One hand trailed the picture, and the other wiped at her eyes. She could finally let them fall. Her memories could finally find a place in her tears. She didn’t have to be strong anymore, no one was watching. There he was, staring at her through all the times they had spent together. Ah, one of her favorites. He was holding an umbrella, but not for both of them. He only held it for himself as she stood soaking wet in the rain. That memory…” You only wish I was kind enough to give you some cover! But I’m just gonna let you stand there and get soaked.” I was laughing, he always joked like that. “Not without a fight!” I chased him all through the parking lot. We must have looked so strange weaving our way through all the parked cars. I was never quite fast enough for him. Before I could ever get very far, he always caught me and slung me over his shoulder. Then he said something about me being beautiful even though I was out of breath, mascara was streaked down my face, and my hair was tangled in a sopping mess.
My hands shook as I turned the next page. He was sitting in a swing and I was struggling with all my strength to push him really high. It wasn’t working. I laughed despite the grief that showed through my eyes. He always did that to me. He made me laugh even when I felt completely lost and alone. Even in death, he could still make me laugh. I remember his voice…”HIGHER! Push me higher!” He made his voice sound like a little boy. “I’m trying!” My voice came out in a more of a grunt, I was struggling so hard to push him. My laughter was dying out now, because I knew I would never have a chance to push my precious husband ever again. I would never hear him raise his voice several notches higher, just to sound like a little boy. I flipped the page. Flipping pages, flipping though time, through stories, through moments, through love.
There it was, one of the hardest times of our marriage. I saw a picture of the blue nursery. It was boyish in all it’s decorations. We were expecting a baby. A child, I had always wanted a little one. My husband was so set on having a boy. I was so excited to tell him that it was, indeed, a boy. It was incredible how fast he painted that room and set up little footballs and basketball posters. “He’s not even going to understand what he’s looking at.” I always had to remind him our son was just going to be an infant. He always said back to me ” I gotta start him young. If he’s gonna be a man like me, I gotta start him young.” After awhile, I just let my poor husband be, he could do all he wanted. My husband was happy and that always made me smile.
Then the news came. The hardest I had heard in all my 21 years of living. My baby had died. I wasn’t going to have a baby boy. I wasn’t going to have a child anymore. I already loved my son. I already talked to him and sang to him. I read him stories…all my favorite Dr. Sueuss books. I forgot how to breathe. I called my husband. I was in front of our house, when his car tore into our drive. He didn’t have to say anything. He knew, with one look, he knew. His little boy wasn’t going to make it. His son would never see those posters, those little footballs, or bats. Everything he wanted his son to love would never even be seen. And even through all that, my husband put aside the loss of his son, because he knew he needed to be strong for me. And there we stood, in our driveway, holding on to each other, to the hope that there would be a tomorrow. I flipped the page. That memory still stung. It still brought tears to my eyes when I thought of the boy we lost.
The next page was safer ground. Without warning, my face broke out into a smile. I rememberd that day clearly. Valentine’s day. He brought home white daisies for me. He held them behind his back and then he started to shout a song, only he knew. I recalled the words of his song “Roses are red, Violets are blue, I brought home daisies, cuz’ I sure do love you!” He sang those four lines over and over again. Singing was never his gift, but he always knew how to love me…even in the most ridiculous ways. From that day on, I left little four-line poems everywhere that always began with, “Roses are red.”
So many moments wrapped in all these pictures. So many times I felt safe in his arms. So many words engrained in my mind. I missed him. I missed him terribly. I felt the loss like a million voices had left the room. I forced myself to turn the page. He was holding our daughter. A couple years after the loss of our son, God blessed us with a daughter. Our nursery was pink now. With just as much fervor as he had painted it blue, he splashed it in little girl pink. He bought her dolls, (at least a dozen) and took special care in setting up each one. I can still remember how he held our daughter. She looked so fragile in his huge arms. I couldn’t believe I was blessed with such a man. He’d given me a beautiful baby girl.
