A single sheet of notebook paper sits in a desk drawer. The desk was mine in college. My father and I finished it with coats of varnish when I moved into my first apartment in Berkeley. Later, it became my brother's, and traveled with him from his fraternity house, down to his apartment in LA, and eventually to my parent's house, where it is now, in my old room.
The paper has been there for ten years, or maybe a little bit more. It doesn't look like much: light blue lines, three holes down the side, a few words and lines in pencil. Unremarkable at first glance.
I remember the first time I saw this piece of paper. I stayed composed (as was my custom back then). The pencil lines were drawn in the shape of a diamond, with smaller diamonds at the corners, like a baseball field. And at the bottom point of the diamond, where home base would be, a single phrase. "He is safe at home."
My brother had sketched his graveyard.
There are some other details on the page as well. Bill, shortly after a second surgery for a brain tumor that left him partially paralyzed on one side, had included what was to be placed at each base and the various positions throughout the field. It is, as he was, remarkable.
Although he was never a baseball player, my brother was a lover of the game. He analyzed and remembered the great players, old and new. Bill wasn't just a fan. He felt the game. Even as he was dying, long after he had eaten his last hot dog, after his mind and his body started to leave him, he enjoyed a good baseball game.
When I visit my parents' house, and stay in my old room, I always open the desk drawer that holds this piece of paper. I cry now (as is my custom now), thinking of how long my brother knew he was dying, even while the rest of us still held out hope.
And when I have the chance, I visit his grave as well. He is buried among the rows of others, with space around him where my parents will someday lie. His stone is simple.
William Monroe Ress
Safe at home
Today's post was inspired by the prompt "write a fiction or creative non-fiction piece in which an epitaph features prominently."