We went to one of your favorite places this weekend--the beach where you and I spent some of our happiest days back before our daughter, before cancer--just the two of us and our hapless adopted dog, the one who couldn't be let off the leash except for on this one desolate beach. It was so strange to be there--to visit places I had only ever been with you, and to be there with our little girl, and with a new dog. I felt so acutely the loss of you, and the loss of so much from the era of my life, in spite of all that I have gained. It felt like a betrayal, visiting restaurants and shops where you and I had spent time. Yet I managed to enjoy myself; which makes me feel worse.
Your daughter is now 5, which means that she has lived more of her life with you gone than she got to live with you. This makes me sad, and furious. She is so much like you, and I can't help but imagine all the ways you and she would make each other happy. I know that I would feel left out, and that she and I would not have quite the bond we do if she had you around; you had a greater sense of wonder, an ability to lose yourself in watching a small, beautifully textured caterpillar, a disregard for things like getting to school on time. With you here, she'd have so many more opportunities to ask those pesky "why" questions and to get better answers: why we have gravity, why we can't see the world turn, why plastic ponies have purple hair, why some people have papas and some don't.
We spent the weekend with several good friends. At one point, one of the husbands spent some time downstairs with our daughter, playing "Daddy." She said, "I'll call you Daddy, and you help me mow the lawn." It's good that she has (and I have) these warm, gentle men who will help a lonely girl and her lonely mama with the "man tasks." And it's good that she knows that a Papa is a great thing to have, and that hers was among the best. But for me, there were many, many tears in the shower.
This is our third Christmas without you. That seems impossible, yet there it is. You have been showing up in my dreams a lot, lately, looking healthy. And I am having more and more spontaneous memories of the good times, before cancer, so that in my memories, you look happy and well--even a bit plump, at times. These memories make me afraid; it feels as though you are getting ready to move on to wherever you go once you've been gone so long that, awful as it is, your absence has become normal. I can barely remember being happy any more; I'm not unhappy, exactly, but it feels like I've been lugging around all this sorrow and weight forever, and that my life with you wasn't quite real. I want to remember the realness: the fights, the mishaps, the dozen different little ways in which our lives meshed together. But it gets fuzzier, and more and more like a movie montage, but without the appropriate soundtrack. Please don't go too far away, wherever you are going--we need you still, and we love you.