I’m Not There and I Miss You So Badly

I guess I’m supposed to take solace in the fact that I saw you at Christmas. That we were all together then. I guess it’s kind of comforting, but I’m having a hard time doing that. That was then, this is now.

I guess you wouldn’t really want me to feel that way, to want to come home, but that isn’t really the point, because you’re gone now. You didn’t want me to throw you a birthday party either, but I still really wanted to and I thought about it a lot. I never did. It makes me feel dumb for not taking the chance. I know that doesn’t matter now. I’m sorry.

Everyone said that they really loved you at the Villa. They said that you loved to decorate the place for holidays and help out with meals, until you couldn’t anymore. I didn’t know that part of you there. What I remember is watching you sneak Pirouette cookies from the bottom of your pajama drawer and eating them with you while I sat on a chair next to your bed. You probably didn’t need to hide them. I remember knowing that you probably kept my high school senior picture up on your windowsill because you liked it better when I had long hair. Maybe that’s not it, but wasn’t it a little bit? That makes me laugh. I remember your hands. Your skin was like gold filament or copper paper. I remember eating this Jello you didn’t want one time and thinking it was weird but doing it anyway because it probably made you happy.

I’m supposed to remember you, not like you were when you died, but like you were when you were most alive. Or at least those times that I knew. And those “better” times are all I do remember. My memories of you recently could be tabulated and graphed. They do nothing to match the eons of memories circling my mind, pumping through my heart, making me who I am. I am so grateful to have them.

I remember toads in the backyard, the smell of dirt, running in through the cellar door to get hosed off in the blue bathroom. I remember meatballs on forks and TV trays and the smell of parmesan cheese and fried zucchini. I remember the soft wooden clang of the sliding cabinet drawers in your headboard as I jumped on the bed in your blue, blue bedroom. I remember Andes mints and cherry cordials and those dinner mints with the little white sprinkles on the bottom. I remember polka in the brown basement, paint chipping off the uneven walls as we ran in circles on the cold floor, stopping only for those stoplight ornaments you had at the ends of your light pulls. Was everything a toy then? I remember finding Pop Pop’s things, still around the house. And even though I never knew him, I could build his sketch in my mind. I remember wondering how close I was.

Everyone says you’re with him now, on Valentine’s Day. I know I don’t believe in that, and I know you didn’t know that about me. But for you, at least, I can’t help wishing that it’s true.

I remember the picture of you and him on your wedding day. You were so beautiful. And he looks like my dad. Or the other way around, I guess. Your hair is thick and your face is thin and round and your eyes are bright and happy. Were you laughing? I would guess so. That’s how I remember you: beautiful, strong, and hopefully laughing. Also hopefully calling somebody a jackass.

I remember you most as someone that I want to be.

I remember you calling me Petunia and me crying because that’s not my name. You laughed at that and I remember feeling that I shouldn’t feel bad but I still did. I laugh about it now. I remember you singing to me. That always felt good. I remember you telling me I was your only granddaughter, and not really knowing what that meant to you yet. Will I?

I don’t have the money to come home and see you being dead. I feel like that’s what you might call it, because isn’t that what it is? I know, I know, you wouldn’t care. I know you would tell me that it didn’t matter. But I know I won’t get any more letters from you in the mail. I won’t have to worry about visiting you when I’m home. I can’t shake the feeling that this is the last time I’ll get to have a memory of you. From a million miles away, it’s really hard to do that. I’m not sorry that I feel that way, because you should have known — no matter how much you wanted to protest it, you made yourself one of the most important things in all of our lives.

I love you, Nunnie, and I miss you a million times.