I wish I could pick up the phone and call you, trace the map of all the cities and countries you’ve explored and listen as you speak to me in the native language, tell me stories of food and friends and the miles you’ve wandered.
I wish I could ask you what it was like, when you knew you were in love. If it was a brush of fingertips, or his voice echoing in your head when you read his handwritten letter. If it was easy, or hard. Or really, really hard but you always pushed through. And what it was like to have kids, a whole mess of them crawling and screaming and pulling at your legs.
I wish I could pick your brain for answers, listen to you tell me stories of my father. Imagine him, the youngest of five, with his messy hair and trouble-making temper.
I wish I could ask you for the recipe to your homemade meatballs, or what you thought of my mama the first night she came over.
I wish you could tell me which of the aunts I remind you of the most, maybe the quiet one who sings or the rebellious one who walked out of the house without a shirt.
I wish I could ask you what my laugh sounds like, or if I look beautiful in my dress, and hear you answer with a voice that’s gravelly and strong, Yes, you look beautiful. I love you.
Sometimes I imagine you in Heaven. From what I remember you’d be feisty, even up there, with your deck of cards and a vodka tonic. Or maybe you’d be exactly how my mother remembers you, with a cigarette dangling from your mouth, stirring a pot of tomato sauce on the stove.
See, I lost you, two of you, before I was old enough to understand even who you were—my memories of you blending together—Grandma, Nana, Oma.
I didn’t have the chance to ask you what you thought of my boyfriend, of my college choice, of the way I pull back my dark brown hair. And I don’t remember what your eyes looked like, are they rootbeer brown, too, or a dark hazel?
I never got to ask you what you were afraid of, what your dreams were, if you were happy. I hope that you are happy now, maybe floating on a cloud playing Rummy with your husband or throwing spitballs down at us, because that seems like something you’d like to do.
I never got the chance to walk around your kitchen, to smell the spices, or to touch the rough edges of that painting you hung on the wall next to the basement steps.
I never got the chance to put on your high heels and pearls and parade around the living room like a younger version of you, like a younger version of my mother, which would make you cry and hug us both.
I never got to ask you what your favorite color was, or if you wept when I was born. I never got to kiss your soft, wrinkled cheek goodbye. And I never got to tell you that I really, really love you, so I hope you hear me now.