Again two nights ago Audrey mentioned randomly, while on the potty actually, “Sometimes I remember appa and sometimes, I don’t.”
I feel sad resignation at this disgustingly organic, inevitable truth.
I asked her if she wanted to look at some of your clothes and she answered “Yes!” excitedly. I open your lower drawer in our dresser and she is quickly lifting up item after item saying, “I remember this!” I don’t know that she really does remember any of them. Maybe a few, I can tell by the look of remembrance in her eyes. I cry without her noticing while we take out some of your soccer jerseys.
Father’s Day is almost here. And this is my gift to you. What I want for you to know
She has changed so much since you saw her at 21 months. “Don’t be surprised if she’s talking like crazy when you come back,” I told you when you left. I said this partly because it was true and partly because I was resentful and wanted you to feel bad.
What can I tell you about Audrey now at 33 months old? She loves peacocks and pelicans. She has singalong parties where I’m required to sit on a foam square on her play mat while she stands with a princess wand in either hand singing loudly for a very long time. (Singalongs are only on Fridays she informs me). She knows all of the continents and recognizes them by shape. Africa is her favorite. She has a favorite singer named Kimmy Schwimmy and has all of her songs memorized. She dances with pure joy to these songs, jumping around, clapping her hands, and smiling for my acknowledgement. She is starting already to stand up to me just a bit telling me, “I don’t like it when you say no!” when I tell her no. “I like it when you say yes.” I think that’s because I told her that same thing when she said no to my requests a few times. Sometimes she just hugs me and says “I loves you mommy.” It is an unbelievable sound to hear. I wish you could’ve heard it too. She loves the series Madeline and wants to invite the twelve little girls from the old house in Paris to her house to play. She has vivid dreams that she remembers. One of her first was about her umbrella…she was half asleep screaming that she needed her umbrella because it was raining. The next morning she remembered it. Another was about bugs crawling on her arms. She was afraid of them but there were also a lot of butterflies and she wasn’t afraid of those. Her most recent dream had to do with ice cream that she’d dropped. She awoke in the middle of the night screaming that she had to get her ice cream. I had to wake her enough to tell her it was only a dream and we could have ice cream tomorrow.
She will go to preschool in September and can’t wait. In fact, we play preschool nearly every day. Sometimes she is the teacher and sometimes I’m the teacher. She can smell chocolate on my breath even from far away- even the type. “chocolate!!” she’ll say sniffing and smirking…”chocolate chips!” I can’t get away with anything anymore. She loves foam stickers and stickers of all kinds, dressing up like a princess and hearing the story of The Princess and the Pea. She sits with a little Korean book that has an audio that teaches words and teaches herself “Koweewan.” When I tickle her, she stands up for herself now saying, “I said stop. I don’t like being tickled. I like kisses…and hugs…” Some of her favorite places are Trader Joe’s where she enjoys getting her own little cart, Target where she likes looking in the dollar section, and IKEA, where she climbs up on all of the toddler beds. She’s in a nose picking phase unfortunately for me.
A friend tells me the other day that even if she has no conscious memories, you helped form who she is and the first few years are crucial and you were with her for 21 months and that counts for something. I hope that’s true, but I still wish she could’ve known you- truly known you.
But now this has come to pass…the forgetting. A sharp reminder as well that we are all ultimately forgotten, if this is the only reality. No matter how much we achieve or how loved we are by those on our journey – we are forgotten a century later…our name never uttered.
Here is what I can promise you regarding Audrey.
She will know that you loved her and love her still. I am absolutely confident that I can represent you and speak in your stead on this matter without feeling blasphemous. “He loves you so much…no matter what.” This is truthful even though you’re not here, and she’ll know it. I will always remind her.
She will know that you were brilliant; you had perfect pitch that could tell me the note of the annoying car alarm horn that was endlessly beeping in our old Brooklyn neighborhood. She’ll know that you were a model of humility- that you somehow held the confidence that you had real talent in one hand and genuine humility in the other at the same time.
She will know that you were a dreamer, that you never settled for mediocrity or doing what the world pointed to…getting an office job, a 401K, and buying a home weren’t on your list. You wanted to perform and write music, and you had many other dreams as well- now unrealized…of opening a restaurant one day with live music and Korean tuna pancakes on the menu, of writing movie scores, and being a photographer. You decided you’d interview your favorite famous soccer players and somehow you did. You got in touch with their managers and then there you were- on the phone interviewing them, writing articles and submitting and getting them published in ESPN. I was lucky enough to be a part of all this dream making.
She will know that you were silly and fun to be around. You were relaxed and reassuring…you danced in the center of the circle at my best friend’s wedding while I was in the bathroom- a crazy long dance that I later saw on her video and said, “Huh? When did that happen?” You liked Japanese and Korean comic books, comedies and you loved movies and sports. You picked out only cute stuffed animals and by tilting their heads just so, made them stare at me until I laughed while I was talking away, being my overly serious self. You could strike up a conversation with anyone- our cabbie, the bartender, a stranger at the bar, about soccer or beer or New York City.
You had dreams for her too- and she’ll know that. You wanted to teach her how to play the piano and how to kick a soccer ball. You were hoping she’d go pro in golf or tennis. You weren’t looking forward to her teenage years, but you would’ve been her great protector- in one of your letters home you tell me, “Nunnery’s the way to go…” You wanted her to have dreams and not grow bitter from all that you’d recently experienced in this world. You wanted her to live well.
She will know that your spirit was like a child’s and a lot like love itself…always trusting, always hoping, and always persevering- that when I met you, one of my first thoughts was that you just didn’t seem to belong here.
Will she think you were a mythical figure? A holy saint? I hope not- because then I’ll surely appear entirely too human and you not enough. I’ll have to tell her some of the things that made you human as well, or else you will be nothing more than a poorly written flat character in a short story written by an amateur. I’ll have to tell her about your snoring and your nail clipping, and the way you trimmed your own sideburns and they were often uneven. I’ll have to tell her about your “thriftiness” and the way you’d call me from the food store twenty times asking questions about the few things I asked you to pick up. I’ll chuckle as I tell her these, my eyes looking far off into the distance, remembering a time that disappeared when i was thirty four years old in the summer of 2010. July.
Rest assured Dan, Audrey will know you as fully as is possible from the words I write, from the photos and videos and letters and soccer jerseys, from the beautiful music you made and from the look on my face as I speak of you.
She will know that she was the greatest joy of your entire life and that you were working your hardest to provide for her the best way you knew how when you died. “This is all I know how to do…” you’d often tell me.
When she’s older, and feels sad on Father’s Day, or other important days in her life, I’ll be sure to tell her that she does have a father and even though he’s not here, she still has his love and it is a great, great love and more real, possibly, than that which is given by many living men.
She will have no doubts of the kind of man you were or the kind of love you gave to her.
And this is all I will tell you tonight regarding Audrey.