[Original publication date: Dec. 20, 2013]
I know it’s been too long since we talked.
I put up a tree this year. You’d love it. It’s the tackiest tree on the block. It’s wearing purple garland, an Elvis ornament, a disco ball, and a giant, glitter-covered can of Diet Coke. And way too many light strands. It totally made dad giggle.
He’s doing really well. He’s a master chef with his tiny slow cooker and George Foreman grill. He flirts with the ladies at the bank to get them to help with his finances. He takes care of himself like a pro. His work buddy still sends him terrible things in email, but he also checks in on him all the time. The Good Neighbor does, too. The Bad Neighbor hasn’t moved away yet. I found him a really cool present this year, from the real (Brooklyn) Dodgers. He misses you. We’re going to clean out your room. We both know you’d be rolling your eyes at us for waiting so long, even though we don’t tell each other that. There’s still so many things I can only look at through the corner of my eye, because if I look full-on, I’m going to cry.
Remember when we used to sneak upstairs at Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Christmas Day to watch The Bells of St. Mary while Dad, Grandpa, and Uncle D. would argue about unions? It was on the other day, and I watched a few minutes. I still remember some of the lines. I made spritz cookies, too, like we used to do. One of the best lessons you ever taught me: Cookies are awesome.
This will make you laugh. In the past year or so, I’ve been craving all sorts of foods you used to love that I always hated. Still not liver and onions, because that is and forever will be no part of my diet, but I love Payday candy bars, eggnog, kohlrabi, rhubarb, and sauerkraut. Not all at the same time, obviously. That never makes me sad. If this is your ghost at work, I’m glad I can help, rhubarb is fucking delicious.
For a long time after you died, I used to stare at your ashes and wish you’d just appear. I watched a lot of TV when I was in my darkest place, and when people on TV lose someone they think they can’t live without, they always get one last visit. I was angry when I didn’t get one, so I couldn’t make myself talk to you. I didn’t want to be mad, especially not mad at you. I’m sorry. Dad told me you were angry at me when you died. It’s okay. I should have called more often; we should have spent more time together. I thought I had more time. That’s a weak excuse; I should have taken better care of you, like you took care of so many people. You totally got the shaft when it was your turn to be taken care of, and you should be mad. Don’t be mad at Dad for telling, either. We know he never really mastered tact. His heart’s in the right place, but his foot’s in his mouth. I’m not mad at him, or you, at all.
You were right about a lot of stuff. A lot. I tell you this, because if there’s anyone I know who likes being right more than you did, it’s me. I knew you were right about some things even when I was arguing with you. I’m pretty sure you knew that. I’m pretty sure you knew a lot of things you never let on, because I’m not convinced you weren’t a little bit psychic. I hope I get that from you.
- You were right about the boys I dated. Every single one. Yep, even that one. Especially that one. Thanks for not saying “I told you so” over and over and over again.
- You were right about those yellow knit stirrup leggings and the mini skirt I tried to wear them with.
- You were right when you taught me that the funny girl gets by just fine.
- Facebook has taught me that you were 100% right about those mean girls in middle school.
- You were right when you said I’d learn more with my mouth closed.
- You were right when you let me read as much as I wanted to.
- You were right when you told me to always be kind, but never “nice.”
- You were right about A.B. She’s the best friend anyone could possibly find, and I’m still holding on to her. She drove all night to come to your funeral, and she held me up.
It’s probably going to be a white Christmas. You love a white Christmas. A few of my neighbors have outdone themselves with their lights, and I wish I could show them to you. Afterwards, we could drink eggnog and play canasta. I could tell you about my shitty job interview, and you could tell me that dad still insists on listening to Janis really loud, even though he knows you hate Janis. (We still have to agree to disagree on Janis. Not every female vocalist has to be Mary Travers.) You could sing the harmony on this, like we used to do in the car.
When anyone asks me what I want for Christmas, that’s what I want to tell them. I don’t, because that’s a real conversation killer. So’s, “The women in my family tend to drop dead unexpectedly. #YOLO.”
I still make jokes, because it’s easier than shouting, “DEFLECT!” and running as fast as I can in the opposite direction. I get that from dad, and I bet that was a real pain in your ass. I was a pain in your ass a lot, probably way more than your share. I’m sorry about that. Life is hard enough without a bratty teenager/young adult/full grown adult.
I’m sorry we never talked about our depression. I get it, and I should have said so.
I know your ghost isn’t coming, and that’s okay, too. The tree, the cookies, the kohlrabi cravings, and that blasted Bells of St. Mary make it feel like a part of you is here. I won’t wait three years to talk to you next time.
Love, your daughter, who misses you.