There's something to be said for taking time away from work. Yes, there IS something to be said, but I'm not sure what it is, and even if I was, I wouldn't be the person to say it.
This from the person who spent all day Saturday hammering on a website to make it work. It's mostly there. geek-chick.net has been waiting for a few months to see the light of day, and I think I've finally gotten tired of waiting. When I got the offer to host it for free at my ISP, I decided to take advantage of that. The DNS for geek-chick.net hasn't propagated yet, so everything's still pointed at the old site (the one that starts off with, "Houston, we have finals"). At some random point in time, differing for each ISP, everything will point to the new site (which already has posts from friends on it). Then I will be much happier—because I will finally be able to test the silly guestbook script.
It's funny—I can look back up at paragraphs like that and read through them and see how they must sound to you. A confessional of my day. But I look at them and see them for the hollowness they contain, and it bothers me; I know, even if you don't, that I'm not being totally honest.
January is a difficult month for my family and me. We don't talk about it, we don't acknowledge it, and we can't forget it. It's on our minds from the moment the page for December is torn off the calendar until the moment we can finally tear January away and move on to February.
It's been thirteen years.
Thirteen years since Keith killed himself.
Thirteen years since everything fell apart.
You don't forget. Sometimes you can forgive, and sometimes you can even come to understand. But I can look in my grandmother's eyes, or remember the look on my grandfather's face, and know that you can forgive and understand, but never quite get over the loss.
It was needless—but then again, is there such a thing as a needful suicide?
Keith was in a failing marriage. My family has a strong history of bipolar disorder (which was not quite so evident then), and we think now that Keith probably had an undiagnosed case. He was angry. He and his wife fought. Someone—either he or his wife—called his parents, who came over.
Keith went outside into the woods with a gun. His father—my grandfather—went outside to try to calm him down. Keith was angry, or despondent, or both. Apparently his wife was going to leave him. He turned the gun on himself and shot himself in front of my grandfather.
With that shot, something in my grandfather died. His troubled son, his youngest, the impetuous, red-headed one, died right before his eyes—in his arms. He lived eight more years in something of a daze, years that didn't mean nearly as much to him as the years that had come before 1988.
Soon after, it became a little bit harder to come home for Christmas. We didn't talk about his birthday. We certainly didn't talk about January, because if we didn't talk about it, it was (in a way) as if nothing had happened. The pictures began to quietly vanish from the walls and the desks.
Except for one, back in the bedroom that my grandmother slept in.
It was a small picture, black and white, of Keith shortly before he died. The picture is not of the man that I remember. In my memories, Keith's hair is always red. In this picture it is beginning to fade, and is wholly gray at the temples. His facial hair is beginning to gray.
And he is smiling at the camera—that broad, winning, devil-may-care smile that does hold true with my childhood memories.
I cannot count how many times I have picked up that picture and tried to look into it, past the camera and the eyes and the smile, to see behind the inscrutable mask of cheerfulness. To see the uncle that I never got the chance to know; the one my older sister dearly loved more than probably any member of our family.
Her favorite memory of him comes from 1982, when she would have been fifteen, and he in his mid-thirties. He lived down the road from my parents, and he called her one night and told her in that insistent, wheedling way that he had, that she needed to come outside right now.
He pulled up in his pickup truck. White, as I recall, but I might be wrong. It was a new album he'd bought—George Strait. "Listen to this," he said. "I love this song." She said that she lost count of how many times they drove around our "block" (which was over a mile around), listening to this song over and over.
"Amarillo by Morning," by George Strait, is one of the few songs ever written that can make my cry. If I hear it (which is a rarity now, thankfully), I leave the room. Too many memories, still too close to the surface. It's not the song or the lyrics or the singer. None of them, in my mind, are spectacular. But mental associations are stronger than aesthetics and time.
"Amarillo by morning
Up from San Antone
Everything that I've got
Is just what I've got on
I ain't got a dime
But what I've got is mine
I ain't rich, but Lord, I'm free
Amarillo by morning
Amarillo's where I'll be
Amarillo by morning
Amarillo's where I'll be"
Inside my grown-up exterior, inside the smiles and the busywork and the daily routine, is an eleven-year-old girl who still doesn't completely understand the events that went on. It's not difficult to be an intellectual adult and an emotional child—I've virtually mastered that art.
I just have to hope that somewhere, in some space, in some dimension, that Keith found his peace.
The rest of us are still looking.
Here's to another year without you, Keith. Here's to understanding, and faith, and solace, and the hope that maybe we'll find them when you couldn't.