I still can not believe Tom is gone

I still can not believe Tom is gone. It has been sixteen years. I miss the simple things: his soft rumbly voice, his silver and turquoise. Most of all, I miss coming home after work, my final trudge up the steps to the porch, and within seconds, the sound of his recliner slamming to upright, the running footsteps and the dog toenails across the wooden floor, the door flung open, man and dog, his wingspan, his smile, “Honey! You’re home!” He never got tired of it. If Tom had his way, he would like to be remembered as the best skier, kayaker, a Mountain Rescue Agent, and Grateful Dead fan that ever lived. He loved his pals and his Golden Retriever. He loved me.

Tom was the shy twin

Tom was a twin to a shining star brother, he was the shy twin. He told me as a little boy, he hid in the closet when a baby sitter came and stayed there until she left. “Otherwise, we were hellions, my twin, my little brother and me. My poor mother.” He laughed at the memory and shook his head. “I was a little funny. I was smart but I had a hard time concentrating.” Tom got off track as a teenager. He told me he began experimenting with recreational drugs. He signed up for the Navy to get straightened out.  I still can not believe Tom is gone

Ichabod Crane

One day, I went looking for him out in his toy trailer. I found him behind motorcycles, boats, skis and camping equipment, digging though some old boxes. He was chuckling and shaking his head, holding an old photo album. “Gee, I don’t know if you wanna see this, but here I am as a Navy cadet.” he shyly passed the album open to a picture of skinny young man with a sharp Adam’s apple and Coke bottle glasses. Ichabod Crane, oh sweetheart.

The Navy quickly discovered his genius with electronics and made him an engineer on an aircraft carrier. His duty was to go up in a navigation plane, equipped with an early GPS system and keep track of the fighter pilots. After the navy, he became a whiz for companies like Intel installing enormous computer systems.

In his thirties Tom swanned into a beautiful man

When Tom was in his late thirties he had laser eye surgery, ditched his thick glasses and swanned into a beautiful man. He was quick to laugh and quick to brag good-naturedly: “Enough about me, what do you think of me?” On anyone else, it would be tedious, but he was tickled with himself. People couldn’t help but like him, I couldn’t help but love him.

Tom did not die instantly in the accident. I discovered his last minutes by reading the accident report. He was shouting for help. He was worried about me: “I’m crushing her! She can’t breathe.” Was he aware of the extent of his injuries? Was he lucid in his final moments? I wish I could have comforted him. Was he afraid? Did he know he was dying? My guts tell me he would have been surprised. What? This isn’t in the plan, I have more to do!

I couldn’t bear the guilt, the shame

My family spared me the details for several months after the accident. They were right, it was almost too much to bear. But once I was in prison, I couldn’t keep the thoughts from swirling. I couldn’t bear the guilt, the shame. I walked miles of circles day after day on the prison yard until my mind went quiet. But they would start up again, always. I was haunted by images of the accident. I pictured him crushed up against me shouting for help, then the rescue with the jaws of life, and his final moments, lying on gurney, the ground? I imagined his face as he succumbed and the pose of a body no longer inhabiting his beautiful free spirit. My fault, my fault. I lived in a cage of self condemnation, my own prison.

The prison yard swirled from tears

I remember one early Summer morning at yard, six months into my sentence, I was the sole walker. Through the fences lines I could see the distant hillside turning green. At least I am alive to see it. I thought of Tom. The prison yard swirled from tears. Suddenly in a supernatural flash, I saw him. He was standing before me, in his ski clothes, staring intently, leaning his head toward mine.

“What are you doing?” His expression was a little teasing and a little impatient.

I didn’t deny this was happening. It was real. I felt him, I heard his voice. “You’re not mad at me?” I asked in my mind.

“Don’t waste a day! I wouldn’t. Be happy.”

I laughed, out loud. I felt a wave of warmth and he was gone. I could grieve now. The door of the cage was open.

I still can not believe Tom is gone

I still can not believe Tom is gone