Allie and Shannon look at his text message, a short, “maybe we could go for a hike today or something”. They
agree I should go. They want to spend some time with me rst so we bicycle down to the park, play a few
games. They scatter, I get in my car and head west.
I am lled with dread.
* * *Twenty-three years ago, Johnny was born not breathing and with no heartbeat. I still am haunted by the thoughtthat “he was dead before he was alive.” That moment remains vivid, the frantic rolling of the hospital bed into
the surgery room when the heart monitor atlined. But by the time John’s heart had stopped, he was too far
down the birth canal to do a c-section. He weighed 12 pounds. They hadn’t given me anesthesia.I had given one last push, with everything I had. My husband leaned over to me and said, “I know you’re notthe praying sort, but you might want to start now.” I hear the doctor say grimly, “Apgar score, zero.” I knowthat can’t be good.Suddenly a wail pierces the room. The relief is tangible. Johnny turns bright red, does not stop screaming. Aftera bit, I say, “I think he’s hungry.” Laughter.Johnny has arrived.***The hike starts out foreboding. We park by a deserted paper mill, the bridge Johnthinks leads to the trailhead is closed. We soon see why, as we walk across we can
see a roiling river below through holes in the concrete. Two boys in camouage
run ahead of us, bb guns on their shoulders. The wind picks up, I hear the sound of thunder. There’s always thunder in my nightmares.We walk down the road, hit a dead-end with a multitude of no trespassing signs. We duck into the woods wherewe think the mountain is. Follow some train tracks. I’m reminded of how when John was 4 or 5, our “family
movie” was “Stand By Me”.
Johnny loved to re-enact the scene where the boys are walking the railroad tracks and a train comes along.The problem is, John would be standing in a supermarket express line. Get a faraway look in his eyes, yell
“traaaaaiiiiinnnn”, hop down at on the oor, wherever we were. He hates that story. I don’t remind him.
We nd a path that follows the tracks, and then a smaller path that looks like it goes up the mountain. There are
no markers but it looks relatively easy to follow. I remind John to turn around, look at where we’ve been. “Youneed to see where you’ve been to know where you are going.” I sigh. I am a poet. My life is one big metaphor.
We head up the mountain. There had been a forest re a couple of weeks before. Blacks skeletons of trees, the
smell of burnt wood everywhere. I ask John if he wants to talk, tell him I was worried about the texts. “Oh,sorry mom. I know my texts sounded short. It’s this phone, I had to get a 1992 Sprint phone because my other
phone broke. Impossible to text on. I’m ne. Sorry you were worried.” His eyes are a gorgeous shade of blue.
His smile lights up the mountain.