(I'm not sure I can even write this post...) Two years ago today, you lay in your bed, in your home, with family around you, holding your hands. You asked "What time is it?" and then about two hours later you left us.
That morning, my dad had called me to say that this was it, that you were preparing to leave. Rather than face any little part of my grief, I leapt into action, changing our plane tickets for our tournament in Denver later in the week to be a 3 way trip home, to bury you, then go on to Denver. That kept me busy until a few hours later, when Dad called again, his voice cracking, so say "Grandma's gone."
We didn't leave for Columbus right away, we left that Monday morning. I played a hockey game that night, scoring two goals. Both for you.
But I still didn't cry, because I had work to do. First it was talking our way onto a crowded flight, edging out another woman who was going home to bury her mother with my consistent politeness at the ticket counter for the better part of an afternoon.
Then it was writing the words that I was to speak at your funeral. Long before you passed, I knew I'd speak, I knew it was important that I say something about who you were. About who you were to me.
Only one hitch, I had to get up in front of my entire extended family and your friends and talk. Into a microphone inside a seriously echo-ey church, my voice reverberating all over the place, each crack in my voice amplified about a thousand times. But I did it, stepped up to that podium and said, with a confidence that must have come from you what I think were the right words.
Afterwards, after we buried you (and I found myself completely unable to wave the little wand of holy water on your coffin), had some lunch at the church, then spilled over to R&J's house until the darkness finally fell. We did it right, gathering for you, around you, knowing you weren't far from us. I know you were pleased to see us all together like that.
I'm pretty sure it was the last time we would gather like that, so I stayed until the bitter end even though I was soooo tired from all of it, I just wanted to lay down.
The grief from losing you, that's come in small spurts. It seems that I've spent the last two years staying busy so I don't have to really feel what my life feels like without you in it. Almost every time I get in my car, when I'm truly alone, I feel it. And I start to cry.
But I've stayed busy since you left us. Six weeks afterwards, we started trying to have a baby. A baby who I hoped would be a girl and who we would name after you. But we had to get pregnant first, so instead of feeling my grief, I focused on trying to get pregnant.
It took all summer, but it finally worked. Last May 16, after a really long labor, Valerie Marta was born. Of course she bears your name, how could she not? She's really beautiful. And funny. God, that girl loves to laugh. She's as ticklish as I am. She walks like Frankenstein. She loves mac n' cheese. I show her your pictures, the ones my mom found of us in Florida together, before you were ever sick or in pain, us laughing together. I tell her who you were. She grabs at the pictures.
People tell me that she's a little doll. That's what you used to say about me when I was a baby. Every time I hear that, I imagine (hope) that it's a quick kiss from you. And even though the oddest, most unlikely people have been the ones to say it, I'm always listening for it.
We baptized her Catholic, largely because I knew you'd be irate if we didn't. Of course, not everyone loves the gays so we had some drama around finding a place to do it. In the end, we wound up at a Newman Center so small that the entire Mass featured a mention of Valerie's name over and over again. Each time I heard Valerie Marta, I hoped you were listening.
I miss you like crazy, I wish you could know my daughter.
I hope you're okay, I know that all your physical pain is long gone and you're with Grandpa again. I imagine the reunion was sweet, once you got to the other side.
I wear your wedding ring. I got your license plate and for a while, it was on a very fun sports car that I think you would have enjoyed. I have your keychain on my car key. You're always with me, I know this.
But I still haven't really slowed down enough to mourn you properly, at least not in one sitting. I'm pretty sure you're okay with that.
Because you always asked, we have three dogs now, not four. Gus passed away last summer. Recently, the peach tree he used to eat off of bloomed flowers. It had never done that. The petals came off and blew all over our yard. I stepped over them, realizing that he was saying hi.
I wish you'd say hi. I know you're busy but my heart? It aches for you. I miss you so much.
Andrea still takes out the trash, I still clean the bathroom (most of the time). We cook a little now, for Valerie. We both do that. I know you'd want to know the status of those things because you asked me every time I saw you.
Are you playing bridge? Is there a knitting group where you are? Are you playing canasta into the night?
Do you miss us as much as we miss you?
I hope you are well, that the afterlife is the beautiful place we all pray that it is.
All my love,