This weekend was an immersion into memory. For several hours on Friday I sat with Tori, going through ancient photo albums, introducing her to her extended family in general and her grandfathers in particular. She was surprised to see Charlie’s father with shoe-polish black hair; the only picture she was familiar with was one taken not too long before his death, his hair white as snow.
I also shared with her my few photos of my father; sadly, I have a twenty year gap in photos of him. There are a few of him holding me as a baby, staring at me in wonder, and then absolutely nothing until I went to see him when I was twenty-three. In the years between, he’d been to war and had grown grizzled and curved, old before his time. It was hard for her to believe the photos were of the same man without pictures of the transition.
Saturday we went to the pool at the local Y, and she and I had so much fun together. I forget, honestly, to do this: to set aside everything, to ditch errands and chores and work and just be with my daughter. She relished the attention, soaking up our time together and we stayed in the water until our fingers became painful with pruning.
Tori is so independent now, in a lot of ways, that it’s easy to do other things when she’s home. Then suddenly she’s glued to my side, her elbows digging into my boobs as she tries to get my attention. Too often, far to often, I don’t recognize that behavior for what it is and instead just tell her to get down, ow, you’re hurting me, stop it, your elbows are so sharp!
But this weekend I remembered, and I set it all aside to just be.
Tori is settling into the idea that death happens, and that sometimes those we love go away. In our excursion into memory this weekend she saw a lot of photos of Bubba, our last dog, that she hadn’t seen before. I think in a way this actually helped her because she remembers losing him, remembers saying goodbye. On Sunday she had a play date with the daughter of long-time friends of ours, the daughter having nothing but memories of a dog that they had before she was born. Tori remembered that we had photos of that dog in our albums, and the two of them bent their small heads over the album as they looked at the photos, Tori confidently (and in that expert way that small children have) pointing out the names of people she’d only met the day before.
While Tori played on Sunday I helped my mom finally finish setting up and sorting her stuff in the basement. As we went through the dozens of tiny grocery bags she’d “packed” in, it was clear how fragile she’d still been in June and July when she’d packed up her stuff. We cleared out six big bags of trash and filled several plastic crates with things to put in the garage.
One of the things we found in the cleaning was the photos of my mom’s wedding in May of 2001. She’d finally found the love of her life, and after a whirlwind romance they married, only for him to die suddenly on September 12 of that same year. She had him in her life for not quite a year. She sat, looking at the photos, and said to me quietly, “I just miss him so much.”
I know just what she means. In the photo albums are the fuzzy, black and white ultrasounds of my first pregnancy, the closest thing I have to photographs of my sons.
It’s mid-February again, and this means that Nicholas and Zachary should be coming up on their seventh birthdays.
They would be seven.
I miss them so much.