My dear Paula,
I understand you are now in a better place, but I doubt I am anywhere near where you are. Grieving has five stages, and I seem to be going back and forth between stages in no logical order. You don’t remember, but right before the end, I had a big meltdown because quite honestly, I didn’t want to be in the world of the living without you. Although I am the older sister, you were my rock. Who can I shock with my adventures? My ideas about hair and makeup? My refusal to color my grays. Use strident nail colors? Go to the store to get water in my PJs?
I do not just miss you. I lack of you.
You are not here. You are gone. You will forever be gone. But I see you everywhere. The picture of when you graduated from high school. The hippie flip-flops I wore to that fancy restaurant, and you almost fainted. The pink Adidas baseball cap you used to go on walks with Jose whenever you visited me. Whenever I look at Pepita and she is sitting in her favorite spot with the tip of her tongue tilting out, I see you. How can even that tiny little dog remind me of you? At times I think you have come to visit through her stare to show me that you are here still.
You know how much respect I have for life matters. But we need to talk and have a laugh about your cancer and passing away like we always had laughs about all the big things we went through as women and as mothers, daughters, professionals, individuals. Like how we laughed and cried simultaneously about the time you lost your job and now would have time to take naps in the afternoon like you always wanted. Or when we just looked at each other in silence when dad passed away, a gaze that only you and I understood—all the memories we would miss. Smothering Juan Diego like the older sisters we were just because we couldn’t believe when he arrived, and we were already grown-up girls. (Remember when we went into our parent’s large bathroom and attempted to give him a haircut!)
We need to talk.
No one will ever be able to be my sister, no one.
How can that be? How could I be a sister to you and now I am a has been sister? Who can I turn to and tell private jokes about mom only you could get?
I cannot get myself to change the name for your number. I can’t. Or get rid of your email. Sometimes I intentionally prompt it on my Outlook just so, in a way, you are still there. Your house is yours, Paula’s house. I can’t say it is Jose’s house. It’s your house.
Luciana gave me one of your beautiful handbags; it smells of you. I placed it in its cover wrap and in my closet. I cannot use it. That bag is you, your taste, your style, your look.
The scarcity of you is loud.
I promised myself I would keep you alive for the girls. Luciana and Salome are going to miss so much of you. That soft, careful walk. Your beautiful hands and feet. Your love of cheese—anything in your world was better with a little sprinkle of cheese. The impeccable manner of your living. You made everything better. How you folded neatly the simplest of napkins. Held your hair in a bun like a ballerina. Mixed pasta sauce in soft, immaculate folds. In a world of loud, you were gentle so stridently you stook out. “Paulita” was the constancy of my life.
We need to talk, I miss you.