You’re everywhere, but you’re not here. You’re in the grey fog hovering over the backyard. You’re in the daffodil stems springing from your flower frog. You’re tiptoeing on morning moss dusted with dew. You’re warming up the car on a cold morning. You’re you through and through.
Some years you’re here and others I think you must be playing tennis or sunning yourself on a beach somewhere. Did you grow out your hair? You never did let it reach your shoulders. Do they let you smoke where you are? Tell me you didn’t start up again. Do you enjoy bourbon still? I hope you’re having cocktail hour with your parents enjoying all the nibbles Gammy sets out.
Just when I think I’ve put you away, you come back, as if you’ve overcome death. We didn’t finish what we were saying. I’m so sorry you couldn’t catch your breath. I wore an Ann Taylor cream and brown houndstooth dress to your funeral. Did you like it? I went to Lenox crippled with grief, but I needed to find something you would have picked out, stay your Susie a little longer and dress cute for you. I figured you’d make fun of me if I wore black and joined the throngs of mourners cloaked in dramatic greys and blacks, and say things like, “Why so sad? It’s okay.” I felt silly sitting there in the pew by the aisle at St. Luke’s, the only light-colored dress in the place. Why was I not weighted down like everyone else? You insisted I be the light.
So many memories backwards and forwards, sometimes I don’t know where to land, where to find you. Do I remember you that cold winter day when you left without saying goodbye, or do I remember warm summer nights and you finding us pickle jars for our fireflies? Or happy birthdays and the burning candles lighting up your face as you brought in homemade cakes dressed up with flowers you grew. The children and pets you doted on or the clothes you sewed us, or poems you wrote. You needed to stay. There was so much more to say.
When you died, I took several of your suits and altered them to fit me and wore them around for months. We squeezed everything out of those suits, didn’t we? I needed to wear you. I needed to know where you were and if not on me, at least you’d be hanging in my closet. I still see people who knew you and it makes you more real as if it’s not a dream I made up. You lived a full life and all I can do for my children is describe you as best I can.
I see your eyes in my sister and your pretty skin too. Every day you bothered, you worked hard, sweet Sue. You made spaces beautiful, gave them all your touches. You were the arms to lean into as you whispered calming hushes.
I look around and with so many of your things you left behind, I see you everywhere–in Christmas ornaments, furniture, art, even your old-fashioned grocery list I still hang on my wall. I wish I could cook for you. You’d like what I’d make: sundried tomato meatloaf, asparagus with ginger and orange, and an apple tart with sour cream sauce. We’d watch a movie and say goodnight and meet up again for coffee in the morning light.
But you are here in my coffee, which I still take light with plenty of cream. You’re in our cats’ faces who track me each morning looking for breakfast now awake from their dreams. You’re the pile of warm clothes fresh from the dryer, you’re clean sheets on a made up bed, you’re the sound of a dishwasher humming after we’ve all been fed. You’re the elegance of tall taper candles in the dining room, the sound of clinking shoes on hardwood floors gathering for a meal, the whirr of Christmas eve and Christmas morning. The joy of our dog licking the mashed potato pot or gobbling up a ground beef birthday cake.
You’re roasted tomatoes and sweet potatoes, zinnias, and mint. You’re the flame in the wood on this table where I sit. You’re the candle when the power goes out, the bath I draw when there are things to sort out. You’re the bunnies nibbling on our lawn, sweet strawberries in spring. You’re the bourbon in my eggnog, the lemon in your poundcake which I proudly make. You’re Crème Brulee and filet, tonic and lime, tell me please why is it you couldn’t stay?
You bothered, you showed up, you talked a lot. But you had sparkle, and like me, your friends were drawn to all you’ve got. I’ve changed from that 30-yr-old girl you left, yet I haven’t, but I don’t need to tell you that. You know. You’re here with me. So here we are, twenty-nine years later and holding, as you’d say. I’m not yet the age you reached when you passed that day, but when I hit 62, as I often do, I’ll be sure and think of you.