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I remember you so clearly in my mind, hunched over the breakfast table doing the crossword puzzle. I loved the way your brow furrowed when you were thinking hard. Your face lit up like a light bulb when you figured the answer out. Sometimes, I remember sitting there, hardly touching my breakfast, just watching you. I wanted to be like you. I wanted to know the things you knew.
I remember trying to play the piano, thinking I would finally be good enough for you to smile at me. But I never was. “Cut out that damn racket!” you would shout from your office. Your office. I loved it up there. I remember tip-toeing down that hallway, passed your bedroom and toward the one that used to belong to me. I remember tentatively knocking on the door. “Come in!” you would shout. I could never tell if you were in a good mood or a bad mood. You were always yelling.
I remember you looking up at me, pulling yourself from whatever new poem you were writing. You beckoned me to come in, and I did, sitting in that huge lumpy chair right across from you. I jumped onto the chair and I swung my feet in the air. You smiled at me, one of those rare smiles that made me grin from ear to ear, and asked if I'd been writing anything recently. I nodded my head vigorously and pushed my journal across your desk for you to read.
You read my newest story carefully, as if my childish scribble was actually legible. You crinkled your eyebrows in concentration and I looked around the room for something to hold my attention. I finally landed on the rock looking thing that I always played with. It was brown and looked like poop. I picked it up and studied it, trying to mimic your look. After a while you cleared your throat, and my eyes snapped to your face.
“That's a really good start, but can I give you some feedback?” I nodded my head. I loved your critiques. You were always honest and even when you said something wasn't good, you always made me feel happy. You inspired me. We talked about my story for a while, while I continued to play with the poop rock. Finally, you asked me if I knew what it was. I told you what I honestly thought and you gave me a nod of approval. I loved that. I loved that look. I loved making you proud.
“It's really poop?!” I asked. And you chuckled lightly, that familiar look of academic excitement sparkling in your eyes, but your face was serious. It was always so serious. You told me that it was fossilized dinosaur poop, and to this day, I still think that's awesome. I remember thinking how cool it was that you got to keep dinosaur poop on your desk right where everyone could see it, when I wasn't even allowed to bring a mud pie inside without someone yelling at me.
We talked for hours about fossilized dinosaur poop, reading, writing, science, and other interesting things. I loved those talks. I loved how you talked to me like I was an adult rather than just another little kid. I hated when you'd get up from behind that desk and tell me that it was time to go and do something else. I could have talked to you for a thousand more hours. I wish now, that I was able to talk to you for at least one more hour.
That story that you liked, I finished it. I dedicated it to you and everything. It wasn't very good. But you read it anyway. You were sick then. It was around Thanksgiving and you said you loved it. You said I still had to work on it, but you were proud of me. You didn't say you were proud a lot. Those few words made me the happiest kid in the world. If it hadn't been for your instructions on how to get better and your constant encouragement, I don't think I would have ever finished anything. I don't think I would be writing this letter.
I used to fight with the other kids to see who got to sleep over your house. Most of the kids didn't really want to. You scared us. Especially when you weren't in a good mood. You always yelled at us for making the tiniest noise. You didn't like that we were loud and noisy. I almost always won the fights, 'cause I fought the hardest. I didn't care if you yelled at me. It was worth it if I could catch just an hour of your attention.
The last time I slept over, I gave you a different story to look over. You liked it, but you said I could do much better. You said I had “potential” that I hadn't yet reached. I wonder what you would think of my writing now? I wonder if you'd like my stories? I think you would. You're one of the most intelligent people I've ever met in my entire life. You passed your love of words and reading and science onto me. I just wish we'd gotten a little more time with each other.
The last time we spent time together, we went to the art museum. You were sick. You had to be in a wheel chair. There was a hall of mirrors, but you weren't allowed to go inside, so you waited patiently for me. You said you didn't mind because it would have made you dizzy anyway, but I wish you would have come in. I wish you would have explained to me why the light refracted the way it did to cause the reflections. I asked you about it, but you said you'd tell me some other time. You never did. We went through the entire art museum and I remember that you were just as excited about it as me.
“When you get better, can we come back?” I remember asking. You nodded your head and there was a ghost of a smile on your pale face. “And then we can go in the hall of mirrors and you can tell me why mirrors reflect!” I remember saying excitedly. You smiled a real smile. You liked my inherent curiosity. You liked that I loved to learn just as much as you did. I know that if you had a favorite out of all of us kids, it probably would have been Joshua, 'cause he was smart like you. But you were my favorite.
