You know how you always said to listen to that quiet voice inside whenever I was feeling sad, confused, or troubled, and it would never lead me wrong but always provide the guidance I needed? I never knew what you meant, for I never heard the voice, until today.
Today, I heard it.
I was going for a run down to Lower Beach, and I heard the whisper speak.
Write to her. You will feel better.
So here I am, writing to you. I know you’ll never get this letter, but that’s not the point. The point is to write it anyway.
Mom, it hurts so much.
Riley and I waited for you and Zoey to come back in, and when you didn’t I went out to find you. And you were gone.
Then the kids came home from school. One of the Wolff girls came with them.
I could tell they knew something had happened.
Oh, Mom. I’m so glad you couldn’t see Bo’s face.
The kids did their homework right away, all three of them. You would’ve been proud.
When Bo finished, he asked me where you were.
Mom, I had to tell him. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and I hope there’ll never be anything harder.
But the worst of it, Mom. The worst is how Riley is taking it.
She says that now you’ll never get to know her. She could see you, Mom, all along, even though you couldn’t see her. And she says that she thought of you as a mom, kind and nurturing and loving, like a mom. And she was looking forward to you getting to know and love her, the way that she knew and loved you. And now it won’t happen.
She tries to be strong. When she thinks no one is watching, that’s when she breaks down.
But when she’s with me, Bo, or Patches, then, you have to look closely to see the sadness in her eyes.
She says that she doesn’t want Patches to feel alone, because she knows how deeply a rag doll can love, so she spends extra time with her.
I heard her telling jokes about your eye sketch the other day.
“It’s all in the eyes!” she said. “Every emotion you could see!” And she went through each eye you’d drawn, naming the emotion: happiness, sadness, anger, wonder, until she ran out of emotions and had to get silly. “When you’ve eaten a hot pepper! Looking for your lost keys. Your cat steals your last ball of yarn!” Patches was laughing so hard. For that moment, I felt hope that we might get through this, after all.
Mom, you’d love Riley. She’s the kindest, most sensitive, sweetest person I’ve known–well, next to you, of course. If you could see her eyes and how tender they are. We’re so lucky, Mom. We didn’t get to thank you for making that dichromate cocktail, so I’ll write it now: Thank you. Of all the things you could do on your last morning, that was a good choice.
(I shouldn’t write things like that. It just makes me too sad.)
I was most worried about Bo, but he’s doing OK. Mom, you’d be proud.
Remember when Stray Dog disappeared and I spent days looking for him from the club house? That’s what Bo’s doing–he’s looking for you. He says he knows you’re still around. He can feel you. And so he’s keeping a look-out. I don’t have the heart to tell him you really are gone.
Even Dante knows you’re gone. I saw his ghost in the garden, right by your memorial, and Mom, for the first time ever, Dante wasn’t smiling.
It’s when we wake up in the morning that it’s hardest. We’ve been sleeping so soundly. We forget when we sleep. And then we wake, thinking we smell pancakes. But it’s a trick of our memory, a conditioned response. And when we realize that the house is empty–empty of you–that’s when we break down.
Patches asked if we could get a cat. I decided why not. I remember how I happy I felt when we got Zoey, and how I stopped missing Stray Dog then. Maybe a kitten would help all of us by providing a diversion, something we could love in that sad, empty spot we all now carry inside.
So, now we have Roxy. Oh, Mom. You’d love her. She’s all spotty and she’s got the cutest little bob tail.
The only thing is, Patches says it doesn’t make her feel any better. I hope with time it will.
I watched you grieve lots–for Chauncey, for Frank, for Shea, for your other friends from college. And just when I thought you’d always have that shadow of sadness around you, you surprised me. I’d tell a joke, and you’d laugh.
So, I know. We’ll get there. It will just take time.