What I Want You to Know About 9/11

“Are you OK?” I ask you. You scratch gently again at your cheek, which is reddening a little from your touch, and then your hand jerks back toward your ear where it finds another itch to scratch.

“I’m fine,” you say, but you don’t appear fine to me. Apart from the sudden scratching at phantom itches, you are suddenly twitchy. Your eyes keep looking down at the table and then meeting mine again. You shift side-to-side.

“Is this making you upset or scared?” I ask. You tell me no. You say that you just have a little itch.

“OK,” I say with a sigh. And then I continue where I left off. “So, two of the planes flew into some big buildings. And the heat from that made the buildings fall down. A lot of people died, and it was a very sad day for the country…”

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What I Want You to Know About Back to School Night

I stand outside the door to your classroom, peeking around the other parents lined up ahead of me to sign in, as if this is a new ride at Disneyland. I am just excited to see where it is you’ve been spending your days after I drop you off, to get a sense of that ever-growing part of your life I don’t get to witness firsthand. Immediately I notice there are pictures hanging above the desks of faces you and your classmates have drawn. I start to search for one that resembles you but I can’t find it from this distance. I start taking in the arrangement of the desks, the layout of the room, the Disney decorations lining the walls. I am seeing how everything fits together.

And then it just hits me that your mom is missing.

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What I Want You to Know About BTS

A couple of weeks after your mom died we were on our way to get some dinner when BTS’s “Mic Drop” started playing on the car stereo. It was part of a playlist I made for our car rides together after I finally came to accept the fact that you were only interested in listening to about four or five songs on repeat at any given time.

The rotation in the playlist changed over time. When I first made it and was driving you to and from preschool every day, we listened to a lot of Disney music, the Ghostbusters theme song, and a couple tracks by Twenty One Pilots. For a stretch, we listened to a clean version of the song “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar. During that phase, I would turn red whenever you shouted out in public, “My left stroke just went viral!” I didn’t know any better than you did what the lyric meant but I suspected that a three-year-old maybe shouldn’t be rapping it.

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What I Want You to Know About Aging

I am getting to be old.

I feel it especially in my knees and my lower back. I play basketball for an hour and I spend the next week bent slightly askew at my standing desk, as if perpetually preparing to bow politely to anyone who stops by my office to ask a question. Like, “Why are you standing like that?” Occasionally, I think about sitting, but the last time I did that my knees sounded like the attic floorboard of a condemned house and I’m worried I might not be able to get vertical again once I’m down.

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What I Want You to Know About the Gift of Subtraction

“What is he into these days?”

That has been one of the most common questions I have heard from friends and family members since your mom died. Very seldom are they asking out of mere curiosity. They want to get you something. Anything to spoil you a bit and take your mind off your loss.

It makes total sense. When we see a hole in something we care about, our instinct is to fix it. And when we can’t fix it, we fill it. A Spider-Man toy is no replacement for your mom, but if it gives you a few moments of joy that takes your mind off the pain you feel, why not get it for you? Same with this Lego set and that stuffed animal and this video game and that jigsaw puzzle.

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What I Want You to Know About Our Vacation

“There’s a fish!” you exclaim as you point to the water pooling near the bank of Rock Creek. I look down but, at my angle, the hazy sunlight casts a glare that makes it impossible to see what you are looking at. I move closer to you and now I can see that you have spotted a small minnow struggling against the easy current. Forest fires have darkened the skies and obstructed the usually transcendent mountain views but somehow the water running through this idyllic town of Red Lodge remains clear as glass.

“Wow,” I say. “Good eyes.” 

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Guest Post – Burial Day

Today we gathered to place Jaime’s ashes in the ground. It was a hard day for all of us, though it was nice to be able to have a live event to bookend last year’s online memorial service. Several people eulogized her beautifully today and, since I have been a little preoccupied, I decided to share one of them here in lieu of my own post. So, this is what my big sister had to say today. Love you, Heather.

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What I Want You to Know About Survival Rates

Your mom and I never talked about cancer survival rates, and the doctors never mentioned them to us, either. A couple of websites I checked out encouraged the patient and his or her family to stay away from such statistics. So did a book I ordered in the weeks after your mom was diagnosed.

But I couldn’t help myself. I looked them up.

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What I Want You to Know About My Imperfect Wife / Your Perfect Mom

We were waiting in line at Legoland for a roller coaster you had been wanting to try all day when you started to get anxious. “I want to get out of the line,” you said. “I don’t want to do this ride anymore.”

I squatted down so I could meet your eye. “That’s fine. We don’t have to do it,” I said. “But I want you to know that a lot of times rides look scarier than they are, and I know you would have fun on this one.” My words did not soothe your nerves, however, so we excused ourselves with apologies to the people behind us and zig-zagged our way back to the main walkway.

I started to ask you what ride we should do next but then I noticed you were crying. “What is it?” I asked. “Are you embarrassed? You don’t need to be ashamed about not wanting to do the ride.”

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What I Want You to Know About Faded Memories

Your memories of your mom are fading, as much as we both fight to keep them alive. More and more when I ask you if you remember the way she would do something or something she liked to say, the answer is, “No.”

“Do you remember how she would sing, ‘All of the time, all of the time, all of the time, all of the time’?”


“She liked to watch design and cooking shows. Do you remember that?”


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