Our girl is sprawled across the hotel bed on her stomach. Drawing, of course, and writing a story in her secret language, the one that only she and her babies at home understand. And guess what? I forgot to put sunscreen on the top of her head. There’s a bright pink line streaking along her pig-tailed hairline. I thought I’d covered every inch of her…Oops.
Oh, baby, I missed you today. Not just because you’re the only one who thinks I look good in a swimsuit, but because water is YOUR thing, what you guys share. I only tolerate it because the two people I love most in the world are apparently fish or mermaids (merpeople?) who need to be in or near the water all the time.
And you know I wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t promised her we’d go this year. I’m trying, baby, I’m trying so hard to do everything you wanted to do with her. Even the water stuff. We had exactly the day I know you pictured: shrieking down water slides, floating the lazy river, conquering our fear of the wave pool and staying in for the BIG waves. I even got completely drenched when I didn’t heed the warning sound and the giant bucket of water overturned with me directly underneath. Stop laughing! It wasn’t funny – you know my goal is to come out of a water park completely dry!
She loved it, of course. She is definitely your girl. She says we had “an awesome day” and she wants to come back more often next year. Me? I’m torn. I’m happy that I could make this happen, could fulfill your promise to her, but I’m angry, too. I’m angry that cancer ripped apart what should’ve been our perfect family day. Stupid cancer. I hate it. I hate the fact that the one thing you two fishes looked forward to all winter couldn’t happen. I hate the fact that from the moment of your diagnosis, we tried so hard to fit as much adventure, as much love, as much LIFE, as possible into our lives. You live fast and you love hard when you get that kind of news. We traveled, we stayed home, we made cookies, we made memories. We planned, we lived. But we couldn’t do it all. And then you died.
And, Kevin, my broken heart bled for our daughter tonight.
She looked up at me.
“Mama?” I heard the uncertainty in her voice. “Can we go home tomorrow?”
The question surprised me. You know water is her thing. This is all she’s talked about all summer (Remember, Mama…Daddy promised me the water park!). I can’t believe she’s ready to leave.
I answered cautiously, because it’s hard to know what she’s thinking in that tremendous brain of hers. “Yeah, but not until tomorrow afternoon. We’re going to ride the rides tomorrow at the park,” I reminded her of our plans for the amusement park the following day.
Kev, her voice was so small and she suddenly looked so little, sitting on the hotel bed. “Okay.”
She accepted my answer, but then a burst of words. “I want to go home. I miss my home.”
So I pulled her in for a hug, squeezing her close. “I know, Bear, me too. But at least I’m here, right?”
So quiet, I almost missed it. Softly, sadly, she sighed, “Yeah. But Daddy isn’t.”
I didn’t know what to do, Kev. Because you’re not here. You’re not here and we both want you so badly. The two of us go places and we do things and I keep track of all our adventures and all the hilarity thinking I’ll share it with you because it seems impossible that you’re not in on the fun with us. We laughed today, baby, and we played in the sun and the water and I know that not one person guessed the giant hole in our broken life. But we knew it was there and that’s why we’re in this hotel room right now, clinging to each other, my tears trickling onto her sunburned head.
She’s right. We need to go home. That’s where we feel you the most. So we’ll pack up and head home in the morning as soon as we can. It’s good to get out and remember that life is to be enjoyed, but for us, for now, we can only take that joy diluted, in small doses. We are going to be okay, baby. I promised you that.
And I promise that if we go back to the waterpark, I’ll try to get completely drenched again. The Bear’s convinced that you fell off a cloud laughing when that happened.
I’m sure she’s right.
Love and kisses always,