The last time I saw him, his hair was long and the beard was scraggly. But, he was making plans.
He had a girlfriend and she had dimples. Precious dimples and a beautiful smile.
His ability to make conversation was uncanny- I had seen it once before, in my own brother. Jonathan had the personality that was too big to be encapsulated in a small body.
He wasn't small.
"Little Man" was big; bigger than life, it seemed.
He would entertain me. He would make me laugh. Oh, how he could make me laugh.
The running conversation was the topic of food-- we both loved food. The question was, "If you could have one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?"
Well, me-- a turkey sandwich, of course. But him? Sushi.
"SUSHI?!" Was always my response. "Really? Are you sure?"
Like I said, I didn't always understand him.
Every time we saw each other thereafter, we would confirm our decisions to see if they had changed. Perhaps we were too stubborn to be proven wrong. Except, honestly, sushi?! A turkey sandwich makes so much more sense.
I would find him on the front porch and bring two cold beers, still wet from the ice and we would sit on the benches or the steps. He would smoke and I would listen.
He knew. He knew he was too big for this world. We talked about it. He would say, "Ya know- I've lived so much in such a short time. I have loved so much. I wonder what's next."
We don't make it down here as often as we should. Husband works, the kids have school, and life gets in the way of life. At some point in the last year, he came out to the farm solo- which was unusual as he always had an entourage with him.
As the house got fuller, I noticed he wasn't around. Two more beers, still wet from the cooler and out the front door to where I knew he was. Bottles popped, I sit down across from him.
Got a girl-- she's nice. Real nice; you'd like her. I love her.
Yeah. We're making plans.
We pause and sip. I keep quiet. He talks more.
She's gorgeous. Damn stunning.
Again, he says- "I have done so much."
"Isn't life beautiful?" I ask.
Yeah- but, damn it's messy.
The door opened and someone came to join the conversation-- at this moment, I forget who. But, we strayed from where we were going.
He was right. It's messy. It's complicated. There is nothing simple, nothing fair, and nothing easy about it.
But- it is still beautiful.
Little Man died on Monday. There was a house fire, and he was one of five that perished. That beautiful girl with the dimples was with him. As I sit and type, I keep thinking that everyone is coming over tonight and his big personality is going to waltz through that door. He's going to give those great big hugs and make you feel like you are the most important person in the room.
Instead, his parents are meeting with the funeral director in a few hours and final arrangements will be made.
Everyone is still coming over tonight, but I won't be sneaking off to find him on the front porch. He won't be at the glass table outside laughing about old stories from when they were young. It will be quieter, softer, and gentler.
We will still talk about the past, we will still laugh, but we won't be the same. Family gatherings won't be as grand, as big, or as jovial. He will be here-- he will always be here with his sisters, his aunts and uncles, grandparents, and parents.
Life will move on. It will still be beautiful and messy and unfair and complicated and every other adjective. But, it won't be the same without him.
It certainly won't.