I remember the first Christmas M and I spent together. I don’t think his half-Jewish upbringing had quite prepared him for me. We’re talking about the girl who saved her allowance to take lessons on making tin ornaments at a craft store on Long Island when I was in the fourth grade. And the girl who crafted her way towards saving enough money to buy Christmas gifts for family. I found the little tree I made for Mikey, complete with a felt tree skirt, stashed away in our storage unit when I cleaned it out during the move from Brooklyn to Woodstock. I couldn’t believe he had saved it all those years.
I feel like I’m rambling a little. The delicate task of holding on, while not holding myself back has been on mind lately, since reading this essay. See, it’s easier for me to toggle back and forth between memories and reality than most of the other people in my life. That sounds odd, I know, but hear me out. Easy is a relative word. I miss Mikey every day, but not always for the reasons one might think. I miss him most as my best friend, my person—the one who would always be there, who could always finish my sentences. That is not why I still talk often about him, even four years later. No, the reason I talk about him is as Lexi says—I’m proud, and he deserves to be remembered.
There are so many things I want to say about this idea of how we keep loved ones alive once they’ve left our physical world. My thoughts are guarded, though, fearing a bit that people just won’t get it. That feeling when I talk about Mikey, and I see people’s eyes shift, looking a little uncomfortable, or sad. It’s still hard at times for the girls to talk about him, especially the last few months. They both miss so much. But we still talk about him because he deserves to be remembered. We’re all struggling with the reality that we don’t quite remember what he looked like, even though his photos hang on our wall, and sit on our coffee table.
My own dad gave up. He walked out on me. So, I find myself offering up the fact that I’m a widow and not just a single mom when it isn’t even required. In my mind, it’s a way of honoring, or perhaps defending his absence. He didn’t choose to leave his daughters. But also, I want people to know what an amazing daddy he was in the short time he had with his girls.
Some days, I want to throw in the towel. Raising the girls alone is exhausting. I thought it might feel a little easier as time passed, or with them getting older. The truth is it feels a little bit more difficult with each passing day. Perhaps it’s fatigue setting in, or maybe it’s just because every day that passes puts us one day further from having heard him, seen him, laughed with him.
No matter how hard it gets, I am still thankful to have known him, and shared a life with him. Still share a life with him, as I see our girls grow. During this celebration of Hanukkah, it is evident that while Mikey is no longer with us physically, the mark he left on our lives is one that will last and shine brightly forever.