This has always been the place I go when missing you is just too hard and so I return today, in the very wee hours, when the hole you left seems especially big.
Like so many high school seniors in the month of October, our girl is struggling mightily. She wept in my arms for an hour last night saying it was all too much; too much pressure, too many deadlines in such a short time. She is at the end of marching band season, has a job I insisted she get, has hard classes I encouraged her to take and is applying to a boatload of colleges because she will need financial aid and falls in the scary crack of No Man’s Land for both need and merit based. Yes, she is very smart and wise and every bit as wonderful as when you left but carries a sadness about her, a world-weariness that makes her need to shut down just at the times life requires her to lean in. This does not always bring the very highest grades that the schools she’d like to attend now seem to use as the sole predictor of college success. I read the Frank Bruni book and I believe it. I know that in the end it really does not matter a whit where you go to college. What matters is what you make of wherever you go. But SHE does not believe that and after 17 years my mama cred is wearing a bit thin. If only you were here to have one of your famous talks. The ones where the other person does an hour-long data dump and you listen patiently and sift through the rubble to unearth the one important, hopeful, life-giving gem. I would give my eyed teeth for that one gift of yours above the dozens of others.
I sold your beautiful kayak. I wanted to finish it and put it in a charity auction and get top dollar, but it still needed too much work and I wasn’t up to the task. I’m sorry if you wanted me to keep it. I remember so well the winter you made it, in the basement of your rental house while I was upstairs reading or watching TV. It felt so cozy each of us doing our own thing and yet feeling together–a foreshadowing of the sweet few months of married life before you got sick. But when I looked at the boat it just made me sad and I knew I would never use it. People wanted me to hang it from the rafters of the cottage or turn it into some sort of art piece because the strip wood design was so exquisitely beautiful, but you built it to be on the water and I believe that’s where you’d want it to be. Through a crazy coincidence a friend knew an ice boater who knew and respected you and he came and took your damaged ice boat and your sailing suit and the kayak. I am sending his check to Hospice of Michigan as small thanks for all they did for us. I am sure you have already saved front row seats in heaven for every single angel who has ever worked there.
The sibling cruise finally happened with a couple of cousins on my mom’s side coming along for good measure. With our terrible luck in losing David before the first one and you before the second we needed to shake up the guest list and change our fate. When Annie and I saw that our flight returned on Friday the 13th we took big, deep breaths, but apart from catching a really bad cold that sent me to bed instead of Nuremberg, all was well. When the baby of the family is nearly 63 family reunions really can’t wait. I hope we will be able to do more traveling together. I so wish you could’ve been there. You would have loved every minute and been far more engaged in all the history than I was. Such a fine mind you had, my love. You always said your brain processed on a different channel and that was true, but once it had done all its work your insights and special takes on issues were remarkable. I’m sorry that school never felt like a hospitable environment for you, but it didn’t really matter. Everything you wanted to learn you taught yourself or found a mentor.
Speaking of mentoring, I just wrote Will’s college recommendation. I was so pleased that he asked me. Of course my letter was full of you and the special relationship you two shared, despite a 50 year age gap. It is no small thing when people become true friends, at any age. It was beautiful to see how knowing each other enriched both your lives. When Jill and I were sorting through garage things one day after you died she just kept shaking her head and saying “He was SUCH a cool guy.” Will is already well on his way to becoming just such a man. He’s an Eagle Scout, has an urban garden, went to this awesome wilderness program and is still building instruments. It hurts to think how much you could’ve helped him with that.
I guess that’s about it from here. Maybe you already know all of it. Maybe you are watching it all unfold? I waited another 6 months for a psychic appointment and then she had to cancel to care for a family member with cancer. There seemed to be some message in that so I didn’t reschedule. It seemed a little greedy to go back anyway. I got the wonderful gift of hearing from you once, knowing you had “made it” there and were ok, busy even, reviewing your life here and learning from it. Maybe she cancelled because at this point I am supposed to figure out my own life and stop leaning on you. That’s hard, sweetie. Very very hard.
In the next year Alyssa will leave and I will need to decide where to live, how much to work, when to take Social Security, how much I can afford to travel. The cottage needs a new roof and the cars are old. Hell, everything and everyone seems old these days! How did I get to be 63? You turned 63 right after we got married and were gone at 64. At least you didn’t have to see Trump. I hope there is no CNN in heaven. It would kill you 🙂
I have a good man in my life. I told him not to fetch me at the airport because I was so sick and didn’t want to expose him. I didn’t know I was setting him up, but I was. He agreed to let me take a taxi when you would’ve come and carried me to the van if necessary, made me soup and rubbed my feet. It is not his fault that he’s not you. You may have had Fred Flintstone size 8-1/2 EEEEE feet but your shoes are unfillable. The more I see other couples the more I know what a rare thing we had. All I really wanted was just to be in your presence. It felt like a gift every day. And the way you looked at me filled my cup to the brim. Thank you for that short, deep drink of amazing love. To be cherished even once in life is to glimpse the face of God.
I think I want to learn to teach ESL. I might be good at it and I could go to cool places not as a tourist but to live and maybe experience life in a different culture. We’ll see how life here unfolds, but you know me. I like having a plan on the back burner. I will never stop wishing that I could grow old with you, move to the cottage, become part of the community. But now it’s just me and I’ll need to figure out what I can do on my own. Hey, might make a good song title. Think I’ll mention it to those Les Miz guys. BTW Hamilton was amazing and you would’ve been blown away. Even my Broadway Bound version was really good. Genius writing plain and simple.
Going to New York for my birthday. It might be the first time since we went for my 60th. You were so sick and still wanted to do everything. It was great, but staying home and hugging would’ve been too.
OK-jet lag kicking in. Back to bed. Thanks for listening. I love you as much right now as I ever did and I will miss you every day of my life. I’ll try to do some stuff to make you proud before I get up there. Please do not give my seat away! With my gene pool it may take me a while to get there but I’m coming. Don’t give up on me!
All my love forever-