today and in your anniversaries ahead.