Father G says heaven is the present. I repeat this to myself, which is an act of memory, which is to say: the past. This is the time of year when the future shakes its fist.
Late afternoons in Los Angeles are a Maxfield Parrish painting. As if your 20-month-old skin needed any help. It is the color of toast, smooth as flan. You look west and I spy on you from inches away, your legs against my hip, your face even with mine. In low light your irises and pupils blend to black, but here I see the clear brown ring.
You want to ride in your green plastic car, the one with the handle in back, for a grownup to push. I am shoeless, but you’ll cry if we go inside again, so I lap the block barefoot, feeling trashy and wrecked, which I am. Pods dropped from trees bite my soles. You have discovered the joy of dragging your feet against the pavement. I retaliate by popping a wheelie, which makes you squeal.
You point to silver cars and say “Mama!” as if any of them might hold her.
On a windy hilltop in Japan, a boy steps into a phone booth and calls his dead father from an unplugged rotary phone.
I used to console myself that if I died young, I would see my mom and the babies I lost when they were still the size of pea pods. But I’ve dug my roots deep in this world. Now it’s not just your Mama, Gramps and Aunt Cathy I’d miss—and I would, but they are finished humans. You are the size of a shrub.
You are a finished human. Heaven is now. And now. And now. Each present falling off the conveyor belt and into the ether. To try to hold on is to become Lucy Ricardo stuffing herself with chocolates.
A group of professionals gathered in a hotel conference room and watched a PowerPoint presentation. Discussed capital campaigns and hidden costs. Ate gluten-free pizza and cold asparagus spears. Then, “switching gears” said their leader, they finished a sentence on large neon sticky notes.
Before I die I want to __________.
There are only five things people want: time with their beloveds, a safer world, to create, to travel, to accept themselves. I wrote Before I die I want my son to know how loved he is (by me! And others too). I always suspect the universe of looking for a loophole.
Hold this lightly, Dashiell, but squirrel it away, too, for a dark day. You were someone’s heaven.