I was born the second child into a home that would grow into a family of seven: a mother and father and four wildly different sisters.
The only boy. Happy and quiet it seemed. The ease and joy of my birth told and retold like a thing of legend, a story I’ve had to agree to believe.
And my father would sing to me. But not long enough for anyone but mother to remember.
I smiled in the beginning.
I would make up songs in the back seat of our orange Nova on the way to wherever they took me back then, the notes themselves enough meaning for me, the words long lost to the nonsense of memory.
In the sixth grade I learned to play the trumpet, and I began my lessons on the front stoop, blasting like brass cats making love. The neighbors would open their windows long enough to curse me.
In Junior High I learned what terror was. I carried my foxhole wherever I went, and stayed down, a tin hat on my head while the bullets whipped passed my ears.
But I had my sisters. I always had sisters. Older Amy who was tall and popular. Robyn who laughed and performed for herself. Marilee … it was decades before I knew how she had wanted my attention. And Kelsi. I would push her around in the stroller making race car sounds, tilting up on one wheel rounding the corner from the den into the kitchen then back around into the den.
And so I survived. A boy buffered on every side by sisters. By a mother who told me, when I asked, why the clouds move across the sky, and showed me, in a book, the invisible molecules and atoms that made up the bricks around our fire place. And even my father. As deaf as the moon in one ear, and a bit like a fish in the other. A man who gave up every last minute of his time working for the pot roast we always had on Sunday, for the cars that took me to school, the split level home with four bedrooms, one bath that became two, and covered the cost of my life for two years preaching the good word in Germany.
Forty years I survived this way, and thrived. I was my sisters’ brother. My mother’s boy and father’s son. I was me. Once bearded and buzzcut like a fugitive. Once with long hair like the son of Jesus. Mostly just me. Six feet tall. Size 11 feet. 150 pounds. Shy and mostly frightened. But also happy. Well acquainted with love and touch, peaceful sleep, Barbie dolls and GI Joes.
But now it’s time for all of that to go. Don’t ask me how it happens. It just happens. Everything that was, must go at some time. There is no need to let it go. It goes on its own.
It can go without us. It can go with us. But it will go, and our only real choice, when it goes, is to guide its going, funnel its backward flight deeper and deeper into our hearts.