Public Cake

Dearest Rachel –

Let me start out by saying that this is not a love story. And I feel like I should be apologizing for that.

This whole collection of letters to you were supposed to be an outpouring of love and reminiscences about our time together and what you meant to me. And while I’ve had a few stories that were about you and about us, they haven’t had that same “I love you, I miss you, and I’m looking forward to being back together with you soon” kind of vibe that the letters we would send back and forth back in the day had – and which I expected to be writing to you.

Maybe it’s because in our day-to-day lives over the last few years and decades, our actual interactions were more along the lines of “how was your day, honey?” than any form of epic love poetry. And that’s fine: love is supposed to grow in the mundane, rather than the extravagant; if it didn’t, it wouldn’t last – and it wouldn’t be love, now, would it?

andi and i, “Days Like This,” from their eponymous album (1996).

Maybe it’s because there won’t be a ‘soon’ in which I can expect to see you again. Oh, it’s ‘soon’ when compared to the grand sweep of eternity, but that’s hardly something I can fathom in my own mortal state, now, can I?

And maybe it’s because I’ve been trying to find ways to fill the various voids you left behind, including those having to do with interpersonal contact. Given that so much of my social interaction had you by my side or even out in front of me, doing most (if not all) of the actual interaction, everything is new and different… and it’s what I feel the need to talk with you about, even though it has little to do with you and me as we were. This is the closest I can get to asking for your approval – am I doing this right, honey? – even though I know I’ll never get a response.

It sometimes feels like I’m leaving you behind, when nothing could be farther from the truth. I’m trying to keep you posted on what I’m doing, how I’m coping, and who I’m interacting with in your absence. And if that means there are no grand love stories – and if there are, they will involve “Megumi” rather than yourself, that’s how it goes.

But for now… some things just look like that, and aren’t.

You’ll recall how, last week, I’d gotten a cake for all of us (well, okay, I had to get something separate for Ellen due to her gluten avoidance, but you get the idea) to share in honor of Erin’s birthday – despite her wishes to not make a big deal out of it.

And if you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to go on a bit about how the girl (and I should mention that I deliberately call her ‘girl’ all the time now, in order to prevent myself from any potential Freudian slips like calling her by some term by which I would have called you, making things awkward and uncomfortable), and how she doesn’t seem to understand the Streisand Effect – indeed, I’d bet good money she wouldn’t know who Barbra Streisand is, come to that. Basically, as applied in her case, the more she protests that she doesn’t want a big deal to be made of her birthday, the more I really want to make at least some kind of deal about it. Not to spite her, mind you, but because I dare say she protests far too much.

Besides, who doesn’t want an excuse to have chocolate cake?

But after the meal we had at Armand’s that night, we didn’t make much progress on actually eating it. So I mentioned I’d bring it to church on Monday, when we’d both be there; me at Grief Share (and Daniel at Sparks, where I would otherwise be), and Erin at the Awana club for even younger kids, Cubbies. She told me that it was okay if I were to do that, and I took that as permission, and wrote you as much.

Well, it turns out that Erin has been reading these letters to you all this time (bless her), and when she saw that last weeks letter she couldn’t remember having granted me any such permission. As it turns out, one person’s offhand remark is another person’s express permission. Between the two of us, we create a miniature Roshomon effect, where the story changes dramatically, depending on who’s telling it (and I imagine if you asked Daniel there will be a third opinion entirely).

Of course, maybe she assumed that I would simply be bringing it to share among the other Sparks leaders. If so, she really should’ve known better, as Daniel and I always finish up with our cleanup of the Sparks’ area after club, and then head on to the Cubbies’ room to wait for her to finish doing the same, at which point the three of us (along with whoever else might be with us at the time) make our way to the exit, and we see each other off. So if she thought that I would not involve her with my efforts to finish off the cake, she was sorely mistaken.

Of course, this meant making one more public mention of the fact that Monday was her birthday, which – you’ll recall – she did not want broadcast. But according to her, this was the last thing she wanted to have happen. And yet, here we were. She actually did refused to have any cake, I think. Ironically, it’s because other people – mostly family – had been making a similar big deal of her birthday, meaning that she’s been eating quite a bit of cake (all chocolate) between Friday and Monday. With that in mind, I had no objections to her skipping out on a second slice. If she’d had enough cake over the weekend, that was actually understandable. Not everybody wants to bother with ‘too much of a good thing,’ after all.

It does occur to me, however, when she mentioned that her perspective on last week’s events differed from mine, that other people’s perspective on my distributing the leftover cake might be a little different. I haven’t exactly been quiet about how Erin might have been an ideal person to step into your role in our household. And one day I may yet plead my case on that subject. But for now, she’s made it abundantly clear that such a role does not interest her, and I have, however reluctantly, accepted that fact. It would do us no good at all were she inveigled into that role unwillingly – we would all ultimately be miserable for it.

However, it occurs to me after the fact that some of the other leaders might’ve interpreted my bringing cake to Sparks in honor of her birthday as being indicative of something else, of something… more. And I want to point out, as I did right at the start of this letter, that this is not, and has not been, a love story.

I want to believe that it will come in time. But it will not be now, and it will not be with her.

Until then, honey, wish us luck… we’re going to need it.

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

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