Bruce has been sitting on his bureau in the bedroom since I brought him home three months ago. It sounds strange, like a dark sitcom, but it seems to me the best place for now. I don’t think the girls realize it’s him, and if they do, they’ve not mentioned it. We tell funny Bruce stories and remember his love.
How he lost Charli in an Ocean Beach surf shop when she was 2, or how he made us all rise before 6am to sit on the beach in Nantucket, eat Downyflake donuts and watch the sun come up. I thought it would be creepy and uncomfortable to have his ashes, within eyesight, in the bedroom all wrapped up in his favorite T-Shirt, but instead it’s comforting and peaceful. I’m actually using this time to talk and connect with him and move through my heartache.
Mare and Charli don’t mention their Dad’s ashes so I’m hoping they’re at ease with it. Surely, I’ll come to learn how traumatized they’ve been by my outward showing of grief and I’ll end up dishing out thousands of dollars in therapy costs 10 years from now. But for today, he holds a place on his dresser, and in my heart, surrounded by his wedding band and pictures of his girls.
My girlfriend told me a hilarious story about a close family friend who kept her late husband’s ashes in the trunk of her car – for years - rolling around getting caught between grocery bags and clothes for Goodwill. I don’t think I’ll go quite that far, but I am comforted by his presence and the constant reminder of him, his humor and his love. Besides, Bruce was pretty vocal about my terrible driving skills and I hate the thought of him being wedged between my yoga mat and plastic grocery bags, so I’m working on plans for a July spreading of a portion of his ashes.
The girls and I will travel to Bruce’s favorite place in the world – Nantucket. We have the deliberate task of spreading his ashes near the West Chester home and then spending the following days with cherished friends. It will be my time to spend with the girls. We can sit quietly in the sand and be sad, cry when we feel like it and have some really good, genuine laughs with old friends – it’s what Bruce would want. And a cold beer.
This was Bruce’s request of me and I will honor it. He loved the island. He loved his childhood and youth spent cruising freely around his magical, summer home. His best friendships were made and cultivated during those long, warm months of freedom.
I witnessed the strong bond of love and friendship he created when his Nantucket crew walked into Scripps Green Hospital, a thousand miles from home, to be in the presence of their childhood friend. Yes, friendships that ran deep. Grown men now, but still, I could see each of their 16-year-old hearts breaking, as they held hands and said good bye to their cherished friend. Although the years separated them, their friendship remained solid. They told stories of odd jobs during those fun summers - working in the projector room of the island movie theater and how they paved driveways to make extra money. I’m sure the first entrepreneurs of their time. Though the years have passed, these were his fondest, most care-free memories, the early, most memorable, part of his short lap, with his island, boyhood friends; it’s only right that we celebrate and memorialize him together, in Nantucket.
The girls and I are still waiting for it to get easier. It’s different. Our hearts still hurt so bad we can hardly stand it. If we’re too still, for too long, we break down. We’re not always in sync with one another – one of us drowns in sadness and the other must lift us. Whether it’s Mare’s practical way of doing things or Charli’s humor that is distinctively Bruce; the girls think about and miss their Dad every – single – day.
My friends still lift us and let us lean so hard that they must go home at night and flop in bed. The driving, the managing and the loving that you put into us is simply unbelievable. When I have nowhere else to turn, you’re there, and it makes our life better, doable and hopeful. Thank you.