Letters from my daughter. 5, so not much in the way of words, her name (the E backwards, usually), my name, a “love” in there sometimes, if she can make it fit. No regard for lines or spacing…words reach the right side, then head down, then back to the left. Mostly pictures, a duck, a cat, our house, the sun. Us, standing together.
So proud, so excited to show me. “Daddy daddy! Look at the letter I made for you!” And a piece of paper, folded in four, edges crumpled. We open it together, and she points out, “There’s me, there’s you, there’s momma, and there’s our house! And a duck, and Olivia (our cat)!”
I kneel down, hugging her, kissing her on her head (her hand absently rising to brush it away, mussing her hair even more than I had), and telling her how proud I am of her, and that I love her.
I go to sit down, take my shoes off, drop my keys and wallet from my pockets, home at last, and hear behind me, “I’m gonna make another one!”
And two minutes later, she runs over with another one. She’s in her “duck and home” phase, a series of meditations on family, and love, and her name. And ducks.
And I lean over from my chair, hugging her, kissing her on her head (her hand absently rising to brush it away, mussing her hair even more than I had), and telling her how proud I am of her, and that I love her.
And I hear, as she runs off, “I’m gonna make another one!”
She can do this all night. A dozen times an hour, at least. I’m tired, I ache. I’m stuck between washing my mind’s feet of the dust from the day and placing them firmly at home—something I’m never very good at and often can’t fully do—an in-between where I’m neither there nor here. And back and forth she comes, some hidden quota of letters to meet.
They’re what’s left, now. Memories fade and blur one into the other…they were gone before I started drinking, and now that “started” has become “mastered”, I hold no hope of reconstructing them. The holes they leave are permanent, monuments, scars…though not empty. Nothing stays empty for long. Even the darkest of holes lure things looking for a home.
Like too many “God, I wish I’d been there for that”s. Too many “Didn’t think it was that important”s. And an entire fucking burgeoning civilization’s worth of “Too busy now, I’ll make it up to her later”s.
There are no Laters. Whatever’s here now, that her, that me, that then…they’re all gone. Later is now. Later will always be now. From wherever you stand, tumbling through the passage of time, pretending that Later will someday come, someday make up for now…it’s like splitting your soul, thinking you can have twice as much, and ending up rent, and torn.
Later means Gone. Missed.
There are so many Laters. So much missed.
There are so few things I see now. I’ve mastered what I have so as not to see. Each seeing pushes me down one of those holes. There’s no bottom, just a nightmare fall into screaming oblivion. Followed by another and another. But one seeing I will allow.
A duck, and a cat. And me, and her, and momma, and a house. A series…a meditation, even.
I have saved them. Every. Single. One.