I met Austin Simpkins for the first time today, though I have known of him for his entire life. I first encountered his mother, Cheri, in a Jackson County Courthouse when she was pregnant with Austin, the older of her two sons. i took an instant like to her, though we have little in common except our professions. Cheri epitomizes grace, sophistication, and the easy, intelligent charm of the best of her generation.
I never met Xander Wohlstadter, but I know his mother. Beth Lewandowski and I also share our profession. With Austin’s mother, Xander’s mother shares a certain poise; the perfect combination of empathy and intuition; and a dedication to excellence which I admire in each of them.
Today, the lives of our sons and the lives of their mothers intersected in San Francisco. Beth lost her son four years ago. Cheri’s son stood beside her on the wharf in the brisk Bay wind. Mine answered the phone a half an hour later, as I drove east towards home. I needed to hear his voice, even though I could not articulate what drove me to call. I miss my boy, I did not say.
Beth has made a Heart for Xander and sends the stickers abroad with her family and friends. Her one request of us is that we place the heart somewhere Xander might have loved, somewhere he would have found beautiful with his creative, gentle soul. I affixed one to the bumper of my car, so it will travel anywhere I go. Today, Austin Simpkins put a Heart for Xander on a pole beside the harbor at Fisherman’s Wharf, so that Xander could be a little closer to endless peace, lulled by the song of the sea.
As I drove back to the Delta; as I talked with my son; as I listened to the news and left my Pacific, I could not help but lament the passage of time which takes every mother so far away from her sons. Cheri will send her boy to college next year. My son moved to Chicago in 2015 and owns a home there now. Beth — oh, I do not know how she can bear the pain! Beth laid the body of her son to rest. She is the bravest mother of us all, for now she does what she can to help his spirit soar, sending Xander’s heart to all the lovely, majestic places that his eyes will never see.
It’s the eighteenth day of the sixty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.