The restaurants and churches were closed. The parks were wrapped in caution tape. There was nothing to do but take my son back to the cemetery on the high peninsula.
Skyscrapers and mountains tried hiding in the eastern haze. To the west, the huge ocean further wrecked my perspective.
My son would test himself against the grassy slopes amidst the exquisite symmetry of the grave stones. He’d get better at the alphabet by running his fingers over the inscribed names of the dead. Their states of origin. The ranks to which they’d risen.
I’d sit on a concrete section marker and gorge on fresh air until I got dizzy. Then hold my breath and close my eyes. Ask ghosts to teach me.
The neat teeth of their memorials caught the sun and shone with knowing.
My son’s hands would appear on my knees. Concern would be lodged in his unjudging eyes.
I’d produce a smile. He’d hide his worry somewhere. Then run shortcuts alone amidst the symbols of deployment and meet me further down the parkway.
We’d loop back to the car and drive home. And on the way we’d call grandma.
There’s a suspended tension between holding and letting go up where the names of decorated men overlook the water.
But it’s the uphill side of the grave stones that bear the real characters I’ve come to trust. It’s they who’ve put their patient arms around me as I sit and gasp and beg for help.
They ended their wars and hold me up through this one.
I rest on my section marker and catch my breath and revere the names that face me. Those tender, gritty guides of mine: