As much as I say I don't have regrets, that everything has gotten me to this point in my life, etc...there are still things in my past that I look back on and sometimes wish I could change or redo. Thinking like this really does me no good though, because let's be real- we can't change the past, we can't go back- all we can do is move forward. With that said though, at times I do find myself taking a trip down memory lane and thinking about a few different instances years ago that I would definitely go back and change if I had the opportunity AND if it wouldn't affect my present and future in a negative way, Back to the Future style.
*what I'm about to share is really hard to type out, and I found myself in tears multiple times while writing it. I've spoken about it a few times on this blog, but this time it was very hard to find the words to describe this time in my life. But as much as it hurts to write, it also is incredibly cathartic and I'm so thankful to be able to express my emotions about it here. I hesitated to share it, but for the sake of journaling and being honest, here you go.
If you had a free pass to go back and change anything in your past, with the promise that it would only affect you positively, would you do it? And if so, what would you change?
I'll never forget that fall. It seemed to be colder than usual, the autumn chill in the air lingering later into the day and coming earlier in the evening. The leaves were bronze and rust, and orange and gold. We were making plans for Fall Break, deciding where to go and who to see, and most of my memories involve sitting on the white railing of our front porch, talking with friends and watching the cars go by. That was the Fall we lost you. That summer, seeing you every night had become commonplace. We'd spend weekends at shows together, eating vegan food, road trips to Phoenix and Tucson listening to Stay Gold and Shakira, midnight trips to Dennys where we'd eat too much pie and you guys would drink too much coffee. You were our little brother, and our nightly runs around the track, the long conversations about your girlfriends and crushes are still fresh in my mind.
When that fall arrived, you began to drift. The new school year for you brought new friends. Less hardcore shows, less band practice, more spending time with the party kids, and subsequently, more time spent around drugs and alcohol. I should have seen it coming. I should have noticed the slow and eventual shift in personality, the shy, quiet, often awkward boy acting just a little different, a little off. Dinners and hangouts slowed down, you stopped joining us on the weekends. You'd pop by here and there, but it wasn't the same. Myspace messages unanswered, unreturned phone calls. More than once I tried to reach out and find out what was wrong, why you seemed so different. Unanswered, unreturned. And then October came. You passed through the library one day while I was in the non-fiction section. We had plans that night, for you to come over and hang out with Hank and me, to cook dinner, to catch up, to spend time together with one of our best friends, however far removed you were at the time. In that passing we confirmed our plans. You said I love you, I said the same, we hugged, and you walked away. In that moment something in my gut told me not to let you go, to call you back. To please, please, please stop him and say more, ask him, tell him, make him. Something way down deep inside knew something was not alright. But I let you go.
You never showed up that night. I called twice and got no answer. I didn't call again, but the next morning the phone did ring. It was Hank's Dad, calling to let us know that they had found you, not breathing. You had died early that morning.
I can never ever go back to that day, that month, that Autumn. But if I could change one thing in my past, this would be it. For a long time I blamed myself, I felt like I should have done something more, I should have found out what was going on. It hurts to know that you are gone and it hurts that Henry won't ever know his Uncle. But yet there are so many days I think of you and smile to myself- Hank and I find ourselves talking about you often, and sometimes when I walk around town with Adie we'll remember funny stories and reminisce about your blue eyes and shy smile. New Year's Eve will always remind me of you, not-so-vegan lasagna, Shakira, bandannas, In My Eyes, fancy olives. All you. And whenever I think about something I would change if I could, you will always, always be the first thing that comes to mind.