“Mom?” Grace called into her childhood home and tossed her bags on the chair as she’d done throughout grade school and college when she’d come home. William simply dropped his things on the floor, usually in the middle of the doorway, and nearly drove their mom mad.
“Are you here?” She yelled a bit louder after no response.
A loud crash echoed down the hall, and Grace took off. Panic filled her body as she ran from the guest room to the office, not sure where the sound originated.
When she reached the master bedroom, she saw her mom on the floor with a pile of boxes surrounding her, and heard, “Well, shit,” mumbled from her mom’s direction.
“What are you doing in here?” Grace asked. Not able to help the giggle that trickled out, she covered her mouth to hide it. You never knew what kind of mood your mom was in when all the contents of a closet were nearly crushing her. You had to tread lightly.
Lydia jumped nearly lifting her butt entirely off the floor and screamed. “My goodness gracious, Grace, you nearly killed me.”
“That’s funny. It seems to me you’re trying to do that all by yourself.”
Her mom laughed as Grace found an open space on the floor to leverage herself so she could help her mom to her feet.
“What are you doing in here?”
“Well, I had to look for something your dad gave me years ago and, for Heaven’s sake, I forgot where I’d stashed it away. I assumed it would be in your things, but haven’t been able to track it down. Then I remembered it was in a Thomas and Jane envelope and figured I tucked it away in a box full of that old paperwork. Here,” Lydia heaved a box into Grace’s arms, and it nearly made her collapse, “let’s take this one to the kitchen table. I have a good feeling about this one.”
“How in the world were you carrying this? It’s so heavy. Hey,” Grace said, as she struggled, “did you know dad liked this time of year?”
“Probably that kickboxing class I’ve been taking. And oh, yeah.” She waved her hand like it was old news. “Absolutely loved it.”
“You’re kickboxing? How did I not know that?” Or, she thought, all of these things?
“I didn’t tell you. And I guess I figured you already knew.”
Grace was shocked there would be anything her mom wouldn’t tell her. Especially after her dad passed away. They, William included, had been inseparable.
“Why wouldn’t you tell me about kickboxing? That seems silly.”
Lydia ignored her. “I want you to read something. Which is what got me on this whole kick. Well that, and Maggie, who told me at lunch about everything that’s been going on at the office. Something about a plan?” Lydia looked up and flicked her hand as if it was above her knowledge, “Anyway, it got me thinking.”
“Sure, I’ll read anything. Is it a legal document? Are you worried about investments? Maybe William would be a better person to help.”
“No, no. None of that. Here,” Lydia handed her a delicate card that looked like it had been opened millions of times. “Take this to the living room. I’ll be in the bedroom and office trying to clean up some of the disasters I’ve made.”
How strange is this? Grace thought as she eyed the worn Hallmark seal that long ago might have held the edges together.
Grace sat in a blue fabric rocking chair that must have been thirty years old and curled into it. She opened the envelope and pulled out the card. Tears welled in her eyes when she realized what she was looking at.
A card to her mom from her dad. He must have written it before, but when he had known he wouldn’t have long.
It was a picture of two figures walking hand-in-hand into the sunset. The text on the front was worn as if a thumb or finger had grazed it every night since it had been given.
“To walk beside you has been life’s greatest adventure.”
Grace covered her mouth to hold back the sobs. After sitting for a moment to regain her composure, she wiped her eyes with the sleeves of the sweatshirt she’d changed into after work, took a heavy breath, then opened the card.
My Lydia Grace,
I love you more than you’ll ever know. More than I’ll be able to tell you. I’ll tell you every day from where I am. You’ll know because you’ll feel it. That’s how strong my love is for you.
You think about life a lot when you’re nearing the end of it. The same thought keeps running through my mind, and it’s how much I’ll be missing you and how much it will seem like I’m not there to help you through this. Sweetie, it’s going to be hard, but you can do it – and I will be there. You’re so strong. The strongest woman I’ve ever known. The most beautiful, but the strongest, too.
William and Gracie are going to need you, but that’s nothing new. You’ve been their rock their whole lives. I always knew I had the easy job of coming home and being the fun dad. You made them into the wonderful people they are. I’m giving you all the credit for that, and I’m so proud to do so.
Sweetie, I could write on and on telling you of my love, but I know you know how special we are. Best friends in life. We were pulled together by chance, and it changed our lives forever. I remember how you disliked me at first. But I couldn’t live without you.
I was asked the other day if I would give anything to have a couple more days. The fact is, I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t risk the love we have, the life we’ve built, the family we’ve made. Not for a few million dollars, not for an extra day, or an extra lifetime. Being loved by you was my whole life.
