Introduction

Note: I am publishing some of the entries from this blog in a book. I am not taking the blog down and will, in fact, be adding to it as I identify stories that I haven’t told. The following is my draft of the introduction to the book that I wrote on this second anniversary of Elena’s death. 

Elena died two years ago today. 

I hope you’ll get to know her a bit through this book. She was a beautiful bundle of optimism and energy. She was tiny but impossible to miss. She was born happy. For her it wasn’t that fleeting happiness we get when we’re enjoying a moment. Elena had the kind of happy that was contagious— the happy that you felt when you were around her.  Soon you were happy too.

“Look Maggie,” I imagine her saying as she opens this book, “Daddy wrote a book about me.”

“It’s about me too,” Maggie says.

“Nuhhh uhhh,” Elena says. Because what else could you say when you are the ghost of a six year old girl.

“Yuhhh huhhh,” Maggie says back. Because what else could you say back to a ghost saying ‘nuhhh uhhh.’

“Well it’s got my name in the title not yours,” Elena says. “Why do you think that is?” Even beautiful happy kids can torment their sisters.

“Because you died,” Maggie says. She looks at Elena’s ghost and adds, “duhh.”

“Well,” says Elena, “look at what he wrote. He says I’m beautiful. He didn’t write that you are beautiful.”

Maggie is beautiful. She is eleven and a half and making that transition from child to grown up. Our relationship continues to change. She’s fast and smart and funny—she just lacks the experience and tempering that will come with age. In the two years since her younger sister died, Maggie has taken on some of Elena’s characteristics. I don’t know why. It might be that while Elena was alive, Maggie could count on her to be the outgoing one while Maggie could be more shy and reserved. I don’t know. Maggie is still Maggie but she has also incorporated some of Elena into her personality as well.

And Kim. Sometimes when I call up to Kim from the living room I hear Elena’s voice echoing my bellow. Maybe there’s someone on the phone, or I’ve just thought of something, or the dog has gotten on my last nerves. I’ll tip my head back away from the puppy nipping at my ear and shout “Kim”.

I never know if she doesn’t hear me or just chooses to ignore me. When Elena was alive she would sit up in her bed and do her best imitation of me although it always came out with the vowel altered a little bit to “Kam.” For good measure, just in case Kim didn’t know it was really Elena’s voice and not mine, she would always take it a step further and tuck her head down towards her chest to lower her voice and shout, “Kam, this is your husband calling you. This is Daniel, Kam.”

“What?” Kim would shout back in that voice that every husband knows. “What do you want?” 

Whatever it was I wanted doesn’t seem so important. I feel like saying “never mind” but I don’t. I tell her whatever it was that prompted me to call her in the first place. But really I just wanted to hear her voice. Even in annoying her, I’ve connected to her. It’s why I call her from the grocery store or on my way to a coffee shop and ask “Want anything”. 

Today as she heads out the door for Elena’s mass she asks me if I want her to pick up anything at the store.

“Yes,” I say, “a big bag of chips.”

“Like what?” she asks.

“I don’t know. Something chippy. Something fried and salted. And maybe some dip.”

“You don’t want it,” she says and she’s right. But, of course, that’s not the point.

“I don’t. But I’ll eat it anyway.”

“What about the small bags my mom brought?”

“I’ll eat those too,” I say.

She signs and says “ok, I’ll get you some chips on the way back from church.” 

Kim heads out to the 8:30 mass for Elena. It’s snowing. I always smile when it snows this time of year. Elena was born in a big snow storm in the beginning of March. I pull out my laptop and start to write this introduction. The phone rings. It’s Kim.

“Are you ok?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she says. 

“What’s up?” I ask.

“We missed it,” she says.

“Missed what?” I ask.

“Missed the mass. I must have had the wrong time written down. The mass was at eight.”

“Not eight thirty?”

“Nope. They’re done already. They’re coming out of the church.”

“You ok?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she says.

“It’s kind of perfect,” I say.

“I know,” she says.

“Elena would have been late.”

“I know,” she says.

