In September 2009 Eddie's dad turned 70. He and his wife Susie invited the immediate family, Cathy, her husband, and their girls, and Trey, Emily, and me to celebrate his birthday with them by spending the weekend at Tybee Island. Unlike the weekend of the memorial service for Eddie, I never even considered not going to this. It was something I had to do even though I knew it wouldn't be easy. This was the first time I had seen any of Eddie's family since his funeral. I had talked to them on the phone fairly regularly, but they hadn't been back to Columbus and I hadn't been to Hinesville. Trey had some of the same feelings of apprehension that I did, but Emily was just excited to be going to the beach.
I was glad to see everyone - Eddie's stepsister Brynn even came on Saturday night with her boyfriend and children - but it was a hard weekend just as I anticipated. It was so obvious that Eddie was the only one not there, but it was like the elephant in the living room - no one wanted to talk about it. It had only been six months since Eddie's death, but I had reached a point where I wanted to talk about him and what happened. Susie and I talked some on Friday night, but as soon as the conversation started Cathy left the room and Ed followed soon after. Neither of them said anything. It was nice being at the beach on Saturday and Emily had a ball, but all I could think about all day was how much Eddie would have enjoyed it and that he should have been there. Of course, again we went through the entire day without anyone mentioning him though. That night we watched the Georgia game, had a big supper, gave gifts to Ed, ate cake, and sang happy birthday to him. The entire evening it felt like everyone was going through the motions and trying to put up a happy front for Ed's sake. By the end of the night I had reached a point where I wanted to scream at everyone that it was OK to acknowledge that Eddie wasn't there, that it was even OK to be mad at him for not being there - but of course I didn't.
When Sunday morning arrived it was difficult to say good-bye to everyone, but at the same time it was a relief to get away. The weekend was fun but tense at the same time. I had the feeling then (and I still have it today) that Cathy blames me for Eddie's death. I may be completely wrong, but that's the impression I get when I'm around her. Unfortunately we never talk, so I can't address the issue with her. The family got together again this September for Ed's birthday, but Trey, Emily, and I weren't able to go. I really regretted having to miss it this time, but I was in Atlanta with my mother for an outpatient procedure she was having. Trey and Emily couldn't go because Emily had her first game as a cheerleader that Saturday. Brynn was there again on Saturday night and she posted pictures on Facebook. Looking at them brought back the same feelings I had when I was there two years ago.
It's been two and a half years since Eddie died, and I would very much like to talk about him - not so much about his alcoholism and suicide, but about his "other" life - about the good qualities, the good times, the happy memories. My mother and my friends are willing to talk with me about him, but his family and even Trey don't seem to want to or be able to. He lived for 48 years. We were together for almost 30 years. I don't want it to be as if he never existed.
Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Yesterday's dead, tomorrow's unborn,
So there's nothing to fear and nothing to mourn,
For all that is past and all that has been
Can never return to be lived once again.
And what lies ahead, or the things that will be,
Are still in God's hands, so it's not up to me
To live in the future that is God's great unknown,
For the past and the present God claims for His own.
So all I need do is to live for today
And trust God to show me the truth and the way,
For it's only the memory of things that have been
And expecting tomorrow to bring trouble again
That fills my today, which God wants to bless,
With uncertain fears and borrowed distress.
For all I need live for is this one little minute,
For life's here and now and eternity's in it.
-Helen Steiner Rice