I had to be at the dry cleaners after 5:30 but before their 6:30 closing time to pick up my shirt for the film. No big deal, right? Except that finding a dry cleaner in this neck of the woods...I drove roughly 35minutes from Floyd, over to Blacksburg. The woman behind the counter was "having a day" and it took about 10 minutes or so to get the cash register to work right and finally get my change.
So I almost didn't go to the meeting down in Roanoke. Second Tuesday of every month and over the summer I'd missed a couple, just too busy with things. And now it was after six and I'd have to hop on the interstate and battle the trucks and traffic and...I came so close to just going home.
Got down to Roanoke about 15 minutes late, parked on Church St. and hit the buzzer on the door of the Mental Health building. Inside, the meeting, Survivors of Suicide, had started. We were on the first floor for some reason (usually on the 3rd), seated around a large conference table and a woman I didn't recognize was well into the story of her husband's suicide. I settled in and listened and then listened some more as a woman and her daughter talked about the son/brother who had taken his life just this past March.
Over the next hour or so we listened and chimed in, helped where we could with words of support. It's always a struggle and will forever be but time does alleviate the immediacy of the hurt. In that quiet room I was, as I've often been, the only man present. Having grown up in a houseful of women, that's no big deal to me. To be able to listen and lend support is all that matters.
The meeting broke at eight and I said my quiet goodbyes, with a hand to the shoulders of the "new people," an extra acknowledgement.
Outside there was still some light left, the sky gone to a pale, pale blue. My sister Barbara has been gone for about 30 years. Her absence is still a presence.
I'm still here.