Autumn, for me, is a swirl of memories about loss. When my grandmother died, my father drove my friend Darren and I around while he picked up his mother's ashes. Afterward, not knowing exactly how to cap off an errand like that, stopped and bought us a case of beer. Which we put in the back of the car with that box of cremains. That was one fall. A couple of years later, as the leaves began to turn, it was Darren who died. He was taken much too soon, before he graduated from college. It was my father who went to the hospital to pick up my friend Joe, who lived through the car crash. He told Joe that this was the time that he believed that dads should be able to tell kids that everyone and everything would be okay. They both knew it wasn't. It wasn't okay. My parents bought us pizza that we may have eaten. We weren't hungry. It was a few more years before it was my father's turn. I was hungry on the day of my father's funeral. It wasn't a car but a plane that got him. By this time, I had stopped drinking, but I went for a cheeseburger and sat in a booth where we had sat with my father so many times. It was almost twenty years before the undertoad reached up and grabbed our beloved family dog. I suppose she did us a favor by choosing the anniversary of Darren's death to go to sleep and not wake up. We buried her in our back yard. There was a chill in the air.
And all of these images come to mind when the days start to get shorter, and the shadows grow longer. I have been able to fill in the gaps with seasonal memories that don't come with graveside visions or ironic connections to those who have passed. Trick or treating with my son. Thanksgiving preparations and back to school sales. Most of those years have not included funerals. Still, at some point when summer is over, my mind starts to wander down those dark lanes. At some point I will sit and ponder my own existence and how I came to live here. To be alive here. I figure I owe that to those who went ahead of me. I am making autumn mean something more than loss. Yet, I can't help but be a little anxious at this time of year.
Because I remember.