Longer Than Intended, But Never Long Enough

Dearest Rachel –

It’s a good thing that, back when ours was a long-distance relationship only in terms of physical distance, I didn’t use titles for each letter. Well… that’s not entirely accurate, as the mix tapes that accompanied most of our letters (from each of us) did have titles we’d given them, but it wasn’t as if there was a single theme each time.

These days, I keep trying to stick to a single topic and have a title that tries to describe what I’m about to cover. Sometimes, it’s kind of weird; the sort that makes a potential reader ask “well, huh. What’s that supposed to be about?” and check it out. I’m pretty sure that means it qualifies as ‘clickbait.’

Then, there are other titles that cut closer to the bone, leaving me with little motivation to actually write the letter: “Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. What more do I have to say?”

This letter – or rather, this letter’s title – falls into the latter category.

So leading up to last Friday, I was getting texts from the girls (specifically, Ellen and Erin – at Erin’s suggestion, Kerstin was invited, but on rather shorter notice, and she ultimately had to decline. More on her later). What it boiled down to was a question of whether to meet at the house on Friday, or gt together online for gaming on Sunday – this particular weekend, they just couldn’t fit both events in their schedules. Which is fair enough, I suppose; I have been taking up more of their time than I really have the right to, given that my connection to each of them is based on your connection to them… and I know full well that I’m a poor replacement for you in their lives.

Anyway, after a little back and forth (with Erin having to actually call me, as Ellen’s attempt at group texting never arrived in my phone), it was decided to go with meeting for dinner on Friday, since Erin’s parents would be in town over the weekend, meaning that her Sunday would be spoken for.

Considering that her parents’ arrival would have torpedoed getting together on Sunday right from the start, I’m not sure whether I’m more surprised or amused as to how much back-and-forth went on trying to decide which day to go with; this should have been cut-and-dried right from the get-go. Maybe there was more discussion between Ellen and Erin than I was privy to.

Which I suppose is fine. After all, you were the hub of our social circle. Everyone connected through you. And while it would sometimes seem – especially from the way the two of them would enthusiastically greet each other like hyper-caffeinated prairie dogs: “Ellen! Ellen! Ellen!” “Erin! Erin! Erin!” – that the girls would show up at the house more for the sake of each other than the group as a whole, Ellen has pointed out to me that the two of them have never taken the trouble to get together as just the two of them. So there’s that, for whatever that might be worth.

Anyway, we were on for Friday – except it was spelled out that we needed to start fairly early, so that we could end pretty early, as both girls needed to get home at a fairly reasonable hour in order get some sleep (in Ellen’s case) or prepare for work (in Erin’s).

At least we had a main course pretty much ready to go from my attempt last week to put something together on my own initiative – although I really should have taken it out of the freezer to thaw some time sooner than I did. Still, with a little judicious nuking (thanks to Ellen showing me how to use the ‘defrost’ setting on the microwave), we could be more or less ready to serve by the time Erin arrived.

Except, each girl had brought something to serve as a side dish, or a dessert, or what have you. All I did was prepare the main course, but there is always so much more to add. And each of these things needed preparing too, after all. Still, for us, we were making pretty good time: everything was pretty much ready to go by seven o’clock.

Ellen, in particular, prepared her meal in an unusual fashion, cutting each slice in little pieces, and dabbing each piece with a dollop of Erin’s tomato-and-eggplant spread and goat’s milk yoghurt. It’s to be expected when you can’t just stuff the meat inside of a pita (due to her gluten avoidance) – you’ve got to get creative. Daniel and I stuck to the standard “fold the meat into the pita and eat it like a fat taco” method, occasionally noshing on the vegetables like crudités.

And Erin? Honestly, I wasn’t watching her eat, as much as her bouncing off her chair every other moment to get this or that from the kitchen. I wish I could harness her energy sometimes. You always had a knack for picking friends who were kindred spirits; she has your vigor, I must say.

It even carried on after we were finished eating (although not before she guilted me into having a taste of chocolate hummus. Her point was that, since I’m always talking about showing them things and taking them to places that they’ve never been to, I should be willing to do and try things that I wouldn’t normally in turn because they like them. It’s a fair point, and I tried it. And I had to admit, the taste was pretty spot on: dark, and rich. The mouthfeel, on the other hand, was like the tactile version of the uncanny valley. That’s all I’ll say). I don’t know how the conversation got to it, but in short order, the two of them were on the floor… exercising. Planking, leg lifts, push-ups, the whole bit. Tried a few leg lifts, myself, before deciding I wanted nothing to do with this competition. And yes, it kind of was a competition – who could last longer or do more or what have you. And I always was under the impression that males were the competitive gender.

