“The world is a rushing river, and I’m a rock in the middle of it.” Christofer DeFino
I am in Virginia Beach with beloved friends. This is the fifteenth year I’ve been following the need to connect with like birds south. Some of the faces have changed over the years, but most remain consistent. The dollbabies feed my writer-soul the way nothing else does, or ever can.
On this trek south, a 12 hour drive I look forward to every year, I sat on the ferry between Cape May, NJ and Lewes, DE, reading through an ancient moleskine notebook I keep in my purse. Because I now write myself notes on my cell phone, I don’t use it much anymore; keeping it on me is habit. Of course, there are many notes from years past, among them the one above.
I’m not sure if I remember correctly, but I believe Chris and I were in the car, on the way to one doctor’s office or another. He said those words to me, during the course of conversation (I really miss those deep conversations, during the captive-audience car rides over the years) and they broke my heart a little. That’s how he felt, on so many levels. The world rushed around him, passing him by. It also exemplified how it felt to be trapped in thoughts most can’t grasp. He was always just a little outside of any group he was in, even when he hung out with his professors, who actually could understand those things he was so passionate about, because he was always so much younger than they.
Such thoughts he had; I don’t think there are many who could truly understand them. After he died, the university Bio/Chem department had a memorial in his honor. Professor after professor got up and talked about how, though they knew they were in for hours of discussion they couldn’t spare in their busy days, they’d put away what they were doing to talk when they saw him coming. Chris made them remember what they loved about their chosen field. He made them remember what it was like to be that young and passionate. And every one of them said how HE showed them new things, new ways to see chemistry, because he never bogged down in what was supposed to be, but what could be.
He thought in abstracts and concretes, in chemical compounds like a synesthete thinks in colors. He could see the structure of a compound, just by thinking them. He could link this compound to another, seeing the ways they would combine, become something new. I, honestly, could never understand most of what he talked about; mine is not a scientific mind. I guess it’s the way I see story as building blocks, and can move them from place to place and see the whole it will make.
I didn’t just lose my son; the world lost a great mind. One that could have made a difference, actually did make a difference in ways he’ll never be remembered for. I’ll spend the rest of my life wondering what would have made a difference, what would have been that thing that pulled him out of his fate, and into a better one. I’ll never find that answer. Never.
One thing I do know is that Chris had a lot to give that he never got the chance to. Few were few willing to accept what it was he had to give them, let alone give him back in equal measures. His love was boundless, and demanded the same in return. His mind was infinite, and sought someone, anyone who could exchange thought for thought. He could make you his world, and begged for you to make him yours. Demanded it, sometimes. Most times. Maybe it wasn’t possible. Maybe people just don’t have as much to give, don’t feel comfortable about demanding the huge quantities he asked for. Everything about him was big, and overwhelming, I will admit.
I sit here, in this beach house, the sound of waves crashing on the beach, and Sara’s mixer whirring downstairs, and the silence of women writing all around me, and I realize I have what my son wished for, not just here but in my life as a whole. I, too, am a stone in the middle of a rushing river, but I have other stones nearby to stem the flow, to keep the water from wearing me down.