Friday, October 03, 2014

Gradual changes in Grover's Corners. Horses are getting rarer. Farmers coming into town in Fords.

Dear Dad,

Today would be your 78th birthday. October, for me, is your month.

I have dear friends who are dealing with the recent deaths of family members. I ache for them. I know how brutal it is right now, and if I could do a cosmic fast-forward for them I would, because time is the only balm that actually works.

And I know that after a while, you stop feeling like all of your skin has been peeled off, like your heart is raw and exposed, each beat on display for the world. You stop feeling so fragile that even a breeze or the sunshine can hurt, because they bring a memory.

After enough time - however much that might be - you actually start feeling fine. Not that you don't have bad periods or hard moments. But mostly, you are fine. Eventually, you are happy, and the rough patches are few and far between. Sometimes you feel guilty for being fine and happy.

All you need is time. Time time time, like that Tom Waits song. But time just takes so damn long. And you hurt so much in the meanwhile.

No, it's not a perfect remedy. Sometimes I still get very upset. Sometimes I still wonder how you could've left us. And birthdays and holidays still hurt.

But time time time. It's the best we've got.

The kids are now five and two. Jordan doesn't yet ask why he doesn't have a grandpa, but I suppose eventually he will. He's a little fixated on death and dying right now, and his teacher said it's the age. They're trying to sort out what it means.

I wear the T-shirt I had made for my walk last summer, and he knows the man playing piano is my dad, and he knows the girl in the picture is me. Both kids do. Every time I wear it we have to examine the picture and identify all the characters.

India used to identify the girl as India, but now she points says, "That's Mama." They know the little boy I have my arm around is my brother, although they do not know him. They used to think that the boy was Jordan. They're so used to every picture of every kid they see being them.

Anyway, they're growing into really interesting little humans. They would make you laugh so much. You would love them for who they are, not just because they're your grandchildren.

Sometimes Jordan goes upstairs to sleep with his Nana. Sometimes they both go up in the morning and crawl in her bed and watch TV and eat sweets. This past summer we all went to Maine, and Jordan and Nana shared a bed. I asked one morning how they slept and he said, "Good. Sometimes we sleep, and sometimes we wake up and chat. And then we sleep some more."

I love they are growing up so close to Betty.

Our lives are normal now. I mean, my kids have never known a life that didn't involve Betty living with us at least part of the week. I don't think Jordan remembers her house, in fact. Your house. They never had a world that included you.

So this, for them, is how life is.

One of Jordan's new friends had her grandparents visiting. They left a week ago, and as they were saying goodbye at school that last morning, Jordan got teary for her. "She has to say goodbye!" I reminded him how lucky he is to have Nana right upstairs. To see her every day and never have to say goodbye.

I think for me, each one of these letters to you is a fractional goodbye. I'm making peace with the past, peace with your actions, peace with the fact that I failed to save you one last time. That was my expectation of myself, foolish as it may sound, but it is true.

It's a process. It takes time time time.

It's your birthday, and I miss you.




  1. My heart goes out to you...though I can read throughout this lovely letter- the mix of life intertwined with sorrow, of yearning. In the fullness of time it Granny always said that- never exactly knew what she meant. But I'd say it has something to do with just as you've written it- piece by piece, in fractional goodbyes. Thank you, take care-

    1. Thank you so much. I truly appreciate your very thoughtful comment.


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