The last time I saw you, you were in a hospital bed. You're eyes were closed and you had no emotion on your face. I hated that. When it was only me and you in the room by ourselves, I climbed onto your bed and tried to make you frown, 'cause it was more familiar. I pushed your eyebrows down and tried to crinkle your forehead, but it didn't work. It wasn't the same. I brought a box of things with me that I knew you would have liked. I brought books and magazines and pencils and papers. I even went to the gift shop and bought a soft brown bear named, Woody. I clutched him to my chest and cuddled up next to you, even though I knew you would have hated that.
I talked to you. They said it was okay if I did that. I told you I wanted you to wake up, but that I wouldn't be mad if you didn't. Did you hear me? I told you that I would never be noisy again, or make you yell at me, if you just woke up. I remember that it was cold outside, and you looked so cold. I didn't think it was fair. I remember them pulling me away from you, telling me it was time to go home, that visiting hours were over. Before I left, I sneaked a kiss on your cheek. You never used to let me do that, but I thought you wouldn't mind.
I remember when they called us. It was two days after Christmas and Jordan called us all inside. Me and Zak and Sophie and some of the other kids had created a clubhouse with the boxes. I always liked the boxes we accumulated almost better than the presents that came inside of them. I liked building forts. I remember that I was playing outside when they called. And I knew. I knew before anyone else. I played the words over and over in my head. The eight of us gathered around the speaker phone and my parents told us the news.
They cried. I didn't. When they hung up the phone, and all the other kids were comforting each other (most of them were too little to even understand what was going on), I ran back outside into my fort. It was windy and cold, but I was sheltered. I tried to cry, I really did. I tried to force myself, but I couldn't. So instead I wrote. I wanted to finish that last story that you read. I wanted to do something nice for you.
I dreamed about you. I dreamed about you every night. Vivid dreams. But I couldn't ever cry. Even at the funeral, and it made me feel guilty. People who didn't even know you as well as I did were crying. But I just... couldn't. Not for a long time. I remember when I finally did cry for you though. It was in late March.
I remember that Abbie didn't really understand that you were gone. She was just three, she didn't know any better. I can't remember where my parents were, but Goya had to come and babysit us for a while. It was morning, and I was cleaning the food out of Abbie's hair and off her face and high chair. Goya walked in and Abbie looked over my shoulder at the old woman, she always associated you with her.
“Where Papa at?” she asked. “Papa?” She looked all around. She loved you best. When she didn't see you, she started to cry. I couldn't take it anymore. I left Abbie crying in her high chair and ran out into the frigid morning. I climbed onto the roof of the garage, even though it was forbidden, and cried my eyes out. I missed you more than I ever thought I would.
I still miss you. I wish I could spend one more day with you. I wish I could have one more conversation. I think you would like me better now. I think you would like all of us. We're smarter than we used to be. We can hold intelligent conversations now. Everyday I wish that I could tell you about my dream, or tell you about a new word I've discovered. I wish that I could tell you that I finally learned about light refraction, but I still wish it was you that had explained it to me.
I wish that I could tell you about the new stories I'm writing. I wish you could read my poems. I wish I could talk to you about new scientific discoveries that you would just love. I wish I could tell you about the time machine that me and some of the others want to build. I wish I could show you my drawings. I wish I could talk to you about love, drugs, politics, religion, literature, and other controversial things. I wish you could meet Cameron. I think you'd like him. He's really smart and talented and amazing. I wish you were around when my parents split up, and when Jordan ditched us, leaving us to fend for ourselves. Life would have been easier if you were around.
My parents always said that you lived seven years longer than you were supposed to. They said you should have died when I was a little kid, but the bone marrow transplant worked. They always said we were lucky that you got to meet the youngest of the eight of us. They said we were lucky that you lived as long as you did. But is it selfish of me to wish that you had lived seven more years? Is it selfish of me to wish that you were here right now? I wouldn't even care if you were yelling at me. I wouldn't care if you were always angry. I just wish I had more time. I just wish you had more time.
You inspired me so much. You inspired my love of words, my love of science, my love of writing, and my love of knowledge. If it weren't for you I wouldn't be who I am today. I strive to make you proud. I wrote a story the other day that you would have loved. I wish you could read it. I wish there was some way that I could see you one more time. If I ever build a time machine with Jake, Josh, and Sadie, I would go back in time, to that day when we talked about the dinosaur poop, and I would spend hours talking to you about other stuff too.
I've been thinking about you a lot today. I really miss you. I wish you hadn't left me when you did. There's so many things I never got to talk to you about. There are so many things I wish I could say. But most of all, if I ever talked to you again, I'd tell you: You're my continual inspiration, and I love you.