That giant waterbed you owned was my favorite place. Barely able to peer over its massive frame, I always required a lift to climb in. I felt tiny in its warm folds. Snuggled in, I imagined us on some great adventure. Sailing seas, the two of us. Falling asleep beside you to the sounds of the distant television hum and the glow cast on the walls – I was safe. I was loved.
You always had Paul Mitchell shampoo in your bathroom. 30 years later, I still cannot help but smell the bottles on the shelf in the supermarket. Transfixed, the stale tile becomes a plush burgundy carpet beneath my feet. The bustle of the store falls away and I’m standing in your bathroom again, even if only for a moment, I am with you.
I remember how every year you made the most exquisite chocolate fudge. You always said it was no big deal. You never had much money. This was such a labor of love. You gave the fudge as gifts to friends and family. It was difficult, it was time consuming, it was tedious – you never complained, even when you were ill. You always gave your all, to everyone. Your generous heart touched many lives.
Remember the time you let me watch Swamp Thing? You told me not to tell my mom. I thought you were the coolest grandma in the history of grandmas. Still rings true. I had nightmares that night. You knew I would. I told you I was a big girl and that I’d be fine. You held me that night and promised me that you wouldn’t let any monsters get me. You were always there to catch me and saw the fall before I ever knew it was coming.
When I close my eyes I can see you on the front lawn watching all of us cousins searching for Easter eggs. It is the last time I remember spending time with my cousins and the perhaps the happiest I remember seeing you. Your smile was radiant. The sun was behind you, it was magic through your red hair. Your fair Irish skin and bold red hair are painted forever on that day in my mind.
I never meant to disrespect you. The tiger’s eye ring I stole from you wasn’t supposed to be the end of us. I didn’t know I would let that mistake keep me from letting you love me. I was a child. I wanted to make believe that the ring had magical powers – that I could be magical. Instead, when you discovered what I had done, I let my shame create an insurmountable rift. I told myself that you could never forgive me; that I wasn’t worth loving.
Time and distance grew as did the shame and regret. Not only for the initial act, but for not reaching out to you on the many occasions I had opportunity. For decades you continued to send me birthday and Christmas cards. I’m so sorry.
When your son, my father, died, I wasn’t there. I’m sorry. I never called to wish you a Happy Birthday. I never said Merry Christmas. I missed countless celebrations and, now, I’m too late to tell you all this in person. I let my ego and pride steer our waterbed ship. I thought I’d have more time.
When I got the call that you were gravely ill I vowed to move heaven and earth to get to you and make this all right. Then you made a small recovery. I was relieved because I was so afraid of having to say all of this to you. I was selfish – again. I knew I would have to get to you, I just thought I could do it…soon.
You’re gone now.
And if I could say a few words to you, it would be this.
I love you so very much. I’m so sorry for all of the missed phone calls and missed opportunities. I’m sorry I let my fear overcome your love. I’m sorry you didn’t get to know your great grandson – he’s an alright kid. I’m sorry that I didn’t trust that your love was bigger than any mistakes I believe I’ve made. I’m sorry that I didn’t want to have uncomfortable conversations. I didn’t want to tell you about all the terrible things I’ve done, or how I’ve recovered from shit that some people don’t come back from. The truth is, none of that mattered to you. You saw me. You needed me. I needed you. I still do.
Wherever you are, I hope these words find you peacefully. I hope you’re on a boat somewhere eating fudge with the sun beaming through your fiery red hair. I hope you know how much we all love you – then, now, and always.