I keep your picture, you are wearing the dress that you wore as a bridesmaid to Christy’s wedding, on my nightstand. There is a picture of you on mom’s piano holding Christy’s baby. Did you know that she is now older than you and probably has children of her own?
That dress is the last one that you wore. But maybe you remember this. The photo is always with me no matter where I’ve lived in the world. Imagine, you’ve lived in India and Nepal. Your bright, shining smile never leaves your face and hasn’t for the past 36 years. You will always be 25. Isn’t it strange that your niece and nephew have lived longer than you?
On April 15 each year I get this sick feeling throughout my body. On April 15, 1984 Susan and I were in Sacramento visiting Jim and Kate. It was about 1.30 PM and we had just come in from petting some horses and my allergies were acting up. My friends Robert and Michelle, who we were staying with in San Francisco, called and said call your parents immediately. When our parents picked up the phone they were crying and I thought our grandfather must have passed, but it was you. I fell on the floor, started crying and threw the phone. Susan and I got into our car and drove from Sacramento to San Francisco, where we picked up a flight to Burbank. I’m not sure why we didn’t fly from Sacramento, but we must have been on automatic, not thinking, just doing. Beth, her mom and grandmother picked us up and brought us to mom and dad’s where we entered a world that no longer included your physical body.
You had been vacationing with you friend Lisa and Robyn and her friend Cat in Palm Springs. Remember that mom and dad had a condo and you were there on Easter break. Early the morning of the 15th you had been involved in a head on collision with a drunk driver. We never wish death on anybody but Lisa left with you so that you could continue to be together.
I remember all of our family being together, grandpa Louie crying, dad holding mom while she cried. I think that I was in too much shock to really feel much. I know I helped our parents with various arrangements. I remember balloons being released and watching them floating towards the sky.
I remember bringing Grandma Minnie from her senior facility to mom and dad’s home. We all slept in the living room, not wanting to be apart. I’m not sure if any of us slept but as I was dozing or maybe I had awoken, I saw you, your spirit. You looked at us and went out the front door. It was as if you were saying good-bye. I think that your face was sad and somewhat confused, but you knew that you had to leave.
Yes, I know that I should focus on the positive memories, but I don’t want to forget any of this, the memories of you before and after. At least we had you in our lives for 25 years. But there remains this sense of hopelessness deep in my belly. It’s such a strange feeling, kind of wanting to cry, but feeling this type of deep hurt or sadness in my gut. It’s that feeling you get when you’re on the edge, depressed, not wanting to eat, bottomless.
Maybe my feelings have to do with expectations that will never be met. Never being an uncle to your children or spending time at your beautiful home, talking about our parents as they age and how best to approach this. I think that you would have lived close to them, taken care of them. You were that kind of person.
Maybe my feeling has to do with knowing that although you only lived 25 years this time around, your travels were cut far too short. You were about to start teaching in Japan, but only mom, dad, Robyn, Susan and I were around to talk to the person who called; she wanted to know where you were. I wonder if your connection to Japan had anything to do with me later in life marrying a Japanese woman? Can you imagine if you would have taught there and I married Yasuyo? Maybe you would have been fluent in Japanese.
I remember some of your words, that time when I went to observe you doing some student teaching. Remember you were going to teach. I’m not sure why this moment was so poignant for me but I remember you talking to a youngster named Benigno. I think that I still remember your sweet voice and saying his name. I have no idea why this is so.
I remember how industrious you were as a teen, being really proactive and getting a job. I always used to work at camps not really thinking about money. But you really wanted to earn so that you could travel, and you did. You paved the way for Robyn and me to see the world. I wonder why you started doing this, why you were so adventurous?
I remember how we used to battle as kids. We really would mash one another; you would scratch me and I must have punched you. We drove our parents crazy. I now wonder what this was about?
I remember that you were the first one to fall in love. Although I was a few years older than you I was very shy; I couldn’t talk to girls. I remember the time that I tried to talk to your friend Rene and only stammered. I remember your boyfriend slipping in and out of your bedroom window so that nobody knew he was in the house. You did what you felt was right although our parents didn’t agree. In thinking back to this, I admire you for doing what you felt was best for you. I think about my family members Mark and Susanne and how they’ve approached boyfriends/girlfirends with their children and wonder how if our parents did the same things your situation would have been different. I remember mom apologizing to Ron when he came to pay his respects. But at that point it was too late. Isn’t it strange the way that we pass through this world, the things that we think are right but really aren’t?
I remember that simultaneous graduation party we had, me from high school, you from junior high. You had a boyfriend who I was frightened to get close to in order to talk. I always felt that I was part of the geeks and you were part of the cool people. This was probably very true, given your seemingly comfortableness with boys, being a cheerleader and very popular. You didn’t seem awkward with being a teenager. You were part of the in crowd. Although I do remember that top that you sewed and you weren’t wearing a bra and I thought how strange. In fact, I was the strange one.
I remember you and Robyn making chocolate chip cookies which I never liked because they were always so hard and I didn’t like semi-sweet chocolate bits. I think that you burned them and wrapped them in towels for some reason. You’ll be happy to know that now I do like chocolate chip cookies.
You were so excited when Susan and I told you that we were getting married, something which you didn’t get to experience although you had a number of boyfriends. We all went to Venice Beach; do you remember that photo of all of us? My friend from college Robert Meyer met us and he and I took photos in a grocery store facing some chickens which were BBQing in a glass case. I don’t think that the owners really liked that.
I know that you and your boyfriend Bob would have had a wonderful life together. I wonder what he is doing and how your leaving affected him? I remember going to Rene’s wedding but you, one of her best friends wasn’t there.
I remember that after moving from Massachusetts to California in 1984 Susan and I came to visit you at your apartment. It was such a rough time as we naively moved without having jobs. I remember sitting on your couch after trying to get used to the hard lens contacts that I had purchased in Worcester. I also remember that we were delayed in visiting you because I had changed the oil in our Toyota. I hadn’t done it correctly and all of the oil leaked out because I left a gasket around the filter. I also remember cleaning out your apartment when you were no longer there.
Although I can’t see you, I know that you are always with me. Beth told me that she found a feather in her yard and she thought of both you and me. I don’t think I’ve told you about feathers and how I connect them with you.
After we moved from Mystic to New London, a big, beautiful house, one day I was feeling very anxious, not unusual at that time for me. I was in our rather large walk in closet and all of a sudden, a white feather fell down to me. I was very surprised, but immediately felt a sense of peace. I knew that it was you. This is not the only time that a feather has appeared. Whenever I see a feather, you are immediately in my consciousness.
Mostly I remember you as a kind hearted person who loved children. You were the middle child, the glue for us all. I still feel the loss, not every day, but specifically on this day. It’s deep. I’m not sure it will ever go away because you are still much loved and still alive for those of us who knew you. I’m glad that you chose to be with us, no matter how long and will always remember you and what you brought to this earth.
I love you,
Michael J. Rosenkrantz