It’s a hard day for all of us. It’s hard enough given that it’s the anniversary of Elena’s death, but on top of that Maggie is home sick. She went to the doctor’s with a sore throat two days ago. Exactly the same as Elena did two years ago also on February 20. The doctor sent her home saying nothing was wrong. Same as they did with Elena two years ago. We didn’t really know the doctor that sent Elena home. This doctor we’ve known forever. She was Maggie’s doctor when she was little and she saw Elena just days after she was born. I know that Maggie is fine and yet she’s home sick today the same way Elena was two years ago.

So many thoughts.

“Daddy?”

“Yes, Elena?”

“Why are you writing a book?”

“I’m not really. I wrote the book already except for this Introduction and something I’ll write at the end. I wrote the rest of it for my blog. Really I’m just publishing what I’ve already written as a book.”

“Oh.” Elena processes that last bit of information. The conversation is not yet over.

“Daddy?”

“Yes, Elena?”

“Why did you write your bog.”

“My blog? I don’t know. I went upstairs the day after you died and started to write. I wrote about you and Maggie and people we knew and things we’d done and even imaginary conversations like this one. I wrote about losing you, about my feelings, and about all of the little details wrapped up in saying goodbye.”

“Daddy, do you ever worry about these imaginary conversations?”

“No, baby. I know they’re not real. Just every now and then I need to hear your voice—even if I’m the one choosing the words I hear you say.”

“Just as long as you’re not losing it.” I’m touched by her concern. Even though it is me choosing her words, somehow it really is her voice in my ear with her worried hand on my shoulder comforting me. Once she sees I’m ok, she gets back to her original question.

“Daddy?”

“Yes, Elena?”

“So why are you writing a book? I mean, why are you publishing a book?”

“Because lots of people liked what they read in the blog.”

“So why not just leave the blog?”

“I am. But there are lots of people who don’t read blogs.”

“Do you think people will read this book?”

“I don’t know, baby.”

And I don’t. I’m writing this book for two reasons. First, there are plenty of people who don’t live online and who would prefer a book they can hold in their hands. But second, I have never gone back to read any of the entries in my blog. I stopped writing because I couldn’t remember which stories I had told already. My plan is to take some of the entries and put them together into a book while keeping a list of stories I want to tell but haven’t yet. I’ll add these stories to the blog and perhaps to another book.

There is, however, the issue of other people’s words. There are the people who added their comments to the blog. I think that that is what makes the blog special but it is not part of this book. So I am leaving them online but not reprinting them here. There are also books and songs and people who I’ve quoted. I will ask their permission, and hope that it is granted so that  I can include those stories.

“Daddy?”

“Yes, Elena?”

“Do you still think about me?”

“All the time, baby. All the time.”

“See Maggie. He thinks of me all the time.”
Published in: on February 22, 2008 at 1:28 pm  Comments (18)  

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  1. Daniel,

    You, Kim, and Maggie are in our thoughts today. This morning Ethan and I hung hearts on the tree in Elena’s Garden at Boulevard and in the neighborhood garden. It seemed so apt that it was snowing. I’m glad you’re printing the blog as a book.

    Susan

  2. What timeline are you looking at for having the book published? I don’t even know you, but I’ve been following this site since shortly after it was put up, and I feel like I know your family. Thank you for sharing the stories you’ve shared.

  3. I am so glad you’re writing this as a book. My mother is one of those people who don’t live online and would love your book.

    I think of you and your family often, and I’m glad to read this update.

  4. Kim, Daniel and Maggie…I am Patti McGovern’s mom and for some reason, probably because I am Patti’s Mom and Jack’s grandma, I carry Elena within my heart always. Like a surrogate Grandma, because she and Jack were so close. I am very proud of you that you are going to publish. You have such a talent and it is good reading. What a story…what a family. My thoughts are truly with you today. With Love, Barbara Sullivan

  5. Been thinking of you all today. So glad to hear that you are going to publish the stories. You are truly gifted.

    Thank you so much for sharing them.

  6. Daniel,
    I’ve thinking of you, Kim and Maggie all day (week/month/year…). I miss you all so much! Jack’s class is working on personal narrative writing. His teacher asked me to come in and read his work. He recounted receiving the news that Elena had died. He’s written 6 pages so far and hasn’t gotten to the part where we tell him yet. He remembered so many little details of the moments before we told him what had happened. It’s heartbreaking to read it from his perspective. I hope he can become the powerful writer that you are with the gift of organizing the chaos of feelings connected with everything Elena into such poignant and beautiful stories. Thank you for deciding to share them with more people. You know how pleased she would be.

