This Was Different

Dearest Rachel –

We’ve had mysterious visitations at our house from time to time since your passing. Some of them were serendipitous, like the balloon on my birthday. Some were deliberate, but anonymous, like the last couple of May Days.

And then there was this:

This was left on our doorstep yesterday afternoon. Someone had to know that it was your birthday, and was deliberately letting me know that they knew. This was different from those other mysterious gifts, and I don’t know how to react to it.

Especially given what was inside; cake mix, little containers of frosting and sprinkles, along with plates and… are those party blowers?

I’m conflicted about such a gift bag. On the one hand, whoever dropped this off knows when your birthday is… or rather, was. And while it may be coincidence, the bag is done up in purple marker, just the way you’d like it. So, they actually know a few things about you, and care. On the other, if they knew that much, wouldn’t they know you were gone? Why bake a cake for someone who’s no longer able to enjoy it? Come to that, how do you even bake a cake with no oven, and any cake pans that might have been retained after these two purges in storage?

It’s a nice gesture, but decidedly impractical, and I’m at a loss as to what to do with it. All things considered, I probably should hang onto it and do something with it once everything’s finished in the kitchen, even if as nothing more than a christening of sorts of the new setup. Maybe I should invite the mystery gifter over to enjoy the results.

Yes; unlike those other drop-offs, I’ve gotten a clue as to who might have left this behind:

This flyer was included in the bag. You might recognize the name of the church; in fact, you might have gone there for one event or another (or even helped with the food pantry – I didn’t know what you did with your time when I was away at work and Daniel was at school) with Kerstin.

That’s right; this was Kerstin’s other church. I don’t know how she juggles back and forth between the two (you know, how she decides which to attend on a given week – or whether she goes to one on Saturday and the other on Sunday), but I know she’s active in both.

With that in mind, I asked her about this. And unlike with the May Day flowers (indeed, she received a similar mysterious delivery on Mothers’ Day last week, so she’s as puzzled as I am – although I doubt our two situations are necessarily related), she admitted to being behind this arriving on our doorstep. “It was the only bag they’d done up in purple,” she told me; so she just had to offer it to me in your honor.

I wonder if she was trying to get me to mention it in my letters to you. It feels kind of forced, to be honest; like that character in that movie who kept trying to introduce the word ‘fetch’ as a slang adjective.

Of course, in this case, I suppose she managed to make it a thing, because here I am telling you about it. Well, it’s weird and unexpected enough that I kind of had to, now, didn’t I?

I realize, more so as time goes by, that Kerstin misses you, very nearly as much as I do. It’s a different sort of loss, of course, but you were a big part of her life. You were always there to spend quality time with her, and never judgmental of her lifestyle choices – partly because, in some ways, the two of you shared certain quirks (I hesitate to call them flaws, but I’m sure some others could). The inability to part with things – I know, you would say it was the inability to let anything go to waste, but you know what that would result in, both here at home and at Kerstin’s. You were that person she could tell anything to, and you apparently told her just about everything in turn – although you were that kind of ‘open book’ type of person, as a general rule. Those hours are as empty for her as this house has been for me since you’ve been gone, and I hadn’t paid attention to it.

I don’t know if you’re aware of it (probably no less than you’re aware of these letters I’m sending you), but she still has a large purple ribbon tied to the tree out in front of her house. I’m pretty sure it’s in your memory, as I don’t remember seeing it before the accident.

Then again, I’ve often admitted to you about how oblivious I was to certain things.

Odds are, she’ll still have it there even after the Methodist church Daniel and I pass on the way to our church takes down the blue-and-yellow ones tied to the trees in front of their building in support of Ukraine (for which they had already taken down a fair amount of rainbow-colored paraphernalia that they’d had up previously, and which had been preceded by various BLM slogans before that).

Say what you will about her ways of remembering you, she stays constant to them, and I respect that. I don’t know that there’s much I can do for her in terms of consolation; I’m not that good at the things you used to do with her, and I’m not even entirely sure it would be appropriate to try.

Besides, I can’t seem to keep my own house in order, let alone insist on helping someone else out. I haven’t talked about your birthday with Daniel – not yesterday, nor today. I haven’t even mentioned to him about this present that Kerstin left on our doorstep, either, let alone why. He hasn’t brought the subject up, so I tended to assume that he – like me – might well have forgotten about the significance of the day without a reminder. And since there was nothing either of us could do about the day, what was the point of picking at the scar? Best to just leave the matter unsaid, unless he was willing to raise the subject, which he apparently wasn’t.

I’m not sure that this is the appropriate course of action (or rather, inaction) to take, but as long as he seems content, I feel like I don’t want to upset the balance that we have between us at the moment. After all, there are so many ways it could go sideways, and little things could set it off. Best to leave things as they are, and address the matter only if it comes up. It may be the coward’s way out, but for now, it would seem better to be a coward than a fool.

Wish I knew what you would think was best to do. Of course, if I did, it would be because you were here to ask, and it wouldn’t be an issue in the first place.

That would be nice.

But it would also be too much to ask.

Anyway, I hope you’re enjoying yourself up there. Some day, you’ll have to tell me how things were while you were waiting for us to catch up with you; I wonder if I’ll be able to remember everything I’ve written to you about how things have been going on done here (or if either of us will even care – why does God give us memories, if all that happens to them is that they’re forgotten?)

At any rate, keep an eye out for me, honey.

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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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