I turned south...
As I walked out the back door of my parent's house, I knew I was about to embark on a remodeling project like no other I'd ever taken on before. Every project that I'd done to this point was about moving kitchens, a wall here or siding there. This time there was no lumberyard that would have the supplies that I needed.
This was 100% within and I simply had to get a grip on the emotions that were flying around in my brain. As I drove south, I was pissed off at everyone and this included Blake. The more upset I got, ironically, the slower I drove. I wanted to twist the fucking head off of anything. My hands clenched the steering wheel like I was strangling a snake. Again, I was screaming within.
I doubted everything and I mean everything. The doubt and anger left me wondering what the hell I was doing in a car with only one seat, packed with supplies to survive and honestly, I didn't want any of it. As much as I'd planned this time away, I wanted to just go with the flow that society had taught me to go with. When shit goes wrong, stuff it inside your brain and move on.
To go against the grain in this instance was the toughest decision I'd ever made in my life. The decision to seek time alone to do one of two things was finally upon me. There was no more planning, no more wondering, I was doing it. I had to make a decision, to live, or to die. The miles ahead looked daunting to me. My instinct to rebuild things had to turn within.
As I drove south, I'd only traveled a few miles and I came across this roadside marker. A classmate of mine had experienced the death of her son Chris and this marker like so many across the country marked his place of death. I slowed and peered out the window at the monument they'd created in his honor. Chris died less than a mile from home.
I slowed even more, to a point that I was barely moving. My eyes were locked in on not just the physical side of what this meant, but the emotional toll this had taken on his family. The emotional toll Blake's death had taken on me. The roadside marker was a symbol of all the parents who'd had children die and that I was not alone.
I grabbed my camera, walked back to the Chris's marker and snapped this photo. It would be the first photo of hundreds of roadside memorials that I would take as I drove into the inner depths, beyond heart. My travels needed to reach and expose my soul. I stood and reflected on my life at his marker. The hot Kansas wind and beating sun vanished as I was transported to another world.
In that brief moment, the slightest sliver of hope appeared. I've spent an entire life with purpose, and to stand here in this ditch in western Kansas without was anything to pull me forward was the same as death to me. In that brief moment, the sliver of hope was not what I ever expected. Instead of driving past markers along the road that meant nothing to me prior to Blake's death, I would record them.
I walked back to my car, placed my camera on the console next to me and began to drive. This time with purpose, not the purpose I'd expected but with something. I wanted to live, but not in the world I was in. Before my trip was over, I'd take hundreds of photos along the way. Some fresh, some worn, some forgotten.
"Hope, it's a dangerous thing. It can drive a man insane." These words came from one of my favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption. When you're standing on the side of a wall without it, I believe a person is simply walking dead. I had no interest in walking dead. I had full intention of living until my last breath, not sure how, but Chris's marker gave me hope.
On February 7th, my dad took his last breath on this earth. This man worked for each and every breath, until his last. He wanted to live!! In his final breath, he opened his eyes and looked into my mothers eyes, a tear rolled down his cheek as he slipped away. Until death do we part.
I'm not a perfect man, but I'm the man you've raised me to be. When people console me regarding your passing, I respond with a smile "he lived a beautiful life". I'm still gathering it all in, that you're no longer here, physically.
The transition of loving you the way I have for 51 years is slowly fading, but the surge of loving you thru my soul is gaining strength. I'm beginning to feel you within, it guides me. It's no longer a phone call for your knowledge, it's simply a deep breath for your life.
I've pondered being half the man that you are, but realize that I rather be me. You of all people would expect that. Not to try to be something I'm not, but to embrace with kindness, forgiveness and strength.
I'll never forget the words you left upon me that day in your shop. "Kris, no matter what you do, leave it better than you found it". Such powerful, yet simple words.
Love you with all my heart, be safe and well.