Saturday, August 23, 2014
Scars And Anniversaries
To my son Tommy,
I took the time today to regard some of the scars on my body.
There is the scar on my right hand ring finger that I got when I was about eight or nine, working in the company shop, unloading round duct pipe without proper gloves to protect my young digits. I can still remember feeling scared and one of my uncles seeming perturbed with my spewing blood and telling me to see if I could get one of my aunts upstairs to take me to the hospital.
There is one on the knuckle of my left hand pointer finger. That was from a punch I had to throw when I was tending bar in Parkville. One single weak hand punch and I still knocked the jerk, who was itching to fight and beyond reason, out for at least ten seconds. I remember one of my bar patrons standing over the guy as he woke up taunting "Lights on, lights off" though there was more to that colorful statement.
There is a scar that the doctors call a "permanent road tattoo" on that same left hand around the wrist. I got that one when I was riding my cousin's bicycle and he didn't tell me the hand brakes were screwy. The front brakes engaged as I was speeding down the street, or at least as fast as a twelve year can peddle,and I went ass-over-tea-kettle, finishing with a power slide over the pavement.
None of these scars hurt anymore. They are just there to remind me. If scars are a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling, then anniversaries are a recurring reminder of events with an ever changing emotion.
Some anniversaries become of less and less import over time. Birthdays for me used to be highly anticipated but now are much more subdued. They have become a more personal celebration of life and my blessings that I prefer to share by having pizza with the family and nothing more.
Some anniversaries I even ignore now, or at least try to ignore. I don't spend much time considering the Firehouse Tavern accident fourteen years ago. Of course I don't need the anniversary to remember that as occasionally my knee sends me a twinge of pain to remind me of those events. On those weird weather days that make bodies ache, I am reminded of the destruction of that day and all the people hurt and all the people saved and such.
But some anniversaries...some anniversaries rip open scars of the soul that still really hurt. Today is one of those days. It is the anniversary of your baby brother Sal's stillborn birth. Every year on this date, and often in the days between, I confront how I feel about life, and death, and how you and your mom and your brother have both affected me and been affected. Some years I am trying to explain and make sense of everything. Other years I am trying to deal with an underlying anger that still can consume me about everything. Each year, it seems to change. This year, today, I just feel sad.
There is a sadness that is deep in my soul. I feel loss. I feel like I missed out on the opportunity to raise yet another wonderful child. I feel a hole in my heart. I feel sad that your mother feels this same sadness. Couple that with the guilt of feeling like I somehow deprived you of the love of a brother. This scar on my soul that harbors these ever changing emotions will be with me forever.
So I will spend today feeling sad. I will spend the day thinking of what was and what is. I will spend the day thinking of Salvatore Joseph Downey. I will spend the day thinking of all the little scars on my body and my soul. I will spend the day praying for comfort and peace for both me and your mother. I will spend today trying to hug away this sadness, even though each hug is liking treating a missing limb with ibuprofen. But I will keep taking and giving hugs, to you and your mom and whomever will offer or accept them. Because somewhere in all this hurt, there is love and hope. And if that is true, I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts, you can find it in a hug with a five year old. You are our constant reminder of love and hope and you are a great son and would have made one hell of a big brother.
Sincerely with love from your dad's sad heart,