In the next pictures I saw my husband as a proud daddy taking his girl everywhere. She was riding on his shoulders, or holding his hand. She was playing dolls and my husband was dressed as the nanny. He was teaching her how to ride a bike. He was showing her how to climb a tree. He was spinning her around and throwing her in the air. He never dropped her. He was telling her a bedtime story, giving her a band-aid, and hugging her tight. That was my husband, being her daddy in every way that mattered.
I thought I had no more tears to cry when I heard our little girl come down the hallway. She was wearing daddy’s big sweatshirt. There was pink paint splattered all over it…..well, pink and blue. It was the sweatshirt he had worn when painting the nursery. She was swallowed in it and looking even younger than her eight years. I looked away, because I never thought I would see our little girl, fatherless, wearing a huge sweatshirt. She came over and and sat on my lap.
“Honey, why are you wearing daddy’s sweatshirt?” She waited a couple mintues before answering. Her eyes were clearly searching through memories of her father. “Because..mommy…it still smells like him. If I wear it than I still feel like he’s alive. I didn’t want him to go, Mommy.” Her last sentance was lost in tears. I just held her. This was too much for a little girl to go through. It was too much for me to go through. We didn’t need to talk. There were no words to be said. What could you say to a woman who lost her husband and girl who lost her father?
Our little girl picked up the old scrapbook and turned to the first page. Even despite her tears, she found a smile deep inside. “Hey, mommy, what is daddy doing in this picture? He looks sorta funny and you are laughing at him. What happened that day?” I had just looked through that book. There were so many pages I hadn’t gotten to. My daughter must have seen the look in my eyes. “I’m sorry, mommy, we don’t have to talk about this.” She started to leave the couch. “No, honey, I want to talk about your daddy. I want to tell you about us and all we shared.” I knew my husband would want this. He would want his girl to know the love we shared and every story behind every picture. I wiped at my eyes one more time. “Oh, honey..that was a funny time. You see, your dad insisted that we have a picnic in a tree. We got everything up there in that tree and then…” I had to stop, my laughter was just too much. “What happened then?” My daughter asked in excitement. “Well”, I began, ” After we got all situated he took a drink of his soda and tipped too far back and fell out of the tree. Oh, honey, I wish you could have been there, we laughed so hard.” My daughter started giggling, the laugh I hadn’t heard since he died.
The rest of the afternoon, we spent looking through that scrapbook. I told stories of her father. She laughed, we hugged, we cried. We just couldn’t get enough of him and yet that was all we had left of him. The tears were still falling, but some were wrapped in laughter and in thankfulness for the time I had with him. As our daughter left the couch, a piece of paper fell out of her daddy’s sweatshirt. She ran down the hallway and into her bedroom. I could hear her getting ready for bed. I loved that sound. I bent to pick up the paper. And there written in my husband’s handwriting were these words:
“Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
The moment’s I have with you.
Are stored inside of me.
Dancing in the parking lot.
Painting nurserys pink and blue.
Picnics in trees and swing set smiles.
Things we only knew.
I’ll never forget.
No matter where I go.
Or if I die tomorrow.
This love we share.
Will move us through all sorrow.
Because roses are red.
Violets are blue.
The moments I have with you.
Making me love you more.”
In his thoughtfulness, he had hastily scribbled out words that would help me through the days and nights to come. I couldn’t really imagine living without him, but I knew I had to. I would always love him with a deep and uexplainable fervor. I would always miss him, sometimes in the most terrifying way, but I would live. He taught me deterimination and zest. He taught me passion for life..even without the one you love most dearly. I folded his words, now the most imporant piece of paper I owned. I tucked it in my pocket. I walked into our little girl’s room. “Mommy, tell me a story about daddy? Just one more before I go to sleep….pretty please?” I smiled, the one mixed with grief, but extreme happiness. ” I have a story, one more, just for you.” She looked at me in girlish excitement, “Does it have a name?” I thought for a moment and then looked at her and said, “Why, yes it does. It’s called Roses are Red.”