I have no organized thoughts this evening.
I realized that I never had a bed larger than a twin until I got married. It’s strange sleeping in a queen sized bed alone now, though I guess it’d be weird if I slept in a twin bed too.
I missed half of my counseling appt. yesterday because my counselor works out of a different office on different days and I usually don’t go on Tuesdays. Had to catch a cab in the rain- and then only had about 30 minutes before turning around and coming back home. I told her about how it’s almost like you’re with me all the time because I can hear what you would’ve said constantly. When I hear you- whether it’s telling me to be careful with something for Audrey’s sake, or telling me to scrape all my food off the plate and rinse it before leaving it in the sink so it’s easier to wash, I listen to your voice. My therapist tells me that I don’t have your physical body anymore, but I still have you with me now all the time. I felt frustrated with this because, I told her- it’s not you- evolving, alive- it’s only the you of the past that I hear. It’s only how you’ve acted in the past. When Audrey does something cute now I can hear exactly what you would’ve said- but when she’s thirteen and I’ve never seen you interact with her as a teenager- I don’t know that I’ll have this same experience. How could I?
But the counselor did ask me something interesting- if when you were away traveling, I would imagine every word that you would say while you were gone. “No,” I answer- I never did that. “Interesting,” she says. And it is…because before I had you physically- but now I do not. But maybe she’s right in that it doesn’t mean I don’t have you at all.
I got in the mail two teddy bears I ordered that have voice recorders inside. I am going to go through all of the videos we took and find just the right one of you saying something to Audrey and record it in her bear- the other bear is for me. We’ll probably share them both. It will be difficult to encapsulate you into a ten second recording with no response- but hey, it’s the best I can do. I think once I weed through the videos and find a good one I’ll let Audrey see how I record it and put it in the bear so she’s not confused- the last thing I want is for her to think you’ve changed into a brown teddy bear and can only speak the same sentence over and over again.
So Audrey and I were looking at some of those videos on your computer today. She seemed really interested- she loves watching herself – “I was a lit tel thai neee babeee mommy!” she says. But I also watched her carefully as she heard you speaking to her or saw you in the videos. It’s almost five months – almost a fifth of her life that you’ve been gone. She seemed affected by the sound of your voice- almost as if she was forgetting it and realized how much she missed you when she heard it. Hearing you and seeing you- I myself just couldn’t process that your life is ended. I hugged her as she sat on my lap watching, entranced. It will be very difficult to go through all of the videos- but it’s on my list of projects now. Seeing myself was even stranger. I don’t recognize her at all.
People keep congratulating me on getting through the holidays but I’m not finding them any more difficult than each day. We will be away for Christmas. New Years will probably be hard- probably sitting here alone- realizing that I’m entering a new year without you for the first time. Father’s Day is the one I most dread.
But also coming up- is your birthday. This will be very difficult. You never liked to make a big deal of birthdays, but I did. “What’s the big deal?” you’d always say. “It’s a celebration of life,” would be my reply, “and I’m so glad you’re alive.”
The first year we met, I took you to the rotating restaurant on top of the Marriott in Times Square- which now seems totally cheesy but seemed cool to us at the time. I also threw you a surprise party with some of your college friends at an Italian restaurant where they sang happy birthday to you really loudly. You stood up with the tambourine they gave you and danced, smiling. I have a photo of this.
Another year while dating, I asked all of your friends to send me an email about what you meant to them and put together a book for you. You almost cried when you started reading them. I put this book out at your funeral service.
For your 25th birthday, I threw you a surprise party in your own apartment. I had a friend take you to a movie after church and I’d already secured the spare key from your roommate. Our entire church crammed into your little apartment in Harlem. I decorated with enlarged photos of you as a child- and had tons of food- including kim bop which I made tons of by hand. You walked down the long hall when you came home, suspecting nothing. When we all yelled surprise, you literally jumped up in the air, waving your fist down. You were completely surprised.
For one of your birthdays I got you the bright red official Korean soccer jersey. It was pricey, but I knew how much you’d like it. I was teaching 7th grade English at the time at a private school and so excited to surprise you with it, I can remember telling my students. I decided to put the shirt on over my clothes, and under my winter coat and wear it to your office after my last class. When I got there, I took off my coat and surprised you with it.
Once we were married, I threw a few simple parties in our apartment. One of them was called “Dan’s favorite things,” and at it we had KFC, pizza, and a cake made of stacked twinkies.
On your last birthday before Audrey was born, you had been going through a really rough period at your office job- having to work until 3 am most nights. So, I secretly emailed your bosses and asked if I could surprise you with a day off. Then I planned a day you would like- Korean for lunch, a massage with someone walking on your back (since you always asked me to do that), a walk through the city, and dinner.
The last two years, I am sad to say- we didn’t get to do much. Two years ago, Audrey was only three months old and we’d just moved out of our apartment and lost all of our belongings- you were working late while we were living at my parents’ house. So, I think you came home from work, and I greeted you in the dark kitchen while you ate leftovers. Something like that. On your last birthday- when you turned 33- you weren’t here. You were on the first European tour.
So, I am planning a small dinner for you this year Dan…with some of your close friends. I’m hoping we can begin by remembering you, and spend the rest of the evening having a few beers and having a good time in your honor. It feels kind of the same as usual- like I’m planning you a party- except that- no, you will not be in attendance this year. The love that fuels my planning feels exactly the same. And it is my dear, and it is.
You would’ve turned 34- which I am already- you won’t be catching up to me this time Dan- which makes me feel older…and I am. And always will be.
“Look…see how all of the trees lost their leaves now,” I pointed out to Audrey the other day. “But in the spring time, all of the leaves will come back and be green again.”
I will plough through this winter…the deadness and the holidays…and then in the spring, I will breath a sigh of relief.
so beautifully put, julia. easter will come, and with it, new life and hope (thank you, Jesus). keep pressing on.
I love how you are able to capture so many wonderful memories and share them. Audrey will cherish this one day. Sending hugs!
I appreciate everything you wrote. Such a beautiful post… so much I feel, myself. This part resonated with me most
"People keep congratulating me on getting through the holidays but I'm not finding them any more difficult than each day."
I also hear my husbands voice in my head, all the time. Blessings to you.
This blog brings me to tears easier and better than anything I have ever encountered. Your profound memories… Today, Pastor Matthew Na commented how Dan requested that he play at his wedding. Thoughts and actions like those. Timeless and priceless.
Bless you and yours,