If you were here right now, you would be here. With me. I might have texted you earlier to tell you what a total crap day today was, what a shit week it’s been and what a completely challenging month I’ve had, and you would have dropped everything to come to me. You would have acted like there was nothing in the world more important than being with me, like there was nothing in the world at all other than me. Never mind that it's your birthday, that you probably have a million other people to see and things to do. For this moment, you let me feel that it's all about me. That is just what you do.
You'd materialize, full of energy, and tell me to grab a scarf and a jacket because we were going out. You'd take me for a fancy massage or to buy a pair of shoes. We'd sit at one of our favorite restaurants and order way too much and I'd talk and you'd listen and you'd wince at my stories and mutter "oooh, that stupid fucker" or "you tell 'em" or some such under your breath as I poured my heart out to you, making me feel like you were my number one fan, my cheerleader. To you, I was always right. Those stupid fuckers just didn't get it, they just didn't understand us.
You'd hold my hand, insist I take the leftover food home for lunch tomorrow, maybe slip me a check when I wasn't looking, with a scribbled note not to spend it on bills but to buy myself something completely frivolous. You'd pass along a book you just finished reading because you knew I'd like it too, you'd put me in a cab and make sure I got home safe. You would text me the next day, asking about that stupid fucker so-and-so. A week later something might appear in my mailbox: a note, another book, some tiny thing that only you would know I wanted or needed. You had a way of making me feel so loved and so important. You didn't hold back.
Since you've been gone, I've grown a lot. I have had to face so many new and scary things. I do things I never thought I would be able to do, fight for things I never thought I would have to fight for. I look at my babies -- not babies anymore -- and think of you, at that restaurant on Cortelyou, that day when everything changed. Neither of us eating, you holding my brand new firstborn, touching her nose, her cheeks. I think about the text I sent you ten months later -- no words, just the picture of the stick and the little plus sign. You were the first to know. I think of how tragic it is that my girls don't know you. They're growing into beautiful, strong, brave humans. I know you would be so proud of them. In my mind's eye I see you reading to them, advocating for them, snuggling them. You'd be there some afternoons to greet them as they come off the schoolbus. You'd read to them often, give us date nights monthly, go apple picking with us every year. You’d know better than the rest of us how to put Freyja’s braces on, how to get her to swallow a pill, how to get both of them to try new foods. You’d brush Thora’s hair and let Freyja try on all your jewelry, sit patiently through puzzles and Legos and hours of coloring. I think you'd approve of the kind of mom I am becoming, and this thought is more validating than any other compliment or vote of confidence I've ever gotten. And then I remember the last thing you ever said to me, six and a half years ago, wishing me a happy mother's day. You told me you loved me and I believed I was going to hear you say that again and again for the rest of my life.
So much about my life is different now. I think you'd think I work hard at my job, my marriage, my life. I remember you told me once early on that the one thing you wanted to know all those long years was that I was happy. I wasn't then. But I am now, and I think this would bring you great joy. You loved Johnny too -- just because I loved him. You believed in him when many others didn't want to give him a chance. I wish you could see what a wonderful father and partner he has become, just like you knew he would. I think that would make you beam with pride.
In recent years I've made many big decisions. I'm not sure you would like them all. Do you know I cut my hair off -- never once thinking I might look like a poodle just like you did the last time you cut yours? I have a picture of you with that 'do. You loathed it! I wonder why on earth I thought it would be a good idea to do the same thing. I imagine you laughing with me, maybe even a little at me, lending me one of your Red Sox baseball caps or offering me box of bobby pins to get me through that never-ending awkward stage. Do you know we now live 3 miles from your house? I can't imagine living anywhere else now, and yet I wonder that if you were here whether you'd think the town was big enough for the two of us. And do you know that I met him? You were so reluctant, and while I had you, I never felt the need. But then you were gone and he appeared, almost out of nowhere. And it was wonderful and difficult and somehow totally natural, and then before I knew what was happening, I lost him too. Do you know that he never stopped loving you and me? The three of us had so much unfinished business. Some days it's hard to muster up the ooomph to keep at it without you both, but everything I do, I do for all of us. Do you know how much I miss you? That my unique memory of you lives on in so much that we do and feel and are?
I try not to think about how unfair it all is, how robbed I feel. Instead I think about how lucky I am to know you loved me, that you wanted me. Both of you did. This is a warm and soft blanket I carry around with me everywhere. It energizes me, emboldens me. It's a private little hug I give myself when I need it most. You loved me. You wanted me. My existence has value.