We sat on the beach all day. Drove across the island sand dusted and sea blasted. Stopped at the Lighthouse Bistro for happy hour. Dirty, sandy, shore swept. Messy and beautiful and Us.
I miss you in ways where there are no words. Just interrupted heart beats.
Be well Brent the Grey. Now you know how loved you were.
How many times do you say goodbye to somebody who has left too soon?
I wrote those words a year ago. I was one month into losing Brent. One month into the missing. One month into intimately learning just how bad and grief and deep one can hurt.
A year later I’m zipping down a mountain, sleet and snow whipping in my face.
It’s been over 25 years since I’ve been on downhill skis or skied these particular hills; my brother and I spent most of our junior high winters here; 5 minutes from home, we skied, went to the lodge for cocoa, zipped into the sleet and snow of adolescence with eyes squinting against the rain.
Brent was “Mike” then. His middle name, which he insisted on being called through his junior high stage. He thought it sounded hipper along with the late 80’s perm he had and the earring in his ear, which only lasted for a fortnight or few.
Today I find myself remembering these details. Like remembering the nuances of skiing, they are cloudy at first, then come back to me fast and visceral and free; brain and muscle memory working together to remind me of things I thought I forgot.
I can still make it down that hill without embarrassing myself, and I can still find new places and ways to say goodbye.
Life is not particularly fair and neither was this past year. As we ride the chair lift up, my husband and I talk about 3 winters ago when I was traveling to Bend to come visit him. A time of falling in love and hiking in pine laden hills and coming home to relationship and learning to be together.
And as cliché as it may be to write these words, it was a more innocent time where my bigger worries had to do with social group matters and work related stress and knowing how to belong to something more than just me.
Today we talk about how much has changed. For both of us; we’ve had a lot of stress and loss in a short time. How those changes cemented a best friendship and loyalty to each other, even when we’re being our perfectly imperfect selves and stepping on each other’s toes.
I tell him about the “Mike” years. Of who my brother and I were in junior high. How we had so many sibling adventures here.
We laugh as I talk about how I spent an afternoon on these hills skiing with a cute guy from the ski patrol. The same guy later asked me out at school, but I turned him down after finding out he’d asked somebody else earlier that day and was only asking me because he got turned down.
Second choice- I really liked him- my self-respect said “no,” and I learned what it felt like to have a bruise on a young, sensitive heart.
I feel that bruise as I glide down the hill. Through the black trees, through the ivory twists, through the gray February day. The bruise feels like my brother and every other unfair instance of not having got my way.
I imagine my brother is with me in my mind; the 13 year old chipmunk cheeks, his neon blue and green jacket, the bright yellow atomic skis; we ski together for the next to last run, and I remember that becoming happens when you’re looking the other way, distracted by life, and you don’t quite realize how much has changed. Especially you.
High school we stopped coming to this hill. Got busy. Found other things to do. That was the end of our ski days.
Over two decades later, and I try and take it all in. Remember what it feels like to move this way. Wonder if this first time will be the last time. Wonder what we will find to do to occupy our adventure seeking hearts in Kauai.
Wonder how my best friend and I will grow there. Wonder how those bruises and the space in my heart may change there. Wonder what “Mike” is up to, and if he can feel me as strongly as I feel him.
Wonder at the cause of goodbye, whose effects have made me realize I will be saying hello and goodbye to Brent for the rest of my entirety, as I continue to learn about what it is to miss in ways where there are no words- just interrupted heart beats.
I glide down on my last run. Almost effortless, a far cry from the timid first run of the day. My husband, expert skier, has long since reached the bottom and is watching me descend, ready to head back home.
Home for four more months, home for now, home for- though I can’t quite envision it in the presence of this day- what will someday become distant memories of this precious time and space.
The sky wrings its eyes with a flurried release. We say, “let’s try and do this again.” And the snow falls thick upon the ground.