I think I have written this all before. Words upon words about you tumbling out into every text I write. I think I should check if I have already written these words in a text somewhere. I start to look but I realize it doesn’t matter. I will write them to you anyway. Because missing you keeps coming back to me.
I found notes on my phone from when you were sick.
Socks: 5 pairs
Guilt is a poor foundation for a life. You said that to me. As a lesson. In those last weeks that we had together before you started slipping away.
You prayed for a miracle.
78b, 4th floor
I remember washing your feet. Painting your toe nails a shade of Flamingo pink. An old boyfriend was coming by. You wanted to look something like pretty when you said goodbye. You said, “Sometimes I think I have had so many separate lives that in the end walked away from one another. And now I am here, alone.” I said, “No, here with me.”
I don’t know what to do with all the hidden knowledge I have collected about you. Thirty-five years of observing you. Knowing the difference between your silent anger and silent ease. That you ate hard bread in bed at night and didn’t mind all the crumbs it left in your sheets. Knowing when your feelings were hurt, as if they were my own.
You loved me so intensely and with abandon.
When you were absent, lost within something you were reading, you twisted your hair tightly around your index finger and snapped it with your thumb. You applied pink lipstick before you went to sleep. When you slept, you breathed as if you were swimming breast stroke. Sometimes your nose even whistled.
You were the person I called when I broke up with a boyfriend in Paris and wanted so desperately to come home. You also were the person who gave me Eiffel towers and other French trinkets for years after, to tease me.
When I sat behind you in the car, I would notice that when you turned your head to the right, your head would shake in short jerky tremors back and forth. I worried you had some nerve damage. I kept tabs on your symptoms. In the end, I concluded that maybe it was just stress.
I don’t know what to do with the knowledge that it was a Tuesday and the sun was shining when I sat alone on the wooden bench in the hospital corridor, wondering how I would tell you what the doctor just told me. That you had stage four cancer.
We read through messages from old students, from colleagues, from ex-boyfriends and friends. Sometimes you told me what you wanted to say and I replied to them for you. We walked and looked at flowers. You counted each blooming flower as your last. You liked the smell of the roses on the wind.
I heard you crying through the walls at night. Sometimes I went to you. The nights when I was too exhausted to, I felt I dreamt in your tears.
You made me laugh at your choice of a funeral song. Another one bites the Dust. We looked at one another in our laughter, trying to hold on to that moment, away from the sadness.
I asked my doctor if it was normal to feel as if my body is aching, throbbing painfully from within. I asked her if I had early arthritis. She said it was just heartache.
Last night I dreamed that we spoke to one another on the telephone. Your voice was so far away. I kept telling you we needed a better connection. After I thought of lines in an Adrienne Rich poem:
I dreamed I called you on the telephone
to say: Be kinder to yourself
but you were sick and would not answer
I told you often that I felt so thirsty, yet water would not satisfy it. That I wanted to dive into deep water, be submerged, to quench it. You told me I wouldn’t find it in water. It was God I was yearning for. And in my grieving, I finally learned that you were right.
Goodnight, mom. May your grave be filled with light and the voices of us who love you. Always remembering you.