  7. Thank you for sharing stories about Elena and your family. Although I don’t know you, I think about you guys a lot. I’m glad to know you’re publishing a book. Hugs to you all.

  8. I came here today thinking about you all, and am so grateful that you are thinking about making your thoughts and memories more widely available.

    I recorded my six year-old son and I singing a duet and thought of you and Elena when I posted it to my blog.

    (http://butwait.blogspot.com/2008/02/blog-post_21.html, if you want to surf over and hear it)

  9. […] can’t believe it has been two years since little Elena died. Posted by Jackie Danicki […]

  10. On the anniversary I spent the evening at a friend’s house. We lit my yahrzeit candle and she said the kaddish. Then we sat quietly for a while, listening to classical violin music and the crackling of the log in her fireplace. She was dog-sitting an old, fairly sickly Australian Cattle Dog who doesn’t warm up to new people very easily. He came over to me, put his grizzled white chin on my knee, and looked up at me. It’s like he knew.

  11. I just found this blog maybe a month ago. I don’t really even know how. I read the entire thing in one day. I tried to stop (so I could get some work done) but that didn’t happen. I was sad that the blog seemed to be over. Seemed that there may not be another post. Today, I checked it again and to my surprise there was a post! Nice to see you writing again. Not sure if I should really even be reading this right now since I have 2 girls (ages 3 and 7), and they are both home sick today. I worry. Even before this blog, I worried. My heart goes out to you and your family. I can’t imagine, nor do I want to. I just want you to know you have a new reader. I look forward to the book, but hope the blog continues as well.

    It is very nice to meet you and your family virtually. It is a beautiful family.

  12. I remember when Katie told me about her friend, Elena. I never met her but I cried all night thinking about you, Kim, and Maggie. I cried because the news caused my best friend to hurt and my goddaughter was hurting… and I wanted to come all the way to Cleveland and stop the hurting for all of you.

  13. Hey Daniel,

    I check in on you and your family, on occasion. I think Elena and Owen have something in common. They are children of love. What child could ask for more?

    We have not yet passed the one-year anniversary of Owen’s death. You are farther along this path, and I think of your family often. I’m sending you a message of love, as that is all I have to give.

    Love in loss, and hope for the future,
    Linda
    Owen’s and Nat’s mom

    p.s. You know where to find me. Call or email me if you ever want to talk. Not about work, for that is a subject that means so much less, than our bond in losing our kids. I’m here.

  14. Elena is still trying to get my attention (as if she ever lost it). I sent a perfectly healthy Sarah to school to today, only to be called 2 hours later to pick her up. She was sick and needed to go home. Do you realize that we had a snow day on 2/22 with no snow and now on 3/3, I’m home with a “sick” kid.

    I was rereading the birthday entry from just after she died. I had forgotten about the chia pet story and wanted to share the rest of it with you. My father gave the girls chia pets for Christmas. I wasn’t worried about Jack not getting one. I had Scooby stashed in my closet. Kim had given it to me before we moved. Scooby, joined by Garfield and Donkey, spent the holiday season growing in my living room.

    I’m thinking of all of you today. I hope you are able to make the trek to IHOP. If not, maybe some of those rainbow pancakes?? We love you.

  15. Daniel,

    I’m so glad to see that you’re making your blog into a book. The prose is beautiful and it resonates with your deep radio-announcer voice. I look forward to re-reading it in published form. There’s nothing like a good book, and I know this will be a great one.

    Love,

    Cynthia (OHS ’79)

  16. Daniel,

    I’ve read your blog and was so touched by it. It hit home even more in April when my cousin lost her 8 year old grandson to a brain anuerism (sp). They are still lost and as you know, things will never be the same. I’v wanted to forward them here but they are not ready for anything right now. Please keep us posted on your book and I’d like to wish you and your family the best. Thank you.

  17. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Incomparableness.

  18. Hi Daniel,

    I wrote you earlier this year to tell you about my cousin who lost her grandson. They are still grieving deeply which is quite understandable since its only been a few months. I don’t know how to help. Are there any books or any suggestions in general you can give me to help?


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