Here.

Dear Harvey,

Last year, you were here.

Can you see yourself up there in that picture one year ago? Swimming around in your little sack of waters? Growing and changing and moving and being and already learning. Already hearing our voices, tasting what we were having for dinner, knowing the exact pressure of your sister’s hugs, feeling the shake of your dad’s excited hand on my belly.

Last year, we prepared for Vesta’s birthday and you came with us. You came with J, M, Vesta and I to the Costco for supplies, the Michael’s for favors and squirt bottles to put the syrup in for Vesta’s pancake party, and the Freddie’s for all the fixings and balloons. You were there with me as climbed up the step stool to hang the streamers, as I stood over the stove and made 75 pancakes, as the children ran through the house screaming, as the babies cooed, as the presents were torn open, as the hugs and “thank yous” were given. As we, as a family, collectivelly fell onto the couch to put our feet up afterwards, you were here.

Last year, you made the drive with us to the coast with Papa, Nona and Grandma. We got there and you and I ate half a loaf of bread with half a stick of butter on top. You were there when we all went down to the beach and built the sandcastle with Vesta and Papa. At the aquarium, hearing Vesta’s exclamations about each animal, reaching with me into the tide pools, enjoying the slow walk around the place with your family. You were there for the crab cakes and Papa’s meatballs and Vesta’s pink ice cream and more presents and more exclamations and more hugs and “thank yous”.

Harvey, you were here with us.

This morning I woke up early to get ready for Vesta’s birthday celebration at her new school. I cut the fruit for the salad and I reached into the past and I told my old self to help me out. I told myself that today was not about you or me or my loss or my grief. Today was about Vesta, about honoring and celebrating Vesta. I told my old self to step in here. That if you were here with us, I’d strap you on my chest and we’d go to Vesta’s school and I would show the pictures of her just born, at 1, 2, 3 and almost 4 and tell stories about her and I wouldn’t cry. I wouldn’t mourn the time that has passed, the time I now feel I have lost, the time I will never have again with her, will never, ever have with you, will maybe never have with anyone else. If I was the old me, I’d go to that class and my heart would swell with just how much I love your sister, with how much joy and laughter she has brought into my life, with how much I have learned from her, with how I have struggled and wrestled with parenting and how it has made me a better person, with how intensely proud, in love and in awe of her as I am. This special day, her first Waldorf birthday, would not be tinted with grief, if you were here. I chuckled to myself as I reached for an enevlope to put the photos in how frazzled I’d be if you were here, trying to get breakfast made, lunch packed, fruit salad made and you and me ready for our day and Vesta for school. Instead I was alone, quietly cutting fruit and filling her lunch basket and warming our breakfast and asking for strength to not make this day about you and me and my engulfing grief.

We got to school and the teacher told the story of the little angel Vesta who looked down upon the green earth and saw the butterflies and the trees and the mommies and the daddies and she asked the angel if she could come down to Earth. The Angel said, “No, it is not time yet.” So, the angel Vesta went back to being happy in the clouds and playing and enjoying herself. Until one day she looked down at the Earth again and there she again saw the butterflies and oceans and trees and also people doing wonderful things like writing and engineering and farming and she wanted so much to come. Then, she saw a very special Mommy and a very special Daddy and she asked the angel could she come down to join us and the Angel said “Yes, now it is time”. And so she came.  And here she is on this beautiful green earth with butterflies and oceans and trees and mommies and daddies and she is happy and we are so glad that she is here.

Even through this beautiful story, Son, I did not cry for you or for me. Even though you did the same, Harvey, and then turned around and went back because it was not your time, or it was your time, it just not nearly long enough for me. Even though my daughter was an angel and me son is an angel. Even though you were here with us and now you’re gone.

Vesta came and sat on my lap and we showed the pictures and I told the stories and I did not cry and I did not mourn. I remembered and I gloried in sharing who she was and what has brought her to who she is today. I walked to my car after and time slowed down as I reached for the door, pull it opened, lifted my leg in and began to sit as it sunk deeper into my bones that there will be no photos or fruit salad or stories for you. Not because you weren’t here but because you aren’t now. Because, though I sing your story in my heart, though I think your story many times everyday, though I am possibly closer to you right now than any living being, there will not be you here to drive to school, offer the salad, and tell the stories to eager ears. When you are mentioned, when your story begins to be told, very few ask more. Very few ask what happened to you, what was your name, how old were you. The more time goes by the less and less people will ask or remember and some will even forget.

But not me, Harvey. You were here. I will never forget. Not for one single moment. Not ever.

After I summoned Past Monica this morning to get me through this day, I went into the shower and I realized you were here last year doing all of the things we are starting to do now for Vesta’s birthday. You were here last year for Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s and that will carry me through this next few months. So, at least this year, I have last year. I will remember you with us when we return to the very same beach with the very same family for Vesta’s birthday. I will remember you with us at Uncle Michael’s for Halloween night. I will remember you with us in San Francisco for Thanksgiving with your Grandma and Tio and Mandy and how you heard your cousin’s voice for the first time. I will remember you with us at Christmas. How you were there at Gram’s with us for the first and only time, how you got presents. That you sledded down Nona’s hill with Vesta and I and that you sank into Abuela’s couch with me and made marble mazes with Daddy and me, long after Vesta was bored with it. This year, I have last year to help me get by.

Because you were here.

3 thoughts on “Here.

  1. Monica, I am speechless at how beautiful this is. A combination of the light and shadow, the triumph and tragedy that is life. I know it doesn’t make it easier for you but the present and past “you” are an amazing combination. Love you, K

  2. You have captured – in the worst case scenario – that sense so many of us carry when a pall hangs over our heads. Sometimes a death, sometimes fear of a secret being discovered, sometimes remorse at errors committed, sometimes anxiety over survival – the threat of illness, lack of finances, violence, oppression, and on & on. Each has a unique internal misery.

    The isolation created is crippling. No one can fully be aware, partly becasue we can’t communicate. When we compose words in our head – they are effete. When we speak them, their meaning withers at our lips as though exposure to oxygen corrodes them. The grip of these emotions is impervious to consolation, encouragement or practical solution.

    It may last days, years or a lifetime. There may be moments of respite here & there. Or we learn to block it out of consciousness. (We are often told that is the “best” thing to do, which it is -for them- as it prevents the toxins from touching thier skins!). As you suggest, sometimes it becomes a companion, or even a resource.

    But the grip is relentless. The imprint of trauma, immutable. The unfathomable void, eternal.

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