"I must learn to love the fool in me—the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries. It alone protects me against that utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom I also harbor and who would rob me of human aliveness, humility, and dignity but for my fool." — Theodore I. Rubin, MD
To be honest, I had a hard time choosing between you and Granny, or one of my great-uncles on mom’s side. But I actually knew them. Granny the longest, and I guess I’d like to know her more because I am named after her. It seems like a lot to carry around— someone else’s name— when you don’t know them quite as well as you’d like to. I didn’t really know you. In fact, the only solid memory I have relating to you is of mom coming to my ballet class, and telling me after that you had died. Then, when I was fifteen, Granny died and I was there while we were going through her things. I found a bunch of photographs you both took. I have several manila envelops of them. Some are of Grandpa Wayne and Great-Uncle David, but there are ones of Granny and you. Some of them are from before you two knew each other; there’s a really cute one of granny when she was about eight or nine with a big bow in her hair. The one of you from when you were young are the ones that strike me as almost strange.
They’re not how I remember you at all. Granny, in the pictures, I can kind of see. She’s scowling in the younger picture and I’ve seen her make that face. It looks like her. But I was four when you died. I have little memories of you, snippets of a voice, memories of a scent. But none of them match up to the pictures of you from when you were younger. There’s one of you from the early thirties, in Hood River with your friends. Granny took the picture, and I remember some story about you two being in a car wreck after the picture was taken? Maybe I’m remembering it wrong. Anyhow. You look more like a movie out of period film to me. And then there’s the picture of you rowing a boat, wearing this striped shirt and white pants. Or ones of you standing with Granny and Grandpa from when he was about five or six. But I don’t know anything about you. I know Granny’s end of things. That she loved you quite terribly, even after you died. That she was pretty pissed at you for dying, actually (don’t worry I don’t blame you for that).
Everybody always told me things about Granny because I’m her namesake. But nobody ever really told me things about you. I know you liked photography. I know you owned a photo-shop and developed film for people. I know you must have liked to read because Granny would never have married someone who didn’t. But I wish you’d kept a journal, or something, so that I’d have some record in your own words of who you were.
I wish I had gotten to sit with you and watch Jeopardy, and guess at all the answers, like Granny and I used to. I wish you’d been around long enough, that I had been old enough to still remember now, to tell me some story about how you’d been as a boy. Did you have a dog? Was there a favorite make-believe game you used to play? How did you meet Granny? What did you think when you first saw her? What didn’t you do in your life that you would have liked to?
It’s weird, until I found the photos and realized all that I was missing in knowing about you it hadn’t bothered me. It hadn’t even occurred to me. And now it bothers me all the time that I can’t ask my dad or your sons for all that much more about you. I have to go off the photos you took, and the random stories that people might have. It’s sad that there’s this whole person who was a member of my family but is lost to me.
Love (even though we didn’t really know each other),
I’m sorry that I’m not in touch more. I don’t know what to say because what I want to say are some magic words that will make all of this go away and give you back everything you had before your accident. I still feel guilty that I didn’t go to see you while you were in the hospital, that I sat staring at your husband’s number and could not bring myself to call and ask for that because I was so, so scared of losing you.
And I’m angry. Because you almost left me here. Because I need you to not ever do that again, I need you to not ever do that to yourself again.
I know that for months prior you were having a really hard time. You have been dealt more hardship than most in life. Your accident being another of those times.
I don’t know what to say, which is why I don’t call you. Because I want to tell you it will all be okay, and it will, but I can’t say it knowing that the underlying sentiment with that is that life will go back to normal. It won’t. It can’t. Already your life has changed so much, and you are so unbelievably strong through all this. I want to be able to call you up and talk to you about our old private jokes and stories, but I don’t want you to think that I’m just ignoring all that has happened to you.
I don’t know what to say. I am here. I am always here, even if I’m not being vocal about it. I still say my version of a prayer for you every day. I still think of you, and check on you constantly. I still get frustrated when people talk about you as though they know you, because we both know better than to think anyone knows each others’ secrets.
I spent a month this summer thinking that you might not wake up. That I might have to tell my goddaughters about their mommy instead of them seeing you for yourself firsthand. That I might have to stand at your funeral and watch a casket lower my best friend into the ground. Which is why I still have such a hard time talking to you. It isn’t because I hate you, or am too angry with you, or don’t want to be around you. It is because I don’t want you to see me cry or be afraid, because I already know that you have so much more in your life that is bad than any one person ever should.
All I want is for you to know that I am here for you, and when I can stand in front of you again without bawling I will be around more. I still love you. I still adore your babies. I still will keep your secrets and help you pick yourself back up. You’re stuck with me for life, kid.
