Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Dear Barbara

*I wrote this yesterday, on my dear cousin’s birthday. Today I woke up and decided to share it because grief is such a crazy experience and I’m sure there’s someone out there who will feel a little less alone when they read it.

It’s your birthday today. Another year you aren’t here for us to celebrate you.

It’s strange. Really strange.

It’s strange for me to look up at the photo of us on my bulletin board and not burst into tears anymore. It’s strange to have accepted that I’ll never wrap my arm around you like that ever again. It’s strange to have moved on.

It’s strange to still hurt really bad some days, to still well up when I see my head on your shoulder and when I think about that moment. You had just given birth to your first baby and they were doing all the things they do with new babies while you sat in your hospital bed and looked on, desperate to hold her in your arms. You looked so young and so pitiful in that moment and I brought you my camera so you could at least look at pictures of her even if you couldn’t hold her in your arms yet.

I want to talk to you about so many things. There are so many Barbara stories all bottled up inside me, stories I’d always save for you and now don’t really feel right sharing with anyone. I could share them, I know… but it’s not the same.

I wish you were here. I accept that you aren’t, kind of, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I can still hear your voice when I close my eyes, your unique voice that only sounds like you, but I can’t hear your laugh anymore. I hate that so bad. I have to watch videos of you to hear your laugh and then I can only hang on to it for a couple of days. It isn’t fair.

I woke up miserable this morning and I wished I could try waking up again because all it really did was leave me confused. I wanted to snuggle my babies, to hold them tight. They weren’t awake so I wanted to dive headfirst into my writing, to not come up for air until 12:01, when it officially became the 13th and no longer your birthday. I wanted to drive all the way to the town Ryan works in just so I could give him a hug and probably cry a little on his work shirt. I wanted to stay curled up in bed all day long… just not get up, not make breakfast and change diapers and pretend it’s just a normal Tuesday instead of a sad day that was once a happy day.

I made the kids scrambled eggs and then dumped my portion into their plates because I didn’t want to eat… but I knew that wasn’t what I really wanted to do to my body so I ate a little breakfast anyway and then made myself pick a healthier coping mechanism. I decided to dance. But it’s weird… there are all these great, grief-y songs about breakups but none about your cousin. So then I finally cried. I finally cried because I was so mad, so angry at my music files for not containing lyrics about dead cousins. And then I cried even harder because I thought I’d dance to You Should be Here, the one about the singer’s dad, but I don’t have it. I don’t have it in my stupid, stupid music files.

I went with Gary Allen’s Best I Ever Had. Parts of it worked and parts of it didn’t. The snow started falling and I danced around my bedroom wishing I could just be texting you a happy birthday instead. And wishing you were here. And wishing I had the right song for this moment because, after all, “They say now you’re in a better place. And I would be too if I could see your face.You should be here.”   

I tried again, There You’ll be by Faith Hill, and found myself on my hands and knees, crying so hard no sound could come out and no air could come in. Just like you, I guess—no sound, no air.

How can you be gone when you were so full of life? So much freaking life and it’s gone! Still gone! Is this my life now? I just keep living a normal life and then every few months I find myself down on the ground, crying so hard I can barely breathe? I didn’t sign up for that, you know. 

I wrote your birthday in the planner I got just a couple of months ago. My hand hesitated over the 12 and I thought for a second that maybe I should skip writing it. Maybe it might be easier on my heart if I just let that day go by unnoticed from now on. Surely I won’t remember for the next 20, 30 years that November 12th is your birthday, right?

But I wanted to. This year, at least, I wanted to write your birthday in my planner and feel aware of you all day. I was right to, I think. I would have remembered it this year anyway and besides, your mom doesn’t get the luxury of eventually forgetting your birthday. If she doesn’t get to forget then I will remember too. I’ll keep checking in on her for you because I know you would like that.

And anyway, I don’t want to forget. I’ve already lost your laugh, your online presence, and your text messages. I’ve already lost the chance to ever hug you or Skype you or surprise you again. I don’t want to lose your birthday, too. I don’t want something as arbitrary as time to dictate whether or not I still take a moment to celebrate you and to adore the time we had together.

Now I’m crying again because I still get really sad about it sometimes and I know I probably always will. You have a piece of my heart and you took it with you when you went. And I know you’re laughing at me and calling me cheesy right about now but I am crying so stop it.

This is going to be a hard day for me and there are still so many hours left. If you can somehow, do you think you can give me a sign? Something to show me that you still love me and that you forgive me for the distance I let come between us? And if you can give out signs but you can only give out one, give your mom a rainbow today. I know you hate it when other people tell you what to do but I feel like it’s only fair. I’m here and you aren’t. Rainbow. Do it.   

I miss you, you punk. I love you forever and always.

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