Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dear Alex

Alex Miller, loving father, husband until just recently, and an often tormented and struggling but essentially good soul, died on the morning of Friday, February 24, 2012, of natural causes: a sudden and completely unexpected heart attack. He was two weeks short of his 45th birthday. We are all in shock, and struggling to make sense of it all. These are just some of the things I would say to him right now, if I had a direct pipeline to where he is finally, at long last, knowing the peace that eluded him in life. As everyone who has followed our story for all these years knows, it was never easy, even in the best of times...but there was always love. Even when that love changed in its essential nature between the two of us, it was still there, and will always be treasured.

happy faces

Dear Alex,

You've been gone from this earth for a few days now, though none of us knew it until last night. I am sorry for that--no one deserves to leave this plane unbeknownst to the world; it's not right. I am beyond sorry that you died alone. The one thing in all the world you couldn't stand to be was alone. I'm glad that you at least had Reggie and Phoebe there with you, that you had living beings to love and care for, who loved you back and gave you comfort.

I'm sorry I didn't answer the phone that night before, in the wee hours of the morning; I wasn't aware of the single message until the dawn, just before I took Bella to school, and I couldn't make sense of it... just my name, in a text message, "Belinda." I wish I knew what you were trying to tell me, and you were gone forever mere hours later, so I will never know. I sent police officers to your house that very morning to check on you, but they just knocked on the door and went away... I wish I'd gone myself now. I couldn't have saved your life, even if I'd been right there with you, but it should have been me who found you, and it should have been me who tidied up for you one last time, me who saw you off this mortal coil.

I am so glad that the end of your time here came quickly and without pain; that you didn't have to go through yet another (and who knows how many more) Spring manic season. I'm sorry you didn't live to see your birthday in a couple of weeks. I wonder if it will snow, the way it usually does, even if it's been 70 degrees for the month prior.

I'm glad that you are finally at peace, the "peace that passeth all understanding," and that you're with your grandmother, your father, my father, all looking down in perfect knowledge and understanding at the legacy you've left in this amazing child of yours. Alex, you had so many regrets, I know... but you had a major part in creating and shaping a force that will change the world for the better--any part of it she can impact, she will. She's a powerful force, and much of that came right from you.

I am glad that our last interaction as a family was a happy one, a short time of simple domesticity, almost "normal" (though really--when was anything about us ever "normal?") in its banality. A trip to Wal*Mart. A sushi dinner. Jokes and smiles and so many shared hugs and "I love yous" between you and your adoring daughter. I didn't want to go that night--I didn't have to, but something "pushed" me, and I will be eternally grateful that it did. The last time your daughter ever saw you, you were spinning her around, her feet flying from the ground, in a giant bear-hug, the two of you laughing, happy, and exchanging declarations of your very real love for each other. I am SO grateful for that.

I'm glad that I had decided to bring Bella to visit with you on Saturday, and cherish the hope that you died preparing for and looking forward to a good long visit with your baby girl.

I'm glad I was able to give you, in your words, that one person in all the world who was the "only person [you'd] ever met who looked like [you]," who was your blood, your flesh. So many people loved you, Alex, but she was part of you, and always will be. I am amazingly grateful that she became the brilliant, resilient, honest, caring, sensitive, and tough little thing that she did. She always handled you beautifully and lovingly, even when you didn't know you were being "handled." Such a bittersweet smile comes to my lips with this thought. Any mistake you ever made in your life is more than canceled out by that amazing child. Please know that. You done good, there, my friend. Real good.

I'm sort of sorry that I took such care of you. I didn't allow you to learn to care for yourself enough. I stepped in when I maybe should have stepped back. But you were hurting, and if you hurt, I hurt, and even though in the last years the nature of our relationship had changed, I couldn't seem to just stand clear and let you fall if it was in my power to catch you. In hindsight, I wonder if that made things at the end that much harder on you. You were so dependent on me... and I had a part in creating that. Me and my whirlwind of personal will, trying forever to shape Life into what I would have it be, often tilting at windmills in the process.

If I had known how little time was left... if there had been any way that I could have known that your own heart would give out in just a few more months... oh, Alex. I'd have stuck it out. Unhappy or not, I'd have stuck it out. I'd been unhappy for so long already, a few more months wouldn't have made a difference. I might not have been your lover, your WIFE, in the truest sense of the word, but I'd have remained your caregiver, your partner, your ally... and your final months wouldn't have been spent alone and lonely, full of confusion and regret and uncertainty of what was to come. I'd never have separated you from your child, especially. If only I could have known. Then again, it's not like you would have known, either, so could I have really made a difference that mattered? Maybe we actually saved all of us several more months of pain toward the end. I hope that you had a sense of finally gaining your own feet in this world... as you left it.

I'm glad there was no animosity between us, at the end. That we were cooperating together to create a co-parenting situation with Bella that was beneficial to her. That we were, gradually, becoming friends again. You always "got" me in a way that no one else ever had, and I'll forever miss that.

I'm glad to have made peace with your family--our misunderstandings were complicated by our love for (and truth be told, frustration with) you, and our disparate understandings of same.

I'm sorry that you had to live, for so many years, the majority of your life, with a condition that was not your fault, and that clouded every decision you ever made, and contributed to a repeating downward spiral year after year. I'm sorry that your body, and your brain, were breaking down from the stress of a mental illness, and that you had to give up things you loved because your body was betraying you in a thousand small ways and a good many large ones. I am both sorry that I did too much, and simultaneously sorry that I didn't do more. Not sure how I could win on that one, but it's the truth, and I can't tell anything else.

I am glad that, although that love metamorphosed over the last few years, I never stopped loving you. That I was able to honestly and openly show that love to your daughter; that she never had to experience her parents hating each other.

I am glad that you now know all things, including the answer to that most elusive of all questions: "Why?" I envy you in your knowledge of why life is so unfair, and what it all means. I look forward to the day when we get to talk about it all, and laugh together again, unfettered by what bogged us down in life.

I'm glad that you finally know the truth about Bigfoot, Yetis, Elvis, and The White River Monster... and I hope that you were right about all of it.

As I inscribed simply inside your wedding band, and regardless of the fact that it came to mean something different than it did on that day: "Forever my love." Our lives will go on, Bella's and mine, and we will love more, and differently, but we will love you forever.