And you will make it through this. You already made it through the rough part of coming back out of the coma, you will make it through all of this. Because you are so much stronger than anyone would believe, and because you’re also just stubborn and refuse to let life’s little bumps and problems get in the way of the things you want. ;-)
This is going to be short and sweet, because lord knows in the last week alone I have thrown so much at you in terms of late night phone calls, and texts, and mid-day phone calls, and crying because I am so stressed.
I do not say enough how much I appreciate you. I do not say enough how much I love you. And I definitely do not tell you nearly enough that I am proud to have you as my parent. Because I know that I am so incredibly blessed and lucky to have parents who not only call me back after I hang up on them when I’m being pissy, but who support me unconditionally even after I act like that. Who call me ‘baby’ or ‘sweetheart’, and know to tell me when I deserve better than what I am settling for, or who not only brag to their friends about me but let me shamelessly exploit their connections in order to build my very young career. I have been given parents who never hit me, who have rarely said a rude word, who do not mock my dreams or aspirations.
I have been given parents who love me, unconditionally. Which, unfortunately, I know is pretty rare.
You’re ‘You’ and not your name because, for me, “hey you” is a term of endearment, the one I would use if I saw you again. I don’t know if you’d remember me. Which is bittersweet as I could meet you again as this person now, but also because you wouldn’t remember me as that girl then.
I think about you. Quite a lot, actually. In part because the memory of you is one of the clearest I have of anyone, so it is easy to remember you. The curve of your smile, the cadence of your walk, the resonance in your voice. But I think that I remember you so much because you accidentally proved something to me that I didn’t think was possible.
I fell in love with you. Accidentally. Which, considering the circumstances, ought to have been painful for me (and it was, quite horribly so), but in the end it gave me the necessary reassurance to trust myself as a human being again. Because, you see, before you I hadn’t thought I could love someone that much. I thought that because of the past and the pain I had managed to build up too many walls that weren’t going to ever come back down.
Being in love with you, for the reasons I loved you, inadvertently taught me so much. I loved you because you were irrevocably and unapologetically yourself. You found no shame in that. You were kind and caring about so many people beyond those you would have been expected to care for. You were patient, especially with me. And you were marvelously curious.
The last time I saw you, some four years ago now, as soon as I was out of sight I started crying. I cried for the whole drive home. It took me sixth months to breathe again. I used to watch the news for your part of the state just to make sure everything was alright where you were. But most of all, I walked away because I would have made a terrible mess in your life if I had tried to impose myself upon it. Which is how I knew that I loved you more than I loved just the idea of you. I wanted nothing more than to curl up in you. Be surrounded by everything you were all the time. There are still days when I miss you more than I can possibly explain.
I loved you. I probably would still love you if I saw you again. Which is why I walked away, because I want you to be happy in your life. Because you smiling, truly contented, is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Because your laugh could make me laugh and blush and breathe so deeply. Because there is no way to explain why, but I never doubted that the right thing to do for you was to walk away.
I hope you are so deeply happy and fulfilled in life.
For a while I didn’t know how to forgive you. I didn’t know how to stop loving you first, and then how to stop hating you. You took advantage of every weakness and vulnerability I had. You took advantage of me. For a good long while after you I spent my time being convinced that all you had said was valid and true. That nothing I was or had ever been was good enough to warrant your affection. That you had never thought me to be the least bit pretty.
You took all the faith I had had in you, all the admiration and adoration I paid you, and threw it back in my face.
But that was then. You are not in my life now, which is how is should be. I hope you have learned to be more honest with the people who love you, and I’m sure that with time you have grown to be a better person than you were then. You weren’t a good person then, not to me. It has taken me a long time to be able to see that. I hadn’t done anything to deserve the lying or the deceitfulness. I hadn’t done anything to warrant the emotional or physical abuse. I certainly hadn’t deserved you reveling in my unhappiness.
I won’t thank you, even if the experience made me stronger and had the silver lining of finding some friends who could pull me up and out of the place being with you had left me. But I don’t hate you anymore.
"Decide to fall in love with the world & it will swoop you up in its arms & smother you with kisses. You will get all your joy & excitement back a million times over. This is real, this is how it works. Even when you feel hard & cold & angry, you have more love to give away than you could ever believe possible. It is infinite like galaxies. Just give it away. Imagine cartoon hearts in hot pink & vivid red floating out of your chest & popping over the heads of everyone, showering them with hope & blessings & encouragement, & your life will begin to change. It will become this sparkling carousel of magic & wonder." “There is an inner beauty about a woman who believes in herself, who knows she is capable of anything she puts her mind to. There is a beauty in the strength and determination of a woman who follows her own path, who isn’t thrown off by obstacles along the way. There is a beauty about a woman whose confidence comes from experiences - who knows she can fall, pick herself up, and keep going.” "This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind…let it be something good."