A New Notepad

It became a theme. A legal pad with only a few pages written upon.

When I found the first few of these on his kitchen table, I laughed and commented to his friend, “I can’t believe he only uses a few pages on each pad.”

“Welcome to my world,” she said with a smile.

As we dug deeper and deeper into the apartment — my brothers, my sister, my father all helping — it became abundantly clear that we had had a minimal understanding of Stewart’s struggles. Layered in with the notepads was a paper trail that told such a sad, sad story.

I daresay that each of us wept, though not collectively. Individually. Privately. Alone. As my family is wont to do. Hearts breaking, not just with the loss of a family member, but with the pain that we uncovered.

While over the years I was busy looking down my nose and saying things like, “I don’t understand why Stewart doesn’t just (fill in the blank),” Stewart was hitting yet another pothole on the bumpy road of his life. And I had no clue. I truly didn’t understand.

“I found a notepad if anyone needs one,” one of my brothers would call out occasionally.

DSC00693

the tip of the iceberg

We would laugh. There was no dearth of notebooks. He had legal pads – yellow and white, composition books, loose leaf paper and three ring binders, ring bound notebooks, blank journals, and paper, just plain white paper.

As I put together a timeline for Stewart’s life — the hidden part that I didn’t know — I began to see a theme. An attempt to put old things behind and start new, followed by a problem, followed by yet another attempt to start new.

This plethora of notepads was a metaphor for his life. A clean notebook. A fresh start. Followed by something I couldn’t always see that made him want to start again.

At the beginning of the weekend, I had driven to the Pittsburgh airport to pick up my sister. On my way, I had passed a man standing along a busy road where there was stop-and-go traffic. He held a battered cardboard sign that read something like, “HOMELESS. VETERAN. PLEASE HELP.” I had watched through my rearview mirror as someone handed him money out the window of their car. My cold hard heart felt nothing for him.

At the end of the weekend, after driving my sister back to the airport, I saw him again. I had no loose change to give him, but I wanted to ask him, “Do you have a sister? Does she live in a little town in a two-story house with her family? Does she know about your gritty exhaust-filled life here by the road?”

Stewart had never reached that point of standing by the road. But I never knew all the struggles he did have.

I wanted to roll down my window and hand that homeless guy a notepad.

5 thoughts on “A New Notepad

  1. Pingback: Vultures (and a boxful of Buechner) | One Month at a Time

    • Thanks, Vanessa. I wrote this several years ago shortly after my brother died. Today I was looking for a piece for a writing class I’m taking and thought about submitting this one, so I made it public again (it had been private). I wish I could make it so that WP doesn’t send out previously published posts again when I switch the settings. It gets confusing for people. But I really appreciate your condolences. I still miss my brother.

      • I know it was a while back. I remember some of your other posts about your brother 🙂 I also know that some days, it just hits you all over again like it was the first day. I miss my brother, too. *hugs*

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.