Norwegian wood

He turned bowls made out of reclaimed wood from the dead or fallen trees, the Norwegian maple from a cemetery reformed in the shape of a bowl Dawn picked out; we’d find a special place for it in our home.

I sat with Lily in the front sitting room where she tried to avoid the crowds and focus on her book. And the sun angled above, then behind the house as people gathered in the driveway where it was warm out front.

It must have looked like an impromptu party with all of us drinking and talking outside, laughing and hugging, shaking hands. And then as the crowds thinned out and the sun went down I went back to watch the last of the light on the horizon, a couple bands of green and blue, a Rothko to welcome the night, cold and dark.

The neighbors had quite the Christmas display out front, a life-sized nativity scene with a blow-up sleigh and Santa with his hands waving and somewhere, canned music to tie it all together: “Have a holly, jolly Christmas.” But the mood felt discordant compared to ours next door. And the neighbor’s house looked empty, the cheery scene lonesome with no one there to admire it.

With an early morning flight it was an ungodly hour we all had to rise and drag our kids to the car…putting the heater on, sliding down the road…checking in, hurrying to the gate…choking down an egg sandwich and wiping the grease off my beard, leaning back with my book.

When we tipped up and looked down I thought we’re leaving Chip down there for good; we got one of his bowls and some of his ashes…and how impossibly cruel it all seemed. How Dawn and her family must feel, trying to make sense of it…seeking comfort in memory or whatever story they could create for themselves to explain why, when there was no good reason.

The plane bumped and I leaned back to contemplate my own life, so sweet. And like Chip to consider when it’s my time to go, will I be more sad for those I have to leave, or for myself? And can we keep the dead alive in our hearts? I can.

Categories: death, Memoir, prose, writing

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