Twenty years ago, hundreds of sympathy cards arrived. One was from an old church lady: “I enjoyed Chad and his devilish ways,” she wrote. Chad was very kind. He was also roguish.
I’ve spoken and written (p4) about Chad and his death, but I don’t really dig into it. I’m still not ready. But I will tell you why our TV in Tennessee had a bullet mark: when Chad was 5, after the Dallas Cowboys lost the Super Bowl and everyone left the den, Chad shot the TV with his BB gun.
I will tell a little about how Chad and I learned to foil each other: One Sunday after church, I beat him to the bathroom. I peed in the toilet. He peed in his bedroom vent. I played the piano. He played the rogue. I was the good girl and he was the bad boy. When he died, I lost my foil.
Yesterday, the dentist told me I have a dying molar. Of course my tooth would throb on my brother’s death day. The dentist and his assistant speak with caring and empathetic voices. My molar has too many cracks from all the tooth grinding of the last two years (my layoff caused tension and anxiety). Tomorrow, a specialist will attempt to save my tooth. I had fantasized about saving Chad. At night, I would be beamed from New York to the edge of the Bernadotte dam, where I’d pick up a long stick. Chad’s canoe would have capsized right next to shore, so he would have been close enough to grab the other end of the stick. In the fantasy, the stick and I were stronger than the force of the dam.
Some months before Chad died, I lie on my psychoanalyst’s couch and said, “If Chad can make it to age 30, he will be fine, but the risks he takes. He keeps taking them. One of these times, he won’t be lucky.”
Chad made it to age 23. For Chad, a Trump Presidency would be dystopian. We are living the dystopia now. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg so sadly understates: “We are not experiencing the best of times.” The justice looks sad and defeated.
I am worried about the dangers Donald Trump is exposing us to. Trump takes so many childish risks–he taunts a dictator who owns nuclear weapons, he says he’d love to see a (government) shutdown, he has authorized the police to use weapons of war against communities of color, he has, without hearings, sentenced to death hard-working young mothers, he has handed over state secrets to Russia, and he has alienated our allies. Trump and the Republicans are exposing most Americans to risks and insecurities we do not choose.
One of these tweets, we’re not going to be lucky. Trump’s going to sacrifice us. We just need to make it until we can restore the balance of power in the top branches of government. We may not get there. Especially if Trump keeps taunting North Korea.
Two days after Chad died, I piled in a mini van with my closest family members and we drove out to Bernadotte. It was daytime, but it felt dark. A man from the Bernadotte cafe approached us: Chad should not have taken the canoe out on a cold day when the river was rushing from melting snow, he said. Perhaps I should have told him to leave us in peace–to get the hell away, but we were a preacher’s family. We were polite.
When Tom, Maya, and I moved back to Macomb in 2005, it would often occur to me that I should visit the Bernadotte dam–that was the only grave Chad had. I didn’t go until last month. I waited twenty years. The Spoon River has shrunk so much that the shape of the top of the dam is now exposed.