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Stay With Me

Stay With Me

– Jen Feener –

A child reading a picture book.

They say that life has a way of giving you exactly what you need when you least expect it. That when one life ends, another is born. Some even say that when that life ends, their presence lives on in life. That in fact, they can be felt in the air’s crisp breath, the wind’s quiet whisper and the sun’s warm rays. I, however, have never felt this. I hope everyday that you are still with me, but the unknown scares me. I need some reassurance.

It’s bad enough you never even got to meet her. You wished for her to look just like me. Well, you were right. She’s my mini-me.

And even more, you held her, but had no idea she was mine. In fact, you thought she was yours. Well, she sure does have your free-spirited, singing and dancing, crazy side.

Are you still with me?

***

The thought of you never being able to tell one of your cheesy side jokes to hear her infectious laughter. Or never correcting her spelling and grammatical mistakes, so much so that she can’t wait to show you a perfect piece. The thought of you never bringing her to the library to return your stack and discuss the latest best book with her. Or her never being able to learn the authenticity of good craft and why a hard copy is so meaningful. The thought of her never getting to ride, seatbelt-less, in your purple antique car for a soft-serve with sprinkles and a jackpot-winning spin in the arcade with your ‘last’ quarter. Or her never getting to poke fun at that potbelly on a hot summer’s night as you enjoy a charcoaled hot dog with relish and mustard and a cold Canada Dry.

Instead every airway has closed. The labored breathing has ended. Cancer has won.

I look for the good in everything because of you. I laugh with her every day because of you. She absolutely loves to read, so much so that she chooses a book over any toy, just as you would have done. I’m trying to show her the true value of the dollar as I work hard everyday to give her experiences instead of things.

***

The thought of you never holding her hands and dancing around in circles as you sing off-key to Elvis’ top hits to see her beautiful smile. Of you never sunbathing on your raft in the middle of the deep end as she splashes around you. The thought of you never teaching her the true skills of a solid game of 500 Rummy, so you can beat her one more time. Or never taking her shopping while Papa waits in the car and the two of you spend all his money. The thought of you never opening up the bathroom closet to an array of pink and red nail polishes for you to paint each other’s nails. Or never showing her how to properly apply the perfect shade of lipstick to match the latest outfit you bought her.

Instead the memories have faded. All is unknown. Alzheimer’s has won.

I love to dance because of you. I dance with her because of you. I sing with her at the top of our lungs, definitely off-­key, because of you. She has an obsession with chapstick and loves a good dress day. I’m trying to show her the power of finding the joy in life’s little moments, as I strive to teach her to embrace her wild side and be the bubbly life of the party.

***

We visit your grave sites constantly.

We sit on your bench, tossing back popcorn and calmly breathing in the salty fresh ocean air. “Hi Pops!” she shouts in excitement as her tiny fingers touch your plaque. “Breathing is Easier By the Ocean.” I hope you are breathing with us, unlabored.

We water the flowers and touch the smooth placard as we tell you about the day. “We’re going to feed the ducks, Nana!” she screams in excitement as she plops a little kiss on your picture. I hope you are taking in each story and moment, filing them in your memory, unlost.

***

I hope everyday that you both are still with us. In the bounce of her step as she jogs along the path beside the pond.“Chase me, mama.” Chase her with me. In the grip of her fingertips as she turns the page of her latest story. “What happened to the bear, mama?” Turn the page for her with me. In the twirl of her dress as she spins around in circles. “Do ballerina with me, mama!” Spin her around with me. In the pitch of her voice as she sings along from the backseat. “I want Girl Jam, mama!” Sing to her with me. In the clasp of her hand as she throws rocks into the water. “Ready, mama? 1, 2, 3!” Gather more rocks for her with me. In her warm embrace as we snuggle up to a good movie before bedtime. “Good night, mama. I love you. See you in the morning.” Snuggle her with me.

Stay with her always, just as you have stayed with me.


About the Author – Jen Feener
Jen Feener

Jen Feener is a mother, public school teacher, travel concierge, and children’s author. Born and raised in Massachusetts, when she is not writing or working, Jen can be found playing with her daughters, participating in sports, exploring nature, or baking in the kitchen. Her family and adventures with her children inspire much of her work that is both educational and written from the heart.


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