You’re not going to want to read this next part, but I have to get it down because one day you’ll be ready. You’ll be ready to not be alone. The thing is I’ll always love you, and you’ll always love me. And allowing yourself to love and care for another person doesn’t change that. It’s simply allowing yourself to be loved by another. Not more, not less, just loved.
We have our love now and forever. I love you so much.
The rush of love and longing for her dad caught in her throat, her emotions uncontrollable. She watched her mom come into the room; felt the nurturing swaddle as her mom’s arms wrapped her in warmth, trading places with her in the chair to hold her and rock her as if she was just a baby.
“Shh now, Gracie. It’s okay. It’s okay. Your father, what an amazing man we had. We have. You know, I feel him all around me all the time. I must have read this card every day, a hundred times a day. He gave us such a wonderful life. And look at you and William, my beautiful babies. I see so much of him in the two of you.”
Grace knew she was talking to console, her words to soothe, but knew every word was true to her mom.
“I still miss him so much, mom.”
“I know, honey. Me too. You know, this letter, he knew I would need it. More than that, he knew long after I needed it, I would cherish it. He was so wise. So loving. So kind. He worked tirelessly to provide for this family. If I hadn’t known he was doing it out of love, I would have told him to hang it up years before he passed to just spend time with me, with us.
“We talked about it a lot. Just pack up and take off. Maybe fly to Europe, load up the car for a road trip across the States, or maybe one of those cruises that takes you to those European castles. I wish we would have done that.”
Grace felt her mom shift beneath her and realized she was probably squishing her to death. When she tried to get up, she felt her mom tighten her arms and not let her go. She simply turned so they were facing.
“Do you want to know what my favorite thing to do with your dad was?”
Grace found it surprising they’d never talked about it. That she didn’t know. She nodded.
“You and your brother were off at college. You know your dad. He was such an early riser, just like you. He would tip-toe around for only so long before he would start clanking around in the kitchen.”
Lydia went on, “I would hear it and try my darnedest to fall back asleep to get a few extra precious moments – you know when bed feels just right in the mornings? Sure enough, I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep, so I’d stumble down and he would be in the kitchen dressed and ready for us to walk out the door. Some days I’d be so irritated at his rushing me, but you know, once I was up it was nice having more of the day. He always understood the importance of not wasting the time we had.
“Then we would hop in the car and just be together. We’d go to the corner gas station, get a coffee for me, and your dad would get whatever he felt like that day. Donuts, pop, coffee with more flavored creamer than was probably good for him. We would go grocery shopping, or to a store to pick up something you or William needed. Or we would go to one of those hardware stores to think about ideas for the next house project. But we would just be. And we would talk, or not. But that time together, it was so simple, but it was everything.”
Grace couldn’t help but relive the weekend at Edna’s she shared with Luke. He’d done exactly the same. Up early to adventure around the town. It was silly, but it was time together. She wanted that. She wanted it to be with Luke.
“Gracie, I need to give you something.”
Grace felt a pat on her backside.
“I’ve had this since the funeral.”
Her mom held out an envelope with their company logo on it.
“William and I watched you leave the funeral that day seeing you so heartbroken, we both agreed that any company business could wait. The time and grieving were more important. But now, with all of the talk about, well, you know. Don’t look at me that way. Abbi, Maggie, and I talk regularly. I was worried you might need it. It could be important.”
She took the envelope and opened the seal. Nostalgia welled in her heart, knowing it had been sealed by her dad.
In an instant, he was with her, like no time had passed. The document was a financial statement from the month she had taken over as CFO. They’d had their best month ever. Now she was the acting CEO, and that came with its own challenges. But, with every change, things became better. That was an interesting thought.
Grace paused when she saw a shadow of ink seeping through the paper. She turned the statement over and found her dad’s writing.
We’ve accomplished something great here! You have accomplished something great here. Keep up the good work, Gracie. But never forget why we do it. If this is where your heart and ambition stay, I’ll be so proud. But should your heart take a chance on a new adventure, take mine with you.
The laugh came as a surprise. She looked up at her mom, and more giggles bubbled up with fresh tears. Her shoulders lifted and fell. Her sigh of relief was audible.
Grace jumped up and smacked her mom on the cheek with a kiss. She flung her bags over her shoulder and nearly leveled William as she rushed out the door.
“Love you! Bye!”
William walked in and eyed his mom. Lydia just lifted her hands and said, “The girl knows what she wants.”