If I could talk with you just one more time, the first thing I would want you to say wouldn’t be how much you love me, or how happy you are to see me, or even that you’re proud of me and that I haven’t completely failed you as a daughter. No, there is just one word I would want to hear from you at first: “cheese.”
Okay, I know that sounds silly, but let me explain. It’s only because in that first moment, I would want to be taking your picture. In the 10 and a half years since you’ve been gone, I’ve realized that we have so few pictures of you. Whenever my heart begins to hurt as I think of you, I go to look for pictures, and there aren’t that many. And let’s be honest- of the few I do have, there weren’t many you wanted to be posing for. You preferred to be behind the camera, while I would fight to be in front of it (where did that come from?). So anyway, the first thing I would do is take a picture of you that would capture your warmth, and capture that smile I miss so very much.
Next, I would tell you the funniest story I could possibly think of, just so I could hear you laugh. I remember when you would come see my plays when I was younger, and you would sit in the audience night after night, laughing at each joke as though you were hearing it for the first time. My friends and I would giggle and roll our eyes backstage, and say things like, “Well, at least we have one fan, because Kim’s mom is here again!” I would pretend to be so annoyed by that shrill, high-pitched laugh, but I am telling you right now that I would give anything to hear that laugh just one more time.
Finally, after the picture and the laughter, we could have a conversation. Truly, I don’t even know where I would begin. As much as it pains me to say it, I would probably just tell you that I’m sorry. I know I wasn’t always the most pleasant teenager to be around, and I fought you tooth and nail on everything. I wanted so badly to be independent and to be an adult, but sometimes I forgot to just be your little girl and to let you be my mommy. I thought I was on top of the world and that I knew everything, but I can honestly say that I’ve spent every single day since you died realizing that I never knew just how much I didn’t know.
I remember when I moved out into my first apartment, and you would call me every night- “Where are you? Are you at home? Are you safe? Who are you with?” My ridiculously rebellious response would always be, “I don’t live with you anymore, and I don’t have to tell you.” We would hang up, and within 20 minutes, Dad would call me and say, “I know you don’t live at home anymore, but your mother is worried, so can you please just call her and tell her you’re okay?” I would, albeit reluctantly, griping about how you were nagging me and trying to be too involved in my totally grownup and awesome life. These days, I see it differently. I had a mom who cared about me and my well-being, and wanted the best for me. What can I say, that you loved me too much? I wish I could pick up the phone and call you, check in with you, hear your voice.
I wish you could listen to me and give me some advice. I miss our long talks almost more than anything else. Even my friends would come over and end up spending all of their time talking to you, rather than hanging out with me. I was always a little bit jealous, but looking back, I can see that you were so smart and intuitive, and how could anyone not want to hear what you had to say? I want to hear you tell me about all of the mistakes I’m making on a daily basis… but how you will support me and love me no matter what I do wrong. I want to see you fight for me like you used to, with such an intense passion and ferocity in your eyes that no one would want to go up against you.
I would tell you that I don’t care how long I’ve been without you- I never forget about you, and you’re with me all the time, in spirit. I try to think about how you would handle situations I find myself in, and I wonder what you would think about frivolous little things, like songs, jokes, or Hugh Grant’s character in Love Actually. Would you even still like Hugh Grant, or would you think he aged terribly, and move on to someone else? Also, I know it’s not what you would want, but I will always feel guilty celebrating my birthday. It’s just a shitty day.
And now, this is the moment where I would want to hear that you love me, that you’re happy to see me, and that you’re proud of me and I haven’t completely failed you as a daughter. I would want you to tell me that everything is okay and that I’ve occasionally made some good decisions. I hope that you would feel that I am on my way to becoming the best version of myself that I could possibly be, and that when you were pregnant with your first child, dreaming of what I would grow up and be like… well, maybe I’m not too far off from that picture you had in your mind.
I guess the goodbye would be the hardest part, but at least I would actually have a chance to say goodbye this time. I don’t know if it would really help make it easier, but I wish I would have been able to say it before. Ten years have passed, and I still cry each time I think of you. The pain never goes away, and I doubt it ever will. I hope you know that I still love you as much as I always have, and that I miss you every single day.