I’m having a hard time. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day 2014. It would have been Paul’s 28th birthday. Would have been.
I had the opportunity to play music with two wonderful ladies up near the Washington/Canadian border this past weekend. On Saturday we made our way back from our gig at the church to the beautiful bed and breakfast that Jean discovered for our after party of wine, cheese, crackers and other little bits of food to nosh on. Sonya was passing on tidbits of wisdom when she said words that chimed against my heart.
“There is no future in our past.”
I then spoke with her in unison.
“But there is a present in our future.”
We smiled at each other.
I heard it; I grasped onto it like a lifesaver but even tonight it’s hard to hold it to my heart. Every red Mylar balloon, discounted bouquet of flowers, or heart shaped cupcake is screaming against my soul that my little brother is dead.
I found out from one of his old friends that there was a recall on the General Motors car that he drove.
“Not that it helps now,” My Florida friend, Allen, told me, “but it does make you wonder.”
The Chevy Cobalt was recalled because the key would jiggle in the ignition and the power would go out, creating a loss in the power steering and a failure for the airbags to deploy. It has caused several fatalities at high speeds.
“He was a safe driver so I could never figure it out. I just chalked it up to being tired,” he said.
It made me upset to realize that my brother was another statistic to add on to other people’s losses due to bad engineering. It brought on the anger and the helplessness to do anything about it. I tucked the knowledge away with sadness that it did nothing to change what had happened.
Accidents are becoming a hazard in my family. First there was my brother Paul, my cousin, and then my step-mom, Susan, who Reinhold and I often refer to as “mama.” She got in an accident in January that totaled her car and let her walk away without a scratch. With the second one that happened at the beginning of February she wasn’t so lucky. Not even a payment had been made on the new car when a woman, who was texting on her phone, ran a red light and t-boned Susan in the intersection. She was fortunate that the new car had side impact airbags. It was likely a huge factor in saving her life. “That was the best money I ever spent,” she told me with a laugh in her voice over the phone while laying in the bed in the ICU.
Her upper torso had been smashed so hard that there were many fractures to list. My dad kept talking about how Paul had gotten in an accident too. The same thing had happened to him.
“Now the people at the hospital keep telling me that nothing is life threatening,” my dad confided. “What they aren’t telling me is how life altering it is.”
He’s right. Life isn’t going to be the same. From day to day, live or die, it’s a different day. It’s a new day and there will be the same challenges, new challenges, and lessons that we need to carry with us into the future.
There is no future in the past.
Reinhold went to see Susan and I spoke to him on the phone after he had gotten back to the hospital. I asked him how she was doing and he said, “She’s alright, but she keeps saying that she’s never going to be the same again. If she keeps talking like that, of course she’s not going to be the same if she doesn’t believe it.”
There was a lot of truth in what he was saying but then I stopped to think that maybe when we are broken is when it is time to set things right. Maybe that is the time and place that we find the room to grow.
But there is a present in our future.
The challenge for me is to stop comparing; to stop complaining. To allow myself to feel how I feel and embrace my tears without embarrassment. To allow myself to be broken, weak, powerless and still grateful. To allow myself to be angry at the big teddy bears, the foil wrapped candies, and the unrealistic expectations that surround Valentine’s Day. To accept that I can’t force people to see past the curtain to understand how their circus is diminishing the significance of February 14th, 1986 when Paul Ernest Wuerzner was born. So I have to make the choice to credit to myself the significance of that day while everyone else is whirling around with their fake hearts.
In the great scheme of things, I suppose I should be grateful that I have a holiday to remember him by.