A friend from college chatted with me online the other day- someone I hadn’t really spoken to in many years- I think he only met you twice.
He wanted to tell me what had remained with him for the past nine or ten years since the first time he met you- that the first time he saw me with you- we were all waiting together for you to arrive from somewhere- probably work- and when you arrived, my friend said- “You were happy in a way I’d never seen you before- and I remember thinking- ‘Julia was never like this in college.’ ”
I cry as I type back, “Thanks for telling me…” Yes, I was so very excited each time I met you.
Today while we were at a shopping area, Audrey spotted one of those ride-on toys that you need to insert the coins in. I let her ride on it twice- once before we shopped, and once after. It was fifty cents a ride, but she seemed so happy, and it delighted me to see her turning the little steering wheel and looking very proud. I feel like other moms are always telling their kids they can’t ride on those, but I’m not sure why.
Audrey’s been talking about you so much Dan. She sits in your chair at the kitchen table and tells me, “I’m going to sit in Appa’s chair to remember him.” She shares her water cup with you and her food. She tells your photo, “We love you and we miss you appa,” just as I have in the past. Sometimes when I am sad, I see her just staring at your photo as if she knows why it’s so quiet. I fear that she’s starting to notice it’s just not as fun around here anymore. I feel like we’re both waiting for you to come in smiling and do a silly dance for us. It’s quiet. Every night before we eat she says the prayer- it’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. “Dear God, tank you faw ow food. Aaaaaaaaaa men.” Then I sing, “Be present at our table Lord, be here and everywhere adored, thy children bless and grant that we
may feast in paradise with thee.” I have never meant any words more than I mean those last words each night when I sing them softly with my eyes closed. It’s like with every nightly meal, I’m getting one meal closer to that feast I eagerly hope for.
I was remembering today how you talked and read stories to Audrey in a Scottish accent all the time. And how you loved that show “Sunday Morning” that mostly retired men watch. And how you often ended up shifting from foot to foot doing a little dance while washing the dishes because you had to go pee. “Just go to the bathroom!” I’d say. Then you’d shut the water off, wipe your hands on your shirt and run.
I don’t want to pick out your headstone. I don’t want to see it in stone. And I’m wondering if I have to put my own name and birth date on there…probably? I’m sitll torn about the place we buried you…and wondering if I ever move us- could I take the stone with me? It’s expensive. Does every 34 year old mother ask these questions?
Other battles are won and lost. Last week I felt like popping a bottle of champagne when I officially got Audrey enrolled in the state health care program after about three months of applications, denials, grievance letters, and phone calls. And all of this when she’s been eligible all along. They just make it so hard. But then today I heard I am still getting charged the $3,000 for the helicopter rescue.
Probably for the first time, I am feeling angry with you. I know it’s a natural part of the grieving process, and I hope you do too. I haven’t felt this at all yet because I felt nothing but your loss and sorrow for our loss and horror at what you experienced. But now I think about how I trusted you and asked you to take care of yourself. It feels like a typical argument and I want to nag you and say, “Now you’ve really done it Dan,” but there’s no response. I know it’s not your fault – I know you never would’ve left us on purpose- ever. So please bear with me. (I think I subconsciously hope, you’ll somehow appear to defend yourself if you see me getting angry).
And I think of your famous quote- you were always telling me when you messed up, “My intentions were good.” We laughed and said we’d engrave it on your tombstone one day, jokingly. So I think of that…and can’t possibly be angry.
I thought today about communication- about how key that is in a marriage and how we mostly sucked at it…but we managed and tried. So after eleven years of working at communicating with you- I’m cut off- you’re not here to continue the conversation. You’re not here to listen to my thoughts or worries or concerns. I can’t ask you what happened or hear your side of this very sad story. There is zero communication going on here- and I wonder why I still seek it somehow. I start to despair because I am aching for your response and think that if you existed- even somewhere- you’d not ignore me. So you must not.
I realize earlier today that as needy as I have been the past four months- constantly taking and receiving- I miss giving- I miss caring for you. We’d probably both agree that I mothered you too much but it was just my nature to want to care for you and watch over you. And now, even though I am a full-time mother to Audrey, I am feeling the void of having someone to encourage and someone to tell to wear a hat or dry your hair before you leave the house. I think my nagging drove both of us crazy- but it was one of the ways I showed my love. Now I water your cello, collect photos and memories, and do everything in my power to ensure that maybe, your daughter will have at least one true memory of you. And I write. This is how I love you now.
Twelve or fifteen times a day everything stops and I realize what this is all about and that I’m awake and conscious- and yes, this is my life- the one I had, except that you died. I did not know that this was possible- I must have- we all know about death- but I did not know that this was possible. Which makes me feel that as much as I feel I’m in a dream now- I must have also been under some kind of spell in my previous life as well- to not understand or comprehend the real possibility of death at a young age for either one of us. Now I comprehend – but it’s not that I’m in my old life with this comprehension and therefore fearful…there is no fear. I comprehend.
I keep thinking about the last time we skyped- a day before you died. My counselor had told me a story of how her daughter- right before she died, noticed things that had been changed in the house- her senior picture moved- and asked her mom not to forget her. I have been stuck on one little detail. I remember after you left for the tour, I hung up a piece of fabric over the “hole” in Audrey’s nook- there had been curtains there before but I wanted something that could block out the sunlight. And when we skyped, even though you were fully focused on her- pushing the new stroller I’d just gotten her- I remember you taking note of that change. You looked puzzled and asked me about it. That wasn’t really like you to notice something like that and I wondered if you didn’t like it or just thought I was crazy for always changing things around. Either is possible, but now every time I make another change, I think of that- and wonder if it was a part of your soul’s preparation for all of the changes that will be made now that you’re gone.
You’d think these past months I have been missing you…”You must miss him so much…” everyone says. But really I’ve been in shock and trying nightly to process it- the phone call, the body, the funeral, the fact that you’re not here. But now it springs up…I simply and profoundly