Sitting in front of a farm house in New England, it starts raining and I miss you. I wish there were songs I knew of that you loved so I could listen to them right now, but the rain will suffice. I know it is here to cleanse me, but this is how I feel:
like I can't get close enough to the softness of love right now. Like I want someone to bust open my rib cage so the swarm of butterflies guarding my heart can fly out, so I can hold it in my hands like it's a baby bird fallen from a tall tree, warm it until it beats gently again.
like I want to give the world to my little brother, but know you wouldn't want me to open the door for him until he opens the door to his own heart and steps inside of himself and begins to create the life he wants. I want to offer him a handful of male role models that will encourage him instead of telling him he's on the wrong track all the time. The truth is that I've been, not on the wrong track, but I've derailed. I wish I had been better when you lived with me, offered you more, talked with you more, but I know that you sitting on the porch as I gardened was enough for you, that it helped heal your spirit, that it made you want your own space to take care of. You wanted your grandkids to walk into a clean house that smelled like cinnamon oils or Italian sauce. Now, I hope he creates that space. I know if he had his own he would flourish. He needs to know himself, to guard his family with his heart, please come to him Mom.
Once I start crying I feel like the tears will burn my face down. I'm sorry I didn't let you hold me because I thought I was too old, that I didn't call you Mommy even though you liked hearing it, that I chose the bonfire over quiet nights with you. I'm so sorry.
I promise you I will be who I am. I know who I am. I have always known. When we pulled into the parking spot in the city and it was right in front of the New School, the place Melissa took me ten years ago to sit in on her poetry class, the place that determined my desire to go to school for writing - when we pulled into a spot that no one thought we could fit into, that took 20 minutes of guided parallel parking to fit, when I got out and saw the license plate in front of us that was from Massachusetts, my next destination, with tags that expired on June 13 - my sister's birthday, I knew we were in the right spot. You should have seen my little brother, Mom. You should have seen him in such a big city, his smile, his excitement. I know who he is, what he is capable of, you did too. I worry that now that you're gone he doesn't have enough around him that tells him who he is is ok. Please come to him in dreams, please wrap your spirit around his heart Mom, my sister's too. I will be fine, everyone says I'm a survivor. I know I am. They need you around their hearts right now.
I promise you I will be who I am. I will finish school this year and get into an amazing graduate school. By the time I'm accepted I'll have enough poems to polish for a chapbook, my first fiction novella about loving women, and a manual for women who have lost their mothers. By the time I graduate, they will be ready for Alfred Knopf and Simon & Schuster. One day I might buy our old house back in Central Islip. If I don't, I will build a family Anywhere, USA and be amazing, with or without children.
Once, Lydia told me she saw me having one child, a daughter.
Once, a fortune teller said only one child in my future, later in life.
Once, I dreamt of having a little girl. The forest around us was being invaded. Everything in the world was robotic, the world was burning. I was being chased by wolves. I lept into a tree that was holographic and fell down the trunk hole, through the roots where my daughter was waiting. She had one toy left. I had batteries in my hand. I was running to get back to her, to give her the batteries, to see her face lit with joy. Her eyes were brown - I passed your eyes on.
When I looked into your sister's eyes last week my heart collapsed. I remembered your brown eyes, saw hers, and remembered I am your only child with brown eyes. I wanted to look in the mirror, I wanted to see you. I promised myself to keep my eyes clear.
I took a photograph in front of the old house because I wanted to print it and frame it with the one of you at 32, sitting on the same stoop. Chris said the photo was too blurry and far away, but it was perfect because so was yours. I can't wait to print it.
The holidays seem harsh this year. Christmas trees roped down to car roofs make me ache with memory of being dragged from store to store with you until you found the right tree. As I got older I told you I couldn't have a real tree, it was not moral. The forests need them, not our living rooms. But, last year when you visited I said yes. We picked one out. We decorated it. Chris's friend Josh had just been shot, he put DJ headphones on the top instead of an angel until he got out of the hospital. The words hope and joy were glittered and hanging from branches.
We never realize what we have until we no longer have it.
I will never second-guess that the people in my life are enough just as they are. I will always accept them and honor them by loving them unconditionally.
I will try harder with my father. Maybe you can visit him in a dream, tell him about my brother - the son he has denied. Maybe he is disappointed because he doesn't have a job or a house, but he doesn't give himself a chance to witness his son looking into the eyes of his own children. I have witnessed it. I don't feel sorry for Chris. He is amazing and he's just going to become an even better man with age. So what if he doesn't marry the mother of his children? Dad re-married you and spent years making sure you knew it was a bad decision. The smartest thing my brother could ever do is be honest and choose himself, to know that he can do everything he wants to and he is never going to be alone in this.
I never wanted to lose you, especially so early. I thought we would have so much more time together. I wanted to know you better, cradle your stories, sing you songs. I see you though, in the eyes of my brother and sister, in the eyes of my niece and nephew. I never wanted to lose you, but we would not have returned to where we are from without you leaving. And I don't even think any of us can begin to understand how this will change us. I feel the plates in my heart shifting. I know what I am capable of and I will show you, every day, with every action. I will love so fully, and be present. If something in my life doesn't feel right, I will let go and make room for what does. I will honor who I love with everything in me, by honoring myself.
I miss you, but that statement is so small in comparison to how I feel. Some days I cannot even believe you are not here. Like today, like when it rains, like when I'm driving through New England and it smells like wet leaves and then, all of a sudden, it smells like the ocean like it's close or like you are close and I know you will never go away. You are right here. You have my heart in your hands, you are slowing its beat, you are aligning me with the rhthym of myself.
I'm coming home to you Mommy, watch.