Dear Aunt Becky,
Mom and I are both writing letters to you. Mom thinks it might help us. I hope so.
I want to say how grateful I am for all those times you took me to practice for basketball, volleyball, and ice hockey when mom wasn’t able to. Too busy she says now, inching her way up that corporate ladder. She’s sorry she bailed on you last time for lunch. Stupid, useless meeting, she said. It will probably be in her letter.
I’m thinking back Auntie Becky to when I was five years old and at soccer. Do you remember that? You drove me to practice that day and I got kicked in the face by a soccer ball. I tried so hard not to cry. But I did cry. Blake’s mom called me a baby not just once, but over and over again. She said: You shouldn’t play if you can’t handle getting hurt.
Aunt Becky, you heard her. I know you did, even though you always denied it. I saw you walk away and left me standing there by myself as Blake’s mom rubbed her eyes, whined like a baby would, and stuck her lower lip out. I was so mad at you at the time because you abandoned me like that. Then a soccer ball thundered across the field from the sidelines and crashed into her glasses. Her spectacles became slanted on her face.
Blake’s mom looked around, not sure where the ball came from. You strode across the grass, arms swinging by your side, nose elevated and said: Sorry about that. I was just checking the balls to make sure they weren’t too low. We have to make sure they’re inflated enough for the team.
Blake’s mom was angry with and you and screamed, you did that on purpose! And you said, who me? Don’t be so paranoid. But I guess you shouldn’t come out to cheer your kid on if you can’t handle a little punch in the face by a stray soccer ball.
Blake’s mom scowled at you.
We went for ice cream afterwards.
I always knew you were there for me. That’s why a couple of years ago I called you when the first guy I ever liked Eric, brought me to my the Spring dance and dumped me there. Eric was all nice and sweet at our house buying me a corsage, pinning it to me, and then us chatting together when we were in the backseat of his mom’s car. But when we got there he wanted to dance the first song with Felicity. He asked if it was alright with me. I wanted to be a “cool” girlfriend and thought it’s only one song, so I said, sure. Felicity was taller than me, with bigger breasts, and juicier lips. They kissed during that song. I ran out of the gym in tears and called you.
I didn’t call mom and dad. Because you were my best friend and the one I could always depend on. When you got there, you said that you were going to go onto the dance floor and pull Eric out by his ear. I begged you not to. Instead, we went shopping. You bought me a new pair of jeans and a shirt that I could wear that night. Then we had dinner and saw a movie. After dinner you said, I need a cigarette.
I shouldn’t have bothered you about smoking. I just wanted you to stay forever.
Aunt Becky, I’m furious for a lot of reasons. One reason is because you drove me to basketball practice on Tuesday night, stayed, drove me home, and that I forgot my bag in your car.
I’m also angry that the last thing you said to me was: I’ll see you on Saturday. Well, I saw you on that Saturday. But you weren’t you.
Someone decided that your hair should be curled; your face was white-white with red blush marks streaked across your cheeks that made you look like a clown. There was red lipstick on your lips. Your eyes were closed and your fingers were weaved together. They sat on top of your chest.
It wasn’t you.
Why did they do that? Why didn’t they put you in that black cocktail dress that you loved so much? You know the one. It was the one you wore to every occasion. And they should have used your light bronze gloss instead. You hated red lipstick.
I’m sorry Aunt Becky I didn’t get too close to you the last time I saw you. I couldn’t.
After you dropped me off on Tuesday you should have gone home and had a glass of red wine from Australia with Uncle Pat. Then you probably would have had another cigarette in the garage. Uncle Pat always disliked your silly habit. He banned you from smoking inside for his health and the health of others.
You should know that Uncle Pat insisted that he help with the wooden box. His wife, he said. He looked like he was being crushed by the weight of the coffin; shoulders were hunched forward, and his eyes were red-rimmed. Uncle Pat looked as if he prematurely aged ten years that day.
Not that you were heavy. I remember the way Uncle Pat picked you up, twirled you around, and threw you over his shoulder. Auntie, your head bobbed up and down and you snorted with laughter and said: I’m not your cavewoman! Uncle Pat always said: caveman-meet-feminist-smoking-hot-woman. Caveman-win-woman-with-caveman-charm.
I forgot my bag in your car. I had a report that was due the next day.
When I called you on your cell phone, you turned your car around.
I told Mom, it’s my fault. Stupid bag. Stupid report.
Mom says it’s not my fault: That man was drunk. He ran that light. It was poor judgement on his part. The rest of it: Becky being at that intersection, at that time – just bad luck.
I dreamt last night that we were laughing and walking on a beach in Australia, (Remember? You said you would take me when I turned 18?) sun setting, salty waves crashing on the beach lulling me into a sense of blissful peace. For no reason, you stopped all of a sudden, smiled at me, and gently kissed me on both cheeks and walked away towards the ocean.
I started to scream and cry: Aunt Becky, where are you going? You can’t leave me here by myself! You brought me thousands of miles away from home, and I have no idea how to get back! I stomped my feet in the sand and asked you: How could you do this to me?
You turned around and said: Call your mom and dad, or Uncle Pat. I would love to stay, but I can’t.
You gave me one last wave and a smile. Then I watched you wade into the water. I watched right until your head disappeared over the waves.
I waited on the shoreline for a little while longer, hoping you would come back.
When I finally turned around and looked behind me, mom was there. I ran towards mom crying so hard while screaming something towards her; but I slurped on my words and they were a jumbled mess of: Becky, not here, ocean. I made absolutely no sense. Mom immediately took off in a sprint towards me. As we got closer, I could see that Mom was crying just like me, and her arms were outstretched. When we reached each other, she didn’t even hesitate – she wrapped her arms around me tightly.
It’s been a few months and mom and I are closer now. But, I still miss you. I felt bad telling mom that, but I did. And she said: Of course you do. Great people are missed.
We’re both writing letters to you and burning them. Not because we’re trying to purge the thought of you. That will never happen. But this gives us a chance to say the things we didn’t. Mom also thinks that if we burn the pages they will float to heaven and it will be as if we’ve mailed our letters to you. I don’t know if it’s true, but the thought makes me smile.