We have seats. Really good seats. Behind the bench in the middle of the field. But every Saturday, before the game starts, the boys like to climb down the Hill.
The way down is precipitous and steep, momentum propelling us faster than we can control, our ankles buckling on the uneven ground.
When we finally reach the bottom, they sit as still as can be, as the percussive vibrations of the band commingle in the air with the raucous cheers of the crowd.
Two boys who rarely stop moving for anything are rendered completely motionless, despite the chaos that surrounds them.
Because this is the moment when they feel my dad next to them. Sometimes they give it a voice, announcing to me that he is there. But mostly they don’t need to. I can see it.
I can see the calm in their bodies, the concentration in their faces, as their minds struggle to recall memories that are slipping away with time.
No one tells you the hardest part of grief is the forgetting. The resilience that propels you through the blur of tragedy is a double-edged sword.
Eventually you strain to hear his voice, to remember the way he casually flicked his hair from his face. And the forgetting hurts as much as the losing.
But sometimes, when the smell of mud and grass and popcorn waft to your nose, when the air crackles with excitement and the possibility of the impossible, sometimes you remember everything.
And that’s when you stand as still as a statue, afraid that the slightest movement, the tiniest noise, will break the spell.
So I stand behind them and wait. I remember too.
We climb down the Hill because for one brief moment we want to return to the valley of grief. To remember the exquisite pain of what we have lost. Grief, after all, is just a measure of the vastness of our love.
And when we have felt it coursing through our veins and bubbling up through our skin, we turn and pull ourselves up the Hill once more. Out of the past and into the present.
Because just as much as we need to remember the bottom of the Hill, to feel the hurt anew, we also need to remember what it felt like to climb back up. That we have the ability to wade through the morass. To make our feet plod, one in front of the other, up to the top. Even if we get stuck in the divets. Even if we fall down. Even if we get muddy and dirty and bruised.
We have good seats. Really good seats. But on Saturdays, we climb down the Hill to remember what was. And to remember, no matter how deep the valley, we know how to climb back up again.