By the time we were wrapping up, it was past ten o’clock, an hour later than Ellen had hoped to leave (although she budgeted an extra half hour window in which it would be okay to overstay – she still wound up being here that much later). They were still around as I fed Chompers his late night pill and set him out to do his last bit of business for the night. I even prevailed upon them to check out Jan and my handiwork in clearing out your side of the bedroom.

But then, they had to go. And I still had to wrangle the old boy through an hour of trying to get comfortable enough to call it a night.

And once it was just us boys, the house still gets so much quieter and emptier.

So… Kerstin. From time to time while we were eating on Friday, she would send texts as to where she was, and whether she could make it. And as I mentioned about earlier, she ultimately couldn’t, at least that night. But she did offer to come by, and we could go out for breakfast, or lunch, or… brunch? Anyway, she had her reasons to come by: if nothing else, she wanted to go through your car, and find out if there was anything that she left with you it was perishable. I assured her that there wasn’t anything like that, since if there had been, my car would be smelling pretty bad by now.

But as with Ellen and Erin, she had a definite limit as to how long she could stay. She had a baby shower to go to on Sunday, and still have to wrap all the gifts. Granted, her daughters were going to be doing some of the wrapping as well, but she wanted to clear out by three in the afternoon.

It didn’t work out so well. She got over a little late – around about eleven – and then she and Daniel got into a discussion about the gifts of the Spirit that he had been experiencing, and continued to talk about that for the better part of the next two hours or so. And I don’t know what got into me.

You know I’m not into that charismatic Penecostal scene, and I am really not that fond of whatever it is Daniel‘s gotten into. I know it has its good points, as I’ll probably explain some other time when I talk about Dena, but I really don’t like that he thinks that I, and the family, and in fact our whole church, are all somehow blinded to The Truth. And I was slightly irritated that Kerstin was encouraging him in this. And I just basically told them both what I thought. I don’t think it was a good call on my part. But I think I’ve been suppressing this for far too long.

He insisted that I was reading his attitude all wrong, and that he didn’t think his experience was superior to ours, as I’ve been interpreting it. Kerstin, for her part, suggested that the two of us take the time to read scripture together, something that we really never did as a family. It’s a good suggestion, and one that we’ve started to take her up on. Hopefully, this will clear the air between us.

And it’s possible that my irritation was just from being hangry, to be honest. I mean, I had skipped breakfast in order to wait for her, and it was now two in the afternoon!And when I mentioned this, they both agreed we needed to head out and do something about that. In particular, Kerstin decided that she could skip out on the Shabbat service she’d planned to attend, and go to a different service Sunday morning instead.

Once fed and in a better mood, we got home, and Kerstin began to sort through your car, while I worked on our lawn, as she had intended for us to do.

While I worked on the lawn, Kerstin took the opportunity to go through your car for anything she might have left with you to sort through.
Fortunately, she hadn’t left you with anything perishable (as I had assured her, but I get why she wanted to see for herself). Just bags full of recyclable paper.
Meanwhile, Daniel was in the front of the car, trying to put that fuzzy wrap around your steering wheel. It’s rather a bit too tight to fit, though. – I don’t think he succeeded.
Kerstin showed me four boxes (and several bags) of her stuff that the two of you were going to go over, eventually…
…particularly an entire box full of her shoes.

And this was all after I finished with the lawn, so there was a lot for her to work on. And I went inside, enjoying their newly running air conditioner, taking the dog out every so often that whenever he would whine. And the two of them were outside in the car chatting away for another couple of hours. Can’t imagine why – especially considering how hot it got in that afternoon. Or maybe that was just me reacting to how much of a sweat I’d worked up from mowing, I don’t know.

They did eventually come in, and we all talked together for a little while yet. By the time she determined she’d been there long enough, and had to get back in order to wrap some presents, it was getting on towards seven thirty.

So once again, we’d kept someone around longer than intended. And yet, in the silence that we were left in, it didn’t seem long enough.

Silences used to be so much more companionable when it was all three of us, honey. Now, that dead air just hangs there, begging to be filled with… something.

I wish I knew what, so I could fill it.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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