March 16, 2010
Ren came up with a great idea to write “Letters to the Dead.” I’ve had a few family members die, i.e. my biological parents, grandparents, aunts, Grammie Ollie, Grandpa Bidwell, and you. None have impacted me the way that your death did. Even as I contemplated writing this letter, I had to hold back the tears, because I was on my way to work, and I didn’t want to look like I was crying. A few tears rolled down my Eskimo cheeks, but I was able to hold it together enough to not have raccoon eyes from mascara runs. I had that suffocating lump in my throat, and I hoped it would go away. It’s just proof how profound your loss is felt, even after eight years.
I remember the first day Cindy and I visited the family. I wouldn’t do anything but play with the dollhouse that Dad built for Ren and Heidi. While you were making dinner, Dad walked in and said hi. I remember looking straight ahead at the dollhouse, too scared to say hi back. After that initial introduction, it feels like we’ve always been family.
This morning, I was thinking about how sick I became in 5th grade. It was a relapse with that pesky “bronchiogenic cleft cyst.” I think back now and realize how much of your time I consumed over the course of the next three years. Lots of doctor visits, hospital stays, even spiking a high fever, enough that they dunked me in an ice cube bath. It was excruciating, and I had absolutely no energy left, but you were right there to comfort me. What a drastic change from when the cyst first reared its ugly head when I was four. My Mom and Dad weren’t around to bring me to surgery, so my 11 year old sister took me. I remember walking down a brightly lit hall, all alone and scared. It wasn’t like that anymore. I now had someone who loved me unconditionally.
Like Heidi, I was also a people pleaser, even at my own expense. It wasn’t until adulthood that I figured out why I was like that. Subconsciously, I thought that if I was always nice and always the “good girl,” then I wouldn’t be given away or sent to live with someone else. I now know that not everyone has to like me, and no one else holds the key to my happiness. I do, so I have to be the keeper of the key.
I swore my siblings would hate me, because invariably, whenever there was a fight, you would make me sit between them. I asked Heidi once if she ever held that against me, to which she said, “No, you’re the only one we could always get along with.” Whew, big sigh of relief! Of course, as I got older, you and I did fight, and sometimes I was a real shit-head. Heidi was very protective of you, and would get mad at me because of how I was treating you. There really is a circle of life, because it has now come back around, and I have a pre-teen daughter that I butt heads with once in a while. Or do they call that karma?
When I first moved out of the house, I remember calling you up, crying, because I was sick and no one was around to take care of me. You and Dad showed up shortly thereafter, with OTC medicine, soup and orange juice. Just goes to show that you’re never too old to need your Mom and Dad. Even now we still need you, but it is with heavy realization that you’re not just a phone call away anymore, or just down the road. We can’t just stop by, just because.
When you relapsed, you didn’t want to tell me, because you were so hurt that I had already lost one Mother, you didn’t want me to lose another. I remember just falling apart, because the reality was that your cancer would be tougher to fight off the second time around. You were so amazing, not wanting pity, sympathy, or wanting anyone to feel sorry for you. You took it “one day at a time.” That’s all we’re really given anyway, just one more day, if that. You lived each day to the fullest, showing us with grace and dignity, how to live and die.
I am also sad that you didn’t get the chance to see Jenna grow up. She’s amazing ~ you would be proud. Unlike me, she has her own opinion, she isn’t a people pleaser, “take her at face value.” She doesn’t choose things/ideas because they’re mine, she makes her own decisions. Example: when the Patriots played against the Giants in the 2008 Super Bowl, she rooted for Michael Strahan, and I rooted for Tom Brady (the only one I really knew of). In Nascar, I like Jeff Gordon, she likes Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. I’m glad she’s her own person.
Whenever I make sugar cookies, which is rare, I always think of you. I remember how you must’ve made hundreds of Valentine cookies for each kid in our classes, and enough to keep us happy at home too. Man, I make 3 dozen and think I’m dying! I don’t know how you did it! I swear, you, Auntie Karen and Grandma Sally are the experts at cooking. I can make a few dishes really good, but most of the time, they’re mediocre, and not something we’ll try again too soon. Really, I think it’s just everything about you that we miss.
There is a funny dream I had. In my dream, you decided to adopt a little two-year-old. At 11:00 p.m., you decided to go to bed, and this little girl was left to just walk around. I was thinking, “What the heck do I make for a little two-year old?” So, I made chicken breasts and cut it into tiny little pieces. You all know that I used to walk/still talk in my sleep. Jenna heard me say out loud, “The chicken won’t go to sleep!” We still have a good laugh about that.
I’m excited about Robin’s little boy in-the-making – I know she’s scared because you won’t be there for her this time. You’re an amazing coach ~ I’ll forever treasure the memory of you and Heidi in the room with me when I had Jenna. Talk about dedication. You and I started walking at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday morning, we decided to check into the hospital around 4:00 p.m., and then Jenna came in her own time at 4:50 a.m. on Friday. You must’ve been tired, but you kept right on going. I think it’s so cool that Jenna was born on your birthday. What an awesome coincidence; either that, or it was always meant to be.
I love you so much ~ just like the book that I read at your funeral (A Mother for Choco), you chose to be our mother, laughter did fill our home, and we were very happy you were ours.