You have been gone for 16 years. Almost half of my life. All morning I’ve been trying to imagine what you would think of me now.
I’m thirty-four years old. I live in California. I’m married with two little girls. I’m a writer, and a therapist. I keep wondering if these are the things you imagined for me. If you ever saw into my future, if you ever had glimpses of who I would become. I wonder if you ever imagined me as a mother, you as a grandmother.
I don’t know. But I know that you would be happy if you could see me now. I think you would be proud of me. I know you would adore your granddaughters. Their names are Veronica and Juliette.
Veronica is three and a half. She is blond and blue-eyed like you. And she is funny and serious, fiery and sensitive, imaginative and vulnerable. She reminds me of you a lot. She is kind of brave and beautiful in this totally unaware way. She’s also maddening in her determination to do things her way. A trait of most three year olds, sure, but you were like that too. Once you got something in your head it was impossible for you to let it go.
Juliette is only seven months old but I feel like I know her personality already. She’s so different than her sister. She’s sweet and happy and utterly content as long as she’s riding around with one of us. Whereas Vera seems to have a constant furrowed brow, Jules breaks into a smile at the drop of a hat. She has this funny habit of chuckling all the time, even when she’s upset.
I can’t believe you’re not here to know them. That you’re not here to see me as a mother.
I think about this all the time in terms of the girls. How all I want in this lifetime is to see them into adulthood. I want to be there for all the things you weren’t there for with me. I want to see them graduate college and go through their twenties. I want to hold their hands through painful breakups and watch them try on wedding dresses. I want to see their passions develop, their careers unfold. I want to get a call when they’re going into labor with their own children. And I want simple things too, like when they’re sad and confused and lonely and they just need their mother.
There’s been so many times in the last 16 years when I’ve needed you, when I’ve turned and turned and turned in circles trying to find you, trying to find anything to hold onto. In doing so I’ve become my own woman.
I once read that a girl doesn’t become a woman until she loses her mother and I know that has been true for me. I’ve had to learn to mother myself, even when I desperately didn’t want to. I haven’t always done a very good job, but I’ve gotten this far.
I think a lot about who I would be if I still had you. I think about trips we could have taken together. I think about all the times I’ve made terrible decisions because you weren’t there to guide me, and I wonder where I would be now instead. I wish I could have had you to teach me how to cook, to give me fashion advice, to help me decorate my home. I look around at those things, at what I’m wearing or how my house is arranged – trivial things, I know – but suddenly it all looks pathetic to me. My little attempts at these things, and how much better it would all be if you were here. In those moments I see myself as a little girl, flailing without you.
But motherhood is the thing I most wish you were here to see me through. I have so many questions and so many moments I wish I could share with you. You were a great mother. You were so generous, so funny, so creative and so, so weird and impulsive. You brought magic and make-believe and pure joy and excitement into my life. Even when I was being serious, which I often was, you knew how to open me up, how to make me let go, how to make me believe, even when I was resisting the most. You were charming and utterly impossible to turn down.
Most of all, you were always there. I can’t think of one time when I needed you or called for you and you weren’t there. Sick days and sad days, loneliness and doubt, throughout all of those you never failed to wrap your arms around me as tight as you could, and tell me how much you loved me.
And all these years later, sixteen long years later, I can still feel that love. I really can.
So I guess what I hope for most is that I can give that same gift to my girls, that the love I have for them will be so strong and so true that it will transcend time and space, life and death.
For that is what you gave to me.
Love your only daughter,