Each week at school Julia is quickly mastering new skills and her love of learning seems insatiable. She loves the fact that she knows her address, birthday and other important facts. She is creative and precocious and there are many moments that I see Wesley shining through her. I love watching the wheels turn in her mind as she connects the dots of knowledge and develops her very smart mind through experiments she learns in science class like “Sink or Float?” or hearing her sounding out syllables to form words as she begins to read.
This past week at school the students were working on learning their phone numbers and made these cute card stock “cell phones” to color in the numbers of their phone number and draw a picture of who they would call with their phones. Julia proudly brought hers home and I saw it peeking from her blue canvas bag along with colorful invitations that she had drawn to imaginary tea parties and other creative artistic endeavors. She loves to draw and there is always a very involved and detailed story around her pictures. As we drove she told me about learning her phone number and how glad she was that we only have 3 numbers that we use in our phone number so it made it easier to remember. She said from the back seat, “But I have a special phone. Mine is different from my friends and everyone is going to want to use it…” I looked at her bright brown eyes in the rear view mirror and said, “Oh, why’s that, darlin’?” She smiled broadly and said proudly, “My phone can call Heaven. When my teacher asked who we wanted to call if we could call anyone, I said Daddy. My phone can call Daddy.” My hands grasped the wheel tighter and I imagined how wonderful that would be. To just pick a magical phone and dial 1-800-2HEAVEN and be directed via celestial operator to the correct extension and to talk, really talk, to someone who has passed on. I found myself daydreaming for a moment until interrupted by Julia’s persistent voice asking me to turn up the radio so she can sing along with the Frozen CD.
We went through our routine that night. Dinner; bath; “reading lessons” and stories and songs. Julia has wanted stories about Daddy and Mommy lately, how we met and the first time Daddy ever saw her. She wants me to sing “Leaving on a Jet Plane” because Daddy used to sing that to Mommy when we lived far away from each other and had to fly on big planes. I sing it to her, rubbing her back as tears run down my face thinking of how I used to rest my head on his shoulder in the halcyon days before 9/11 when you could sit with someone at the gate and watch them from the window as the flight taxied away. Hearing Wesley softly sing about the days where we would not have to be apart, the words muffled through my hair and remembering how I would just sob about being away from Wesley for a few months until we could get enough time and money to fly to each other again makes me smile. A sweet and simple memory of young early 20-something lovers. I have a new jet plane and the flight is much longer until we are together I have discovered. Finally Julia nodded off and the house quieted, which is a noise I’m still getting used to in our home.
I thought back on the special phone and Julia’s drawing of Wesley with his dark curly hair and brown shoes which he always wore to work now on our fridge door. If the heavenly hotline was a possibility, what would I say? When his soft calm voice said, “Hello,” what would I say back?
Hi Wesley Em,
Julia and I are sad, sadness that weighs heavily on us, but are surviving. You are missed desperately by family, friends, colleagues and your reach was broad and loving. It is hard to imagine you not here in happy and tough moments that we have faced since last March. I have learned skills I never thought I’d know like hooking up the new Blu-ray player, paying bills online and usually remembering to take out the trash. You would love to see Julia starting to read the books that you bought her before she was born. We talk incessantly about you everywhere we go and Julia loves to hear stories about you and us over and over, especially the one where she cried in the middle of the night in our hospital room on her first night after her birth and you rolled over asking, “Whose baby IS THAT?” and I yelled, “OURS! She is OUR BABY!!” It is such a funny story and Julia dissolves into giggles every time I tell it. She is learning and growing so much and you would take such joy in this baby becoming a little girl. Julia is so like you and a beautiful reminder each day of our love and your lasting imprint on our little one. She rides her bike, begrudgingly eats her veggies and loves you very much. We are OK, and that is all we can ask for.
But I think you know this already. You’re next to us on the couch as Julia sounds out “PRIN-sess” in the sparkly Princess and the Pea book we bought together last Christmas. You are helping me navigate the colored wires behind the TV as try to hook up our confusing technology. You are laughing along with Julia and me as we snuggle in the bed, her white little teeth flashing as she laughs and rolls around in mirth. You bring her laughter, really genuine happiness which is hard to come by for us. You are among us, if not with us.
In the morning Julia asked again to talk to Wesley in Heaven because she cannot hear him when he answers her and she has something she wants to tell him. I said that I cannot hear Daddy with my ears either, but that he speaks to my heart. Taking her small hand in mine I put it to her chest and said, “Listen to your heart. Daddy is right there.”