On Wednesday our family wandered the campus of the college you attended. I tried to feel you there, but couldn't tell whether I was in fact feeling you or just feeling myself straining to feel you. It appears that I am not sufficiently keyed in to the spiritual realm. Had I been able to reach you by telephone, I would not have waited for your greeting before asking you, "Guess where we are right now?" I showed the boys the room near Main where you lived during your senior year. I remembered your pointing it out to me when I was a kid. Isn't that funny, how memory works? Why did I remember that small detail? Anyway, you won't believe it, but Older Teen will soon be touring college campuses, and he was definitely paying attention as we wandered around yours, which is as gorgeous as ever: Gothic architecture against such lush foliage. Did you know that the campus is now a designated arboretum? Older Teen was impressed.
You will understand why we stayed in the Alumnae House, scene of my wedding. We corraled the boys onto the very spot where we wed, and then we took a photo. They didn't complain, although they weren't very interested in the place where their parents got married, and why should they be, really? I thought of our guest list, small as it was, and stopped short when I realized that a solid third of those in attendance have since died. And these two sons of mine have sprouted up in their place; I have the photo to prove it. The way of things.
You were happiest during college, I now believe, and I don't know why we didn't think to scatter your ashes somewhere on your college campus.
While in New York we also visited with your son and his family, and they are thriving. My nephew, your grandson, is so affectionate and warm. Clever, too. Your name came up more than a few times. No one has forgotten you. That wouldn't surprise you, I suppose.
And your daughter-in-law, she had stocked food from William Poll. I know! You love that! She'd brought me the roast beef and watercress dip sandwich I always used to order. Oh, and something else I wanted to tell you: Did you know that Poll's makes baklava? And that it's out of this world?
So there it is: four days when I kept thinking of you, not with pain, but with time-earned nostalgia. It has been four years since you died, but more like sixteen years since cancer stole you from us. People don't understand that even if you survive cancer, the disease takes away the person you once were, the person who still believed that bad things happen to other people, the person who still felt lucky, and capable of experiencing unalloyed joy.
On Wednesday I wondered whether you could spy our little family gathered on the lawn at the Alumnae House: lanky, moody Older Teen, irrepressible Preteen, and my sturdy husband, with less hair but in most every way exactly as you knew him. I wondered whether you miss us. But mostly I remembered you, and the remembering failed to rouse anger, regret, or grief. And so I sat down and wrote you this letter.