At 5:00 a.m., I awakened to some unfamiliar sound. It took a few minutes to remember that I’m not in Brookside; I’m in Evanston, and the sound could be the downstairs neighbor or a distant train.
I feel the stiffness in my shoulders and try to lull myself back to sleep without success. So I rise, blink the spots from my eyes, and stretch.
It’s Christmas morning. I won’t be going to church today. My son and I will open presents We’ll drink good coffee and breakfast on scrambled eggs and toast. Later, we’ll make bread and a casserole as our contributions to this evening’s meal.
But now I sit in silence, thinking about my brother Stephen. He would have turned 57 today. I hear the morning commuter sing its lonely song and clack along the tracks. I wonder who rides the rail this early. Nurses, maybe — bound for the work which never stops for them. I recall Stephen’s long quest to finish his nursing degree through an online-program in the years following my mother’s death. By the time he died, he had become a psychiatric nurse, with too much access to drugs for someone with an addiction. So sorry that it had to end this way.
I cannot help but think that Stephen would tell me to be happy — to enjoy my time with Patrick; to comb my hair and don a pretty dress, and dance. He’d tell me, quit your moaning, woman, and it would be good advice. He’d snapped his fingers in my direction and pull me off my feet when the music started. And when the last strains of Sugar Magnolia faded, he’d exit laughing, leaving me dizzy, leaning against the wall, clutching my sides and smiling. Keep dancing, he’d tell me. The last I would see of him would be that grin of his.
I feel him here. He gazes with approval at the life my son has made for himself — his girlfriend, his job, the fact that he’s teaching himself digital imaging, his political viewpoint.
Steve would nod with some degree of satisfaction to see the way in which five-year-old Patrick has evolved into manhood. He’d appreciate everything about the life which Patrick leads, even the way he’s decorated his apartment. Stephen would like the mix of new and old, the modern vibe. Steve would feel at home in this place. He’d settle his big frame into the red chair in the living room and set a beer bottle on a coaster on the black coffee table. His gaze would settle on the framed Grateful Dead poster and beside it, the one from Lafayette Square. He would enjoy those. He’d also like the Norman Rockwell in the kitchen and the koala print hanging on the bedroom wall.
I see a little of my brother in my son who has half of his name. They share a nearly relentless individuality and a slightly apologetic desire for casual order. Perhaps I feel so at home in my son’s apartment because he’s stamped it with the Corley DNA.
So there it is. I’m visiting my son in his world, and I’m feeling fine. I have no complaints. In fact, I have so much for which to be grateful that I’m thinking of renaming this blog “My Year of Living Gratefully”.
It’s Christmas Day, 2016. Life continues.
Patrick and Hope