I take a sip and I’m there with you in the tiny living room, in a quiet morning while the babies sleep. Before espresso and milk frothers came into my life, it was drip and some chemicals we called creamer. And it was you. Us. With stronger coffee than anyone else in our family enjoys and tired smiles.
You didn’t get to see this house. The one we bought on the exact two year mark of your death—signing and dating a thousand times like taking paper cuts to my right hand. You didn’t get to see the daisies that grew wild in the front yard (or did you and Jesus put them there?) or the hundred different ways I’ve rearranged this room. You never sat on this couch with me, sipping coffee, planning our day. But I take a sip and for a moment I imagine that you’re here. The room is different, most of the things in it are, too, the coffee is less toxic, but I can still channel you.
I can still feel your ease at beginnings. Whatever today holds, you’re here for it, and you don’t have much preference.
Let’s do something fun, but the truth is you’ll make laundry fun. With stupid jokes and an easy laugh and delight in my babies I might miss most of all things. The truth is I find myself trying to keep up with the joy because while you can float away on a happy thought, my feet are dipped in concrete.
I was telling some friends how I feel like I’ve done the heavy lifting of this grief. I’m going to the gym now, lifting weights, and at first the bar was the heaviest thing I could bench. Now I can add just a little weight—10 pounds or so— and manage it, but I can feel my muscles’ confused frustration.
When you first died I was trapped under the bar. I couldn’t lift it at all. But I tried every day until I could. And it’s a good thing, because unlike at the YMCA, life adds weight over time whether you want to or not. Every new experience, every time I reached for my phone and had to put it down, every morning I woke up forgetting and had to re-remember, 2.5 pounds, 5 pounds. A birthday, 10, a new house, 15, a baby born, 50.
The weight gets added more gently now and unlike my puny arm muscles, the muscles that support my grief are shaped and toned for this. I carry the missing and the aching with me and I only notice the extra weight when I have to climb a hill.
But every now and then it lifts and I feel lighter for just a moment. Like sipping drip coffee on a quiet morning.
Then the weight settles back in as I remember that you’re gone, but honestly? I’ll take it. I know it was once enough to press me down into the earth, take my breathe, swallow me up. And I know that if I stop lifting it on purpose it could do just that. But loving you past your time with me has made me strong and resolute. I’ll keep bearing up under this because this is what I do now. And it’s better than the alternative where I never share a cup of coffee with you anymore.
Besides, you taught me how to walk with concrete on my feet.