“Hi, Daddy. Happy Father’s Day.”
“You still call me ‘baby’. How old am I when you picture me?”
“It varies. Some days you’re just as you were the day that you died. Some days you’re younger. Today you’re older.”
“Like a ninth grader.”
“Really? Am I as tall as you?”
“No. Sorry. I’m guessing you’d never have been tall. Your face is a little longer, your freckles have faded, and you use words that your mother and I wish you wouldn’t.”
“Especially when she’s driving.”
I picture Elena and Maggie driving sometimes. They’re in Kim’s convertible. The top is down. Both of them with their hair streaming behind. Elena telling Maggie to go faster. The image makes me smile.
Mostly I think about the living. But every once in a while I catch myself day dreaming about my dead daughter.
It’s not so surprising. I’m sitting next to her grave as I do every Father’s Day.
Last night we had our block party. A ton of people came. They brought family and friends. There were kids everywhere. I love the energy the new kids bring to our street.
Maggie and I helped the kids roast marshmallows over a wood fire and make them into S’mores.
The kids ran, scootered, skate boarded, and biked up and down the street. They climbed into the Fire Truck when it visited our block party. They sat behind the wheel and smiled back at parents with cameras.
The kids we knew already look so much older. Not just taller –they’re faces are changing. They aren’t little kids any more.
I guess that’s why I see Elena as a ninth grader. She would have finished eighth grade this past week.
“Do you remember when we would make S’mores?”
“Just you and me. Not mom and Maggie.”
“I remember both. Sometimes you and me. Sometimes all of us.”
“Good times. Good times.”
“Daddy. Last night, when you were done making S’mores, did you sit around the fire and tell ghost stories?”
“How come? Don’t you know any?”
“Sure I know plenty. My favorite one stars you.”
“Ooooh. Can I hear it?”
“It’s not very interesting.”
“I’m sure I’ll like it. Especially if it’s about me”
O.K., so I went to the doctor a few years ago for a check up.
He tested for various things and didn’t like what he saw on a heart test so he sent me for a stress test.
Mary Kay looked at the print out and said it was nothing. When I got to the stress test, the nurse looked at the print out and said it was nothing.
They gave me the test anyway.
“This isn’t a very good story.”
“I told you.”
Anyway, they checked me out, injected something, and had me lay down for an MRI.
The slid the machine over me. It barely fit. Everything from the waist up was inside this closed capsule with no room to spare. I could feel the instrument rotating just inches away.
“Did you panic Daddy?”
“I started to. Then I stopped. You crawled onto my chest and lay with your head on my heart and wrapped your arms around my neck.”
“How old was I?”
“You were like two or three. My eyes were closed because the capsule was so tight. But I felt you there. It was so comforting.”
“How did you know?”
“I don’t know baby. Conversations like this one are just playful inventions that I use to remember you by. That day was different. There’s no logical reason that it was different. It just was.”
That day on the MRI table was the last time I felt Elena’s presence.
I continue to feel her loss.