Christmas is coming, but still you died today.
I tuck the boys in bed and then I water the tree. I wander from room to room, pacing. I'm not sure what to do with myself. No one has come, not even my mother.
There's a gauzy haze between us; I feel you here and gone, near and far. My stomach churns. I stop at the window at the bottom of the stairs, press my forehead against the cold glass and look up at the stars. Is that where you are now?
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.
* * * * *
It's a new year now, but we're not done with your dying, so I get on a plane and write you a eulogy while the sun dips below the wing. I land in Seattle, at the airport where you are not. I cry in the back of a car, in the driveway of a house where you are not. I go to a church and stand before a room full of people I don't know and tell them that I am your daughter and how beautiful a thing that is to be. I'm trying to prove that I belong there too, in this place that is far from my home and far from my life and not ever where you and I really existed.
I feel a panicky type of betrayal when it's time to leave and I cry openly as the plane pulls away from the terminal. I can't leave you and I can't stay. Do you know this feeling? You must, you must, because I am your daughter.
I try to guess when we've reached the halfway point between Seattle and Boston. I look down, I look up, I look out, and I wonder if that's where you are now.
Dear Dad, please be with me.
My mind reaches for you as I look at the IV in my hand. I've made peace with the possibility that I will die today during brain surgery. But I can't do it without you. Please don't let me do this alone; please be with me. Please. Please.
I offer up a last prayer to God: Thank you for my life.
And then, I shut my eyes.
* * * * *
It's very late or very early. I've just been moved from ICU into my own room, a regular room, and I desperately have to pee. In 30 minutes I've gone from catheter to bed pan but I'm set on using the toilet. The nurse guides me and my IV into the bathroom. I turn to her and tell her I'm okay. I shut the door, sit down, and grin like an idiot as I go to the bathroom.
I'm reaching for you again. WHOOOO-HOOO, LOOK AT WHAT I CAN DO! I think of your surgeries, how each one took more out of you, how each one was more difficult to recover from. I imagine I'm calling you, I'm laughing and telling you, "PEED ALL BY MYSELF TODAY!" I'm smiling as I call the nurse back in help me wash my hands.
I feel you smiling with me. And in this small victory in a brightly lit bathroom of Brigham & Women's hospital, I have found you.
I have found you.
It's December again, I'm putting a tree up again, I'm buying Christmas presents again, and I want to hear your voice. I want to know that you love me still. I want to know that you're proud of me. I need to hear your voice.
Can you even hear me?
I don't remember a time in my life when I did not miss you, even as a little girl. I love you and I miss you were always a part of us. Goodbye was not new to us. Tears were not new to us.
Sometimes I think I've adjusted to this new, lesser way for us to be, where I'm here and you're not and the conversations are always one-sided. But no sooner does it start to make sense to me than I'm knocked down and left breathless by a wave of grief I never saw coming.
In five years, I certain only of this: those two constant sentiments of our relationship remain. They haven't changed. They never will.
I love you.
I miss you.