I was born in Lynchburg, Virginia. Small town then. Smallish now. Besides being my birthplace and its atrocious name, it is probably best known for its intrepid cleric--one Jerry Falwell and his more reasonable extension, Liberty University.
The year was 1975. The month was December. The day was the fourteenth of thirty-one--not quite middling.
Within a couple of years, I left Lynchburg behind for the larger town of Richmond where I spent ten years bicycling, shoplifting, collecting baseball cards, playing a variety of tags, whining, and being average at sports, above average at school, and below average at having friends--which was fine because I had a big brother and, before long, three little ones. Life, on average, was good. And, as it turns out (having witnessed and heard-tell of other lives) far, far too good for complaints.
Today, I am leaving for Lynchburg. My birthplace. For a funeral. Too easily ironic to elaborate the irony. In fact, I am troubled to find that my feelings about the trip are ones of alternating hesitation and resignation.
But why? Well . . . I suppose there's my natural aversion to dolor and its wont of sucking one into its melancholic juices, there to marinate until dour, until sour with thoughts of one's own mortality. Thoughts I've overthought already. Already having brushes near enough to taste. (In my experience, that particular taste is sweet, the moment calm, the resignation so pure as to obviate all hesitation. But this irony too is almost too blah to mention.)
What else? Well . . . there's the fact that the uncle for whom the bell tolled is the one I've interacted with the least over the years. (35 since 1975 [he calculated unnecessarily]). So there's a sense that among the nearer family members I will feel somehow unworthy of bereavement. That somehow, when I go to hug a cousin or an aunt, there will be a coolness in my touch that bespeaks my absence from their lives. On one hand, this is a bogus thought. An imaginary exclusion. But on the other hand, I believe there is something to it. Not a bad thing and certainly not a good thing but just a thing. A thing that makes you feel that way without offering excuse or implicating its agency. Just an icky, unavoidable thing.
Anything more? Not much. I'm not a fan of the shrinkray of adulthood. The redoubtable influence of time over matter. The squish of youth beneath the heels of experience. The verdant football yard now barely a swatch of brown grass.
Oh, and I hate, with a capital HATE, car trips. Anything over thirty minutes really sticks in my craw--which is saying a lot because otherwise I have no craw to speak of for all that I know. Craws are like the appendices that way. Unnoticeable until molested. In that case, craws are also like one's feeling upon going home. Not just for a funeral but for an encounter with the living. The rest of us. The flesh-wrapped skeletons, still warm from birth.