In A Better Place
“Mommy?” I look down at Madeleine and observe my daughter’s light blond hair and blue eyes. It’s painful to see the way she looks like her dad. My own hair and eyes are both much more boring with their drab brown.
“What honey?” I whisper in her ear.
“I think I hear the stars whispering.”
A smile lightens my despondent features features for a brief moment that seems to freeze in time. “They’re welcoming someone to heaven baby.”
“Who? Who get’s to go to heaven Mommy?” She looks at me with such curiosity and eagerness. I don’t want to be the one that extinguishes her beautiful, fiery joy. I don’t want to tell her, but I have to.
“Daddy does baby.”
“Why did Daddy go to heaven Mommy?” How do I explain to her? How do I explain that her father will never watch he go on her first date? That he’ll never walk her down the aisle at her wedding? What will I say when she asks about that day, when I came home just in time to answer the phone, the phone call that told me he had been killed during the 9/11 attacks?
Swallowing back my hurt and enraged tears, I answer, “Because God said it was time for him to come live in a better place.”
“In a box?” She remembers the coffin, but I know she has no idea what it really is. She doesn’t know what it means to lay a life in a box forever.
“No, baby. Daddy went to live with the stars.”
“Oh.” Is all she says, but five minutes later she says, “Will he come back?”
“No honey.” I whisper. “But you’ll see him again.”
For whatever reason she accepts my answer at face value and doesn’t ask when, so we sit in the grass watching the stars for another five minutes or so before I decide that Madeleine should be in bed.
“Come on sweetheart. Bedtime.” I say, adjusting the hem of my shirt as I stand and pick her up.
“Please Mommy, can I stay up late?” She’s rubbing her eyes as she tries to make her sleepy protest and I smile to myself.
Part of the hurt that he’s gone is knowing that at 4, Madeleine won’t remember him. She won’t remember the way he insisted we make ‘indoor s’mores’ every Christmas eve. She won’t remember the way he would sneak into the house after a long day at work, just so he could surprise her and hear her scream and giggle, ‘Daddy!’ Almost always he would have a lollipop or a little trinket for her.
He used to tell her the most elaborate stories before bed. He’d usually plotted them out all day at any break he had, he would put some new experience into this growing saga for her. Sometimes we would sit by her bed and tell these stories for an hour before her little pixie face relaxed as she drifted off to sleep.
By the time I have her ready for bed and I’m pulling the blankets up to her chin, every movement is a battle not to break down and run away sobbing. I gently kiss her on the forehead, “Goodnight Pixie.”
At the sound of her dad’s nickname for her, she smiles, “Goodnight Mommy.”
I leave the room and gently shut the door behind me. In my own room nothing is comforting anymore, it’s all his and I can’t stand to see it. Who am I trying to kid? This whole house is his! Tomorrow my mother will be here. I know she’ll try to tell met that everything will be okay, everyone does, but they’re wrong. The world won’t be the same again. Not without Josh.
Basic function itself is impossible, but I still shower and get ready for bed, normalcy at least seems like I may be handling things. My hair is dark after my shower, wet and a little curly. It makes me think of how Josh used to run his fingers through it right after I showered. For some reason he liked to play with my wet hair. Pulling on a tank top and shorts I grab a blanket from my bed and lay on the couch. I won’t be able to sleep in his bed for a long time.
And that, that’s my piece for In Mon. this week.