I couldn't ever sit still. Most often, I went outside, where I'd coax Morley over to put his big, slobbering head against my neck as I lowered my head between my knees and tried to breath deeply. I'd inhale and stop short. In the silence I could hear my heart beating, feel it between two of my ribs and then I wouldn't, skip, skip, skip, and I'd panic, moving my hand around trying to verify I still lived.
And what I thought of, every time, sitting under that one light in the side yard, my bare feet in the dirt, was if everyone would know. Like, who would get the word to people that I'd died?
We've all had thoughts like that, right? Who would come to the funeral. What they would say. Who we'd really want to be there. We'd want to be able to watch it, wouldn't we? Who cried. Who kept looking at their watch.
Nobody dies just once. Think of how many lives you've lived already. High school. The things that were important to you then are silly now, all the energy we spent to swim in that hormonal fishbowl. College. Goals vastly different from those in middle age. Careers. Jobs and women you've left, or that left you.
We re-invent ourselves many times and we lose people in the process, people who were important at that time, maybe even the most important.
They won't be there, at the funeral, at the end. Your high school girlfriend. Your baseball coach. Your favorite professor. Your first boss. That woman you loved. If they think of you, maybe they've mourned already. A smile at a memory. Or a sting. Maybe they wonder where you are right now. For a moment. Idle curiosity.
Few months ago, I tracked down an old soccer coach. A man who once told my Mom I'd "run through a brick wall" had he simply asked me to. I was dedicated. This man convinced me that fearlessness and effort were the building blocks of success. I found him, living in the same house he did when I was 11 and in awe of him. He was larger than life, a longshoreman with a fu manchu, his broad chest and shoulders layered over his huge heart. I wanted to reach out and tell him what he meant to me. That I still think about him and the lessons he taught me. Yesterday, I sent him a letter.
Some people, you don't want to lose. Sometimes, it's not your decision.
I've written a few letters lately. Most, I won't send.