We were supposed to have more time.
You were supposed to live for 20 more years, at least. You were supposed to be there to keep right on telling me to buy the kid the t-shirt that makes his face glow, even if it does have an ugly cartoon character on it. That I would someday miss planning birthday parties and picking up Pokemon toys on the floor. That mud and strawberry stains on a certain little girl’s dresses were such very small annoyances in the grand scheme of a life.
I mean, I get it--I was a slow student. But, you have to forgive me, I expected you'd be there to say those things--in the tactful, often funny, way that you did--several hundred more times, at least. I didn’t understand that this was a timed learning exercise.
For heaven sakes, we were finally moving into a house with a guest room. You could come see the kids and be comfortable. You could stay for more than a few days without us all struggling not to curse as we tripped over the extra cot in the living room, the one you patiently slept on every time without complaining.
We were going to go to Disney World in a few years. And as much as I am not #TeamDisney, I was going to let everyone drag me along because I wanted the kids to have that memory of going with you. I could already see the beautiful photographs we would have--you and Bette laughing as she drug you on the tea cup ride, your hands resting on Knox’s shoulders from behind as the two of you both gazed up at the fireworks.
There were supposed to be half a dozen more camping trips to Roaring River. Stringers full of fresh caught trout and walks through the hatchery. There would be more Spring Breaks with too many trips to McDonald's, too many M&M's from the little plastic tubes, too many visits to The Toy Store. Trips to Kansas City for musicals as the kids got older. Dance recitals and soccer games and so many other things I hadn't even imagined yet. You were supposed to be there for all of it.
And then, when Dennis died, you would come stay with us so much it would feel like you had moved in. And you would make me nuts because you always put the dishes away wrong, and I'd make you crazy shuffling glasses back into straight lines when I thought you weren't looking. But it would all be OK, because, at the end of the day, we each knew that the other one fiercely loved the same three people--Blaine, Knox, and Bette—and that was always good enough to get over the rest.
In loving them and taking care of them, we were--entirely and without hesitation--comrades-at-arms, and you always had my back. It had almost become a joke with Blaine and I. "Do you think maybe we should actually ask your mom if she can help us out with the kids that week?" I would say with a reproachful look. "Eh, I know that if we need her, she'll be here," he would answer shamelessly. And, gosh darn it, you never gave me a chance to prove him wrong.
Being me, I hated to impose or ask for help, but boy were there times I was grateful to have you there. When you came last month—when I was having such a tough time at work and needed help for those few days that Bette didn't have school—you made sure everyone got fed and loved, you picked up Knox early from school, you sorted all the kids' out-of-season clothes. And even though I’ll always probably remember that most because it was the last time we saw you, it wasn’t like it was out of the ordinary.
But it isn't very honest of me to imply that it was just our shared family that you showed up for. Because I know that it was me, too. Do you remember last year when my grandma died? When I emphatically told you and Dennis not to come to the funeral but you came anyway? I thought you'd be in the way. Blaine and Dennis kept telling you not to bother. But you stubbornly insisted.
You stayed in that crappy motel and ate what had to be the worst grocery store fried chicken in history. All because--even though I didn't even know it myself until I was sobbing in a pew over my grandmother’s casket--you knew it would make me feel a little less alone to have someone who was there just for me. I never told you, but in that moment I was so glad you were there.
And I never said "thank you" enough. Dear god, I never said it enough. As I was standing with Blaine by your bedside Friday night that was all I could think. You weren't there anymore to say it to, but I was practically screaming it in my head as you so quietly slipped away.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for Blaine. Thank you for the husband and father that you raised him to be. Thank you for making him into a man who shows up and cares for people, just like you did. Thank you for all the parts of you that are in my babies. Thank you for being a grandma who was always ready to throw rocks in the water with Knox or take Bette to the park. Thank you for loving them so hard that I can't even let myself think about all that they're going to miss without you. Thank you for taking me into your family. Thank you for taking care of me, even when I was a stubborn, proud ass. Thank you for your endless examples of love-in-action. Thank you for living your life so well that the rest of us are all a little lost now that you’re gone. Thank you.