Dear Rachel –
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it to you before in these letters, but mornings are just awful sometimes. Even when everything goes right. Chompers slept through the night – even letting me take a shower without waking up and whining, or worse, barking – and got everything out of his system as soon as I got him outside (well, to be honest, a little sooner, but thank heaven for disinfecting wipes and Resolve spray). Once fed, I brought him in to lay in the sunroom, where he can actually get some sun now, and began my usual efforts at cleaning things up (Jan assigns homework, and I need to have it all taken care of before she returns tomorrow!).
And, of course, this is where it all falls apart. Or rather, I do.
You see, some of the most insignificant things just… get under my skin. Because they’re not insignificant, or at least, you didn’t consider them to be so. If you had, you would have thrown them out, wouldn’t you?
Take for instance, these sermon notes. There are a dozen or so of them, all from the same service, all blank. You’d go through the sanctuary between services in order to clean everything up, and take home all the bulletins that had been left behind on the chairs. I’m guessing that this was supposed to be kept for fire fuel, or maybe recycled at some point. But the problem is, you’d mixed your own (and Daniel’s, and mine… however rare that last was) in with the many blanks. So you couldn’t dispose of them – however and whenever you meant to – until you’d sorted through them all, and pulled the actual notes out and filed them separately.
For what it’s worth, honey, Jan and I are carefully trying to accomplish that at this point. If nothing else, those who read these letters later deserve to see what you had to say, and you left so much behind for me… and them.
But all this blank paper!
Then, there’s other stuff that I understand why you still have; you were still using it. Like all this nail polish:
Remember having left a mark in the lodge at camp last summer, when I bumped into you while you were touching your nails up during that one week I was working on the books at camp (I forget if it was July or August – I think July, because Daniel wasn’t there)? The bottle just had to land in the worst possible way, and we probably lost half its remaining contents on the floor. We did what we could to mop it up, and I think, when we came back with Daniel in August, we couldn’t find any marks on either the floor or the armrest of the couch. But we knew what had happened.
All this silly, stupid, insignificant stuff. And I have to get rid of it: I can’t even use the sink in the laundry room for all the bottles of stuff like this you have standing around it like sentries.
But it’s yours, and they have stories behind them. Things you used to do. Misadventures we had together. Memories we made, all these things that will never happen again.
And to ignominiously consign them to some nondescript black garbage bag, for pickup and removal first thing tomorrow, without so much as a ‘goodbye, and thanks for the memories,’ well…
Once Chompers was finally settled in the family room (yeah, he got tired of the sunroom, and started barking, so I had to move him before he woke Daniel up again… although I wound up being too late, as you can see), I looked over at Daniel in his favorite rocking chair, surrounded with his own Great Barrier Reef of stuff (yes, you raised him up in your image, darling)
…and I let him know I was on my way to the ‘office.’ He didn’t miss the catch in my voice.
“Okay, dad… are you all right?”
How do I answer that anymore, honey? I’m the father, I’m supposed to be strong for his sake, I’m supposed to be keeping things running in this house now that you’re not here (yes, I complain so much about the mess in this house in these letters, but you did so much to keep things going around here that I knew nothing about – and admitted to so many times, too! And you know I wouldn’t have traded you for a clean house, ever!).
But I can’t lie to him, either.
“No son, I’m not all right. You’re asleep, Chompers is asleep, and the house is so empty. I’m not all right, but there’s nothing you can do about it.
“Just… take care of everything, and I’ll be back home soon enough. I love you.”
“Okay, you too.”
I don’t know if I’ve told him I love him often enough. I promise I’ll make sure to from now on, honey.
After all, who else do I have to say that to?
No, I’m not ‘all right’ anymore. Life is a roller coaster these days, and not the cool, twisty, adrenaline-rush kind. I’m talkin’ the bouncy, rickety, feels-like-its-gonna-fall-apart-any-minute-under-you-and-kill-you kind. Just when you think everything is stabilizing, something – anything – lands in my hands and reminds me of you. And the props all fall out from under me.
I seriously am wondering if things will ever be “all right” again. Everything I did, everything I had, was connected to you. And with you gone, everything ties back to you.
Even if I try to reset and start afresh, I will keep wondering with every new step, “wouldn’t she have enjoyed this?” and whatever wondrous or delicious or fascinating thing is before turns to ashes before my eyes, in my mouth, on my hands, and the joy dissipates just like that.
I hope I’m wrong about this; after all, what do I know about loss when it hasn’t been but two months, even. Cousin Doris came up to me at church yesterday to remind me she’s been praying for me, and it’s only been twenty months that she’s been like this. She reminded me that the wounds stay fresh and raw for some time, but they do heal. I kind of hope so, because this feels like no way to live.
Someone told me about a pastor who lost his wife, and after a little while, told some of his friends he was glad that she went before he did, “because I love her too much to have let her go through what I’m going through right now.” I get where he’s coming from.
But I hope I can find out what “all right” means again. Assuming I break even, I still have nearly twenty years, and I can’t imagine going that long without ever being all right again.
Take care, honey. We’ll talk later.