I have a memory of my dad. The Phils on TV with Harry K calling the game, a summer breeze through our open back door and the smell of rain on hot asphalt. We used to sit together on the couch and eat oranges. He'd hold each wedge up to the light to check for seeds and hand it over to me. I was allowed a few sips of his beer, a completely un-ironic PBR. Anything with a blue ribbon has to be good
I picture him in a small house on the water with a big porch. Fishing tackle piled by the door. A cold beer and a bag of pretzels. Harry K died last year so he can listen to him call the game again. Some of the players are the same as they were when I was a kid too thanks to death, that crazy motherfucker.
These are his things. At least they're the things that I think of as his. His things that were our things and, I guess, are now my things even though I like to think we still share them. Somewhere.
C has a few things. A few of the same things as my dad, in fact. We sit on the couch together and eat pears. I let her have a few sips of beer. I play music that he liked on the car stereo so that she can sing along. His things, my things, and now her things through some combination of nurturing and genetics.
I suppose C came into the world with some things but it feels like she was an empty vessel waiting to be filled. At first, T and I did most of the filling but she's starting to branch out on her own. Favorite songs that I don't know. Favorite games that she learns from her friends. For now our shared things hold her tightly in our little family orbit but, eventually, the weight of her other things will pull her away.
We have some toys and books that were intended for R stored in a dusty box along with a snipping of hair and a faint impression of her foot. We say that these are her things but they really aren't. She arrived empty and departed the same. Thingless.
I used to think death was her thing. Or maybe I thought her death was my thing. Or maybe that death was just such a substantial thing that it would hold us both in its orbit forever. Nothing or all things? It's so hard to tell from here.
My under-occupied brain has created some things for her. I imagine that she's quieter than C. She is wise beyond her years. Despite the fact that my daughters share 100% of their genes and sit at the tail end of two noisy, sarcastic, opinionated families, I envision R as infinitely serene, beyond the concerns of worldly existence. Here, C cackles hysterically at fart jokes while R smiles gently in appreciation of C's laughter. Somewhere.
I wrote most of this post a couple of weeks ago while I was eating leftover crab bisque from the Still Life 365 open house. That's right, y'all, if you arrive early and stay late, you get to take home leftovers. And, Angie can cook just as well as she writes.
At the open house there was some crazy hijinks with an errant water gun, stories about koala encounters, an 85 lb dog that tried to curl up in my lap, old friends, new friends, people who seem like friends even though we'd never met before. The rainbow babies that I'd hoped for so hard while staring at my computer screen were up and walking around looking just as wonderfully ridiculous as toddlers always look.
It was all so ordinary and easy. But it wasn't like the ordinariness of my life before. This was hard-won ease, a collective decision to share a burden or to set it down all at once. It's a challenging maneuver that takes a village (or at least one Angie-like person) but, once death doesn't have to be the thing, other things rush in to fill the space.
The objects piled in R's memory box have never really felt like they had anything to do with her. Some day I'll pass them along to C and she can decide whether she needs physical reminders of R's brief stay on this side of the somewhere.
R never chose a favorite color or favorite song. She'll never arrive home with her pockets full of interesting things she found on the playground. But she wasn't empty when she arrived and she wasn't empty when she departed.
We all have a space where we keep other peoples' things. We can use it to store things that we learn from them or just to remember and appreciate them. R's life and her death have expanded this space for me, my internal somewhere. The people I've met because of her. The kindness they show each other. The way that they continue to enjoy and appreciate the world that they shared with their children so briefly. These are her things. And, because of her, they are my things. The things that we share. Somewhere.