calling up old promises

26 May 2012 § Leave a comment

We drove through Sacramento yesterday. At the city limits I remembered that Heeth’s father lived there, and that years ago I promised myself quietly that if I ever passed through, I would look him up.

Quietly because I didn’t know if I had the courage to do it. Quietly because Heeth’s mom doesn’t talk to me anymore. Quietly because uncovering old wounds hurts. There’s a dull ache in the middle of my body, where Heeth lives now. The Kenai cemetery on all but the nicest days is miserable and loud from airplanes landing next door. My hurt is much quieter.

“Thomas A Tyson” said the white pages. He was the only one listed. I pulled off the freeway, second-guessing the name of the man whom I’d never met. At the expense of Heather’s patience, I called the number.

Thomas’ brother Eric picked up. I spoke in jerky, emotional bursts, not knowing what to say. I double and triple checked that I’d found the right family. I mentioned Heeth and nearly lost it.

Get it together, Sean. It’s been more than ten years. What’s your problem?

It sounded like Eric wasn’t on the best of terms with his brother, but was happy to provide a number to reach him. He asked me exactly one question about his nephew. “Did you know him down here, or in Alaska?”

I dialed the number Eric had given me, knowing I was reaching out to the person I’d intended but still nervous. What would I say? It’d been ten and a half years since Heeth’s suicide, and years more since Thomas had much to do with his son – which was not a biological relationship; DeLia (Heeth’s mom) often referred to her son’s sperm donor, whose name began with a J, as being the cause of the greatest blessing in her life (mothers tend to say things like that), and Thomas as his “father,” or the one who was there for him, taught him what he needed to know, listened, etc.

The voice on the phone was young, lively, and half-interested. Like a schoolboy asked for a favor he didn’t feel like living up to, Heeth’s dad listened to me choke over uncertain words of recognition, to my reaching out to an unknown person related to a story I’ve not loosed my fingers from, and replied in a rehearsed tone, “I’m in the middle of family business.”

He wouldn’t be available for a week. A coffee was too much for him. Too little for me.

Of course. He’d done his healing. How could I have the audacity to bring up other family business when he’s working on more? I accepted his rain check, said it was good to talk to him anyway.

“Yeah, I can see that,” he responded.

I didn’t let the tears fall. I replaced the bricks and mortar I’d punched out of my wall a few minutes before, hung up the phone, and started the car. I got back on I-80, and kept going.

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