Recently, Michaela, I received a copy of a home movie I had no idea existed. There hadn’t been a lot in the way of movies, and the one I knew of had been destroyed when it was loaned to a television station. Receiving this, I was surprised, and delighted, and scared to death to watch it. It was your voice that came to me then. Your face is before me all the time. Everywhere I have photographs of you. But all I had to do was think of a movie and the sound of your voice came back to me, and I was both anxious and afraid to watch it. Robbie said he’d watch it with me, but I told him no, I needed to watch it by myself, at least the first time.
It was not the scary experience I thought it would be. In fact, I found myself smiling all through it. Not only were you in it, but Nana also, who died almost ten years ago, and Grandfather. The video was taken at Thanksgiving and Christmas the year before he died, and you could already see how sick he was. His voice shocked me actually. I don’t know if that is the way it always sounded, or if it was an effect of the lung cancer and emphysema, but he sounded nothing like what I remembered.
The video made me really, really sad though. Libby was a baby at the time, and she was sitting there in her walker, and in the first video we adults were spending a ridiculous amount of time trying to get her to blow a raspberry. Meanwhile, there was my beautiful Michaela. You hovered in the background, and then you came and sat on my lap and I held you while still trying to make Libby blow a raspberry, and I was glad to see me holding you until suddenly I reached right over the top of you to do something to Libby. And I just felt so sad. I wanted to say to myself, “Stop! Get the camera off the baby who isn’t doing anything at all, and interview that beautiful little girl who you will have for only a short time after this!
And I felt sad for you, Michaela. You know I never loved anybody more than I loved you, don’t you? If it makes you feel any better, Libby had to go through the same thing. Even at the age of 20, Johnna, the baby of the family, is without a doubt spoiled, a fact that is acknowledged by all, including the spoiler and the spoiled. There are some extenuating circumstances, but nevertheless the other kids seem to take it all in stride, and I honestly don’t get the impression that they feel any less loved than Johnna. And they are not.
There is only one child in the family that Libby ever voiced any jealousy of, Michaela, and that is you. One day when she was maybe seven years old, she asked me what I would do if she was kidnapped. I thought she might be scared, so I told her not to worry, that she is not going to get kidnapped, but she kept insisting on an answer. Finally I got it, and I asked her, “Libby, are you jealous of Michaela?” She answered that yes, she was. “You always talk about Michaela,” she said, “and you cry about her.” Honestly there was close to a year of my life that I kind of recall spending way more time than was healthy laying on the couch with my eyes squeezed shut, while Alex and Libby and Robbie played with each other. For many years I must confess I was good for little.
I seem to have had not enough awareness in life of the value of each of the moments entrusted to us, and not enough awareness of myself and what I was doing in those moments. Still I suffer from this, with entire days melting into weeks into months into years without accomplishing what is before me to accomplish. But the most important thing is the love in the moments. It really hurts to see me missing out on that chance to fully engage with you in that movie, Michaela, and not only because our time together was going to be so short. It is because it hurts to see that ever a moment passed in each other’s presence when I did not make you feel my love by my ever word and action. I really don’t think you doubted it, but even if so … well, how I long now for the opportunity to old you in my arms and just say those words, “I love you, Michaela,” to tell you how beautiful you are, how intelligent, how kind, how bright is the light that you shine out into the world.
Part of the movie is Christmas morning at Nana’s, and you and Alex are opening presents. The film goes on and on, just recording everything. At one point my dad pipes up and tells your dad that he thinks this is going to end up being pretty boring for posterity, this movie that just goes on and on, and I want to tell him, “NO! This is something precious! In just a few months, you will be gone, and then Michaela, and then my mother. One day I will be sitting here watching this and it will be a gift beyond measure to see, to hear, to feel in my heart the presence of those I love and miss so much. Let the film go on, let it roll forever and ever. Let it not end with the opening of gifts, but let it record the playtime, the dinner, to the brushing of teeth and tucking into bed at night. Let it go on and on and record all the days of all our lives! Let it never, ever end.”
I don’t know if I will post it here on the blog. For one thing, I have to get some smart person to upload it onto the internet to do that, and for another, I don’t know if I want to, because it does make me so sad. We will see. Meanwhile, last week was Libby’s birthday, and she came down from Oregon and we all went to dinner. I figured I’d include a photo of me with Libby for you. For your next birthday, if it is possible, my wish is for a photo of me and you together, Michaela.
I love you forever baby girl. I will see you again.