They wandered through the fog, searching for Mother’s grave. A young man and his son, who toddled along behind him, small hand in his for safety. He had put this off for as long as he could, lingered for as long as he might, but the time had come. Small eddies of repressed grief came swirling back to the fore.
“What was she like?” The son asked.
Though they could barely see each other’s faces in the mist, he knew that his son nodded.
He sighed, despite how long he had prepared for this question, for when he son would be old enough to inquire after the obvious. Still he was unsure of how to answer.
“She was, she was…”
A million traits and one, she was one person to him and another to another. How could he describe the essence of someone who was gone? An entirely separate someone who was impossible to truly know.
“Imagine a house.”
“Our house Dad?”
“Sure, imagine our house. And it’s filled with dust. There’s a storm raging outside and the windows are open. The wind kicks the dust up so that it makes patterns in the light. Your mom is that house. She is that dust.”
“Dad, that doesn’t make any sens-“
“Imagine you enter that house. At any given time you might see the dust swept one way or another, and to you, that is what that house is. How that house. You might come back later and see the dust arrayed another way. Same house, slightly different perspective.”
He stopped a moment to gather his bearings. It was difficult to pick their way through the cemetery in this soup swirling inches before their faces. Was she in this row? Were they even among the graves at all? The car was so far away, he wasn’t even sure he could find his way back to that. This weather was more treacherous than he had realize. To swallow his slow-growing panic, the Father continued.
“Now imagine I enter the house, same amount of dust, same furniture, same shifting wind. I see all the same things, but the patterns? They’ve changed. And my perspective is not quite yours. So what that house may have been to you, it’s almost certainly not that to me.”
The Son didn’t say anything now. Whether he was listening, or if this was just too far beyond him to understand, or even If it made any sense at all, Father could not say. He kept speaking though, imagining this house they had lost. Imagine the smiling ghost that haunted it in particulate form. The reflection of the woman robbed from them both. As they walked, sun began to percolate through the lifting gloom, and he gathered his bearings. They were close now. So close.
“Now, imagine that house burns down. And all that remains is ash and our memories of its layout and its dust. And imagine years later, someone walks up to you and asks: ‘Remember that house of yours, what was it like?’ Do you know what you’d say.”
They walk along in silence, the Son sulkily, and the Father lost in memory’s distorting mirror. Eventually they come to a familiar gravesite, where his beloved were was years ago, soon after they both had given each other what they long wanted. A family. Father grips his son’s hand tightly, to assure the son that tears were okay, while attempting to forestall his own.
“Your Mom, son? The only way I know to describe her: She was home.”