I thought about it but then dialed the number. Who was I kidding? Of course it would go to voice mail.

  • “Happy Birthday to you….”

All I could think about was that old saw: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” (Well, that’s not really true— my thoughts were plenty. Indeed, my mind swarmed with intersecting memories…).

She fought with her family — but I got a pass. Her support, I was…and a conduit…and a bridge.

Was I wise enough? Or in denial? Or too quiet? Or too loud?

Did I not comfort her when I sat at counseling? Did I not buffer her when occasion rose? Or did I sit silently? And blindly…

  • “Happy Birthday to you….”

When a child rejects you it doesn’t anger you so much at first as it does hurt. And perplex. And make you wonder WHAT—even if she is right—what could be so bad? (So I paused, and reflected, and angered before again I paused because—and it’s so true: anger dies but never love). I her father, I reasoned.

“You’re responsible for the effort, not the outcome,” my sponsor reminded, and I bought in.

I would reach out and pray. And lay low and pray. And love.

With my eyes I saw hurt in my children. With my ears I heard still how they cared. And loved.

Stunned, I was, when my daughter went south. Blown away.

I looked in the mirror but it didn’t add up. “Give time time,” I was told (and I listened). My mood stayed serene and my rhythm in tact, but….when she told me just days before her baby that I needn’t fly out….my soul: it volcanoed.

—Still I gave time time—

  • “Happy Birthday dear Hailey….”

It wasn’t ABOUT me. Not really. Sure she should have her grandfather and Yes, I should feel her hug. But I’m out here and she’s up there… and…and…

Will she ever know the warmth, the nexus of cousins? Of aunts? Of uncles? Will her brother too be punished by mysteries of stubborn past?

I’ve long since ceased wondering why. I’ve long since stopped intellectualizing that no matter what the genesis, it didn’t justify walking away from the family, pivoting from love, disobeying Commandment.

With purity of heart … truly … I’ve given it to God. Let Him reconcile.

And yet, that having been said…I wonder:

What will Hailey and Matthew ever hear, ever learn, ever know of their mother’s family? Will there even be a hint of how much each of us misses what was and what still could be?

I had a great-grandfather, David Diamond. He was Grandma Bogart’s dad and Aunt Helen’s grandpa. They called him “Zaydie”. Zaydie died when I was four but I have this image of him (I don’t know whether it’s pure memory or a combination of pictures and family remembrances, but does it matter?) with his white beard, white-collared shirt…sitting silently at the dining room table upstairs at Great Aunt Blanche’s house. He lived there and they told me that Cousin Norm and my father’d play gin with him most Sundays. (It was their grandfather, you see, and they banked the moments).

I have four cousins—only four. And a myriad of second cousins…and first cousins once removed…and cousins like Lilly Flate that no one could ever quite say how we were related….and other “cousins” like Marilyn Schiffman from Detroit (whose son Marvin had the big nose), of whom not only can no one quite confirm consanguinity, but no one quite cares. (After all, she always showed up at Bar Mitzvahs).

  • “Happy Birthday to you….”

—And I have Hailey. And Matthew. And Eli and Lucy and Max (their cousins), of whom they’ve not glimpsed—

I don’t know if Hailey will ever hear that voice mail. In some ways it matters not. I do know that when a tree falls in a forest—or even a voice sings in recording—a sound is heard.

And it is the sound of love. Happy Birthday, Hailey. We miss you.

                “…Say it loud, say it clear
                You can listen as well as you hear
                It’s too late when we die
                To admit we don’t see eye to eye….”

Mike And The Mechanics

One Response to “THE LIVING YEARS”

  1. alan wieder says:

    Sorry you have this pain — it’s good that you never stop listening to what your sponsor said, “You’re responsible for the effort, not the outcome.”

    Thinking of you

Leave a Reply