She sighed as she scrubbed the eraser tip against her paper.
“WHY does it have to look neat?” she lamented. “I know EXACTLY what it says!”
Exasperated, but patient, I nodded. “I know YOU can read it just fine, Bear, but that’s such an awesome thought, I want EVERYONE to be able to read it.”
Muttering under her breath, still not convinced of the need to produce legible handwriting, she finished erasing and grasped her pencil, ready to start scrawling again. Her atypical grip, clutching the pencil in her fist, is part of the challenge. Her furiously fast-thinking brain, in imagination overdrive, generating ideas faster than she can possibly write them, factors in as well. And, as she began to write again, with me watching as each word appeared upside-down on the paper across the table, a third component suddenly occurred to me.
Her handwriting looks almost exactly like Kevin’s.
I drew in a breath as it hit me. She heard it and looked up to see me staring at her page.
“What? What is it? It looks neat now, doesn’t it?” she questioned a little impatiently, concerned that I’d ask her to erase again.
“It’s fine, Beary, it’s fine. Can I turn it around for just a sec? I need to see something.” I held my breath, wondering if I’d imagined something upside-down that would disappear when the words were right-side up in front of me.
Using her eraser as a spinning brad, she twirled the paper toward me.
Yep. I hadn’t imagined it. I always tell her she inherited tons of things from her Daddy.
Including his penmanship.
In the weeks after Kevin died, I sorted through our home office, sifting through the mountains of paperwork that had suddenly appeared. He’d prepared a file box of information for me, so I sat on the floor with it and scanned the words and numbers and pages he thought I’d need.
He’d prepared most of the stuff on the computer and printed it out, but some pages were handwritten and the words blurred on the paper as my eyes welled up with tears. I traced my finger over his handwritten notes and cried, knowing those were the last bits of his handwriting, the last time random thoughts would form into ideas and his hand would bend those ideas into letters and words and sentences. There won’t be any more black-ink scrawls across the paper, the quickness of his thoughts evident in his hurried print.
His handwriting had always been a joke between us. “History? Law school? Really? Your handwriting clearly indicates you should’ve been a doctor,” I’d tease him.
When he signed official papers, for the house or car or his will, he’d assure the person accepting the paper, who doubtfully eyed the signature line: “That’s really my signature.” Then look to me for my wifely confirmation. I’d nod dutifully…yep, that’s really his signature.
The idea that I’d never see his writing on another card or letter again sent me scrambling through the house that night, frantically trying to track down every bit of his handwriting. Birthday cards, postcards, my sandwich request from the sub shop – no scrap of paper was insignificant. I had to have it all. I had to have all the words he’d ever written. I had to safeguard them. He was here. I know he was. See? He wrote these things. He loves me. He misses me. He can’t wait to come home.
I gathered them, held the pages gently in my hands, and selfishly wished for more. I’m thankful for technology, for the speed with which ideas can be conceived and disseminated, but the historian in me, the widow in me, mourns that bits of our humanness are sacrificed. It’s all too easy to send an email or a text, but what does that leave behind when we’re gone? The words and the thought, of course, but nothing tangible. Nothing that makes a permanent mark. In these days without Kevin, seeing his photo, seeing his handwriting…he’s real, his presence is palpable. We are forever connected through the images, the words – of love, of errands, of information – he left behind.
I pulled my attention back to my mini-Kev, patiently sitting in front of me. She’s getting used to my long pauses of silence, my mind collecting memories of Kevin and filing them away.
“What is it?” she asked again.
“Well,” I started, “see how your baby ‘d’ has that little hook? And see the loop on that ‘g’ there?” I pointed to the letters as I spoke.
“That looks almost exactly like your Daddy’s letters, Little Bear. I think you got Daddy’s handwriting.”
She beamed at me, thrilled at another connection to her Daddy Bear, hiding their sameness in her heart, forging another personal connection to the one we miss so much. Those two. She used to tell him, “Daddy, we are just alike. We are not one bit unique.” He loved it.
“So it’s not messy…it’s just like Daddy!” I think she felt a little vindicated.
I let her have the victory. Truthfully, now that I recognize the shades of Kevin in her writing, the occasional slapdash assignment doesn’t bother me. I’ll never get another handwritten love letter or grocery list from him, but when I look over her schoolwork, I can see him living on, unmistakably present in his daughter’s handwriting.
And it’s beautiful.
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)