My Hidden Lives // Prose / The Art Of Leaving

169. ten thoughts about leaving (you have to wait / I’ll be okay)




A minute. A day. A week.

If you can, wait a month. I will be back with fanfare, the prodigal grand-daughter who is always on time, I promise, to be back in time, this time. If you only wait.

Spring will spill into a most tumultuous summer. Summer will drip into fall. I will watch the cacti on my windowsill and it will seem like no time has passed at all.

I won’t know, won’t be able to tell, how long you’ve waited. Then I’ll back, then leave again, then tell you to… wait some more.



It only takes one goodbye you leave unsaid to write all the others in advance.

Mine happened when I was eight. She’d called out to a strangers’ daughter from her hospital bed. She’d called her by my name. In the morning, as I was taking a bath in your small house, the honey-kissed water splashed around me when the phone rang. You answered it, and I don’t know how, but I knew what the disembodied voice was was saying.

My mother will recount the first part of this story to me when I am older. I will never forget it.

I’ve not finished yet.

So wait.


Remind me.

I don’t know which cupboard you’ve hung the nylon in, with The Dress tucked neatly inside. Already ironed. Did you think I’d forget? Maybe you’re right to doubt me. Most often, I think ironing is wasted on the living, much less the grave.

Tell me why it matters, that you want us to see you at your best one last time. Remind me.

Wait until I catch on.


Write me a note.

I’m sure there’s trinkets I’ve forgotten and won’t know what to do with. They seem so small now, on this long eve in which we patiently await your absence.

The golden medallion with the Madonna and child. I won’t wear it, no, this much you know. I wouldn’t sell it either, don’t worry. Is it someting you want to hold on to? Do you want me to slip it between your palms when the funeral home employee looks away? They have all these rules now, it’s insane.

The golden slipper with the ruby. You’ve already given it away. Was it my birthday, or another drawn out goodbye years ago? I didn’t believe you then. You seem not to believe us now. How could you, when life seems a given to us all, a habit that is almost impossible to break.

Three pairs of your mother’s earrings. These are mine now, too. I wish you had jewelry enough for the next ten years, so we could repeat this little ritual every time I come home.

But no – this isn’t home anymore. You know what I mean. This isn’t home to you either, not the real one, but your children are here so you say „Pretty damn close.“

Your wedding band. What about your wedding band? Hello?



Tell me more.

About me. About you. About our family.

I’ll jott it down and one day make heroes of us all. I’ll show you my memories if you show me yours, on a page. I know you kept diaries all these years. Let me into your world for once, not the surface of it you’ve kept on like a mask for the child that was me. We’re both women now. Give me the rough, the dirty of it – let me learn from your mistakes, from your ought-to’s.

Then wait, until I’m as old and grey as you are, to make sure I’ve learned my lessons.

You have to wait.


I understand.

It’s getting harder every day.

You want to help, but you don’t know how, so you slip into the blanket and sink into the bed an inch more every night, your legs are getting heavier to give you an excuse for the inevitability of defeat.

I don’t know, I won’t – not for a while still.

But I understand.

Still, I’d wish you’d…



Though I’ll keep the promise I made either way.

Still, it won’t mean as much if you don’t see it. I will not let my life drift away along rivers, across oceans you could never grasp, won’t get lost in a world you wouldn’t be able to follow me to. I won’t be sad for long, cry too much, smile too soon. I’ll give you the share of grief you deserve.

We’ve built the story of my life together, now the only thing to do is watch it unfold.

I wish you’d wait for that. Though, whatever happens, and no matter how soon…


You will not die in my life.

This is perhaps the one good thing which comes from not being there when you do.

You are always absent now, but not in that final way. You are not dead, and you will never be dead. I will sit at my table making pie while following the instructions that you gave me, it will be your pie. And I will think of you there, in your reclining chair, as Grandfather counts the pills you need to take, as you complain about the heat in the room or request more socks. I will have the advantage of not seeing you leave, the bliss of being able to explain away your absence in another way.

I’ll be okay.


It’s changed, where you are.

I come over for a day or two.

There are no children in the hallway to disrupt my slumber. There is the heat. No sounds coming in from the street outside. Only the electric buzzing of tram wires I’ve forgotten, and I never stay long enough now to forget what I’ve forgotten. No matter.

You’re used to it. You’ll sleep well. I’ll manage, for a day or two.

I’ll be okay.



I need to translate this into a language you will understand.

It may be somewhat deceitful, writing it in such a way to buy more time and convince you to stay. Just a little longer, a second, a minute, a day. If you can. If not, don’t worry.

I’ll be okay.


2 thoughts on “169. ten thoughts about leaving (you have to wait / I’ll be okay)

  1. ‘You will not die in my life.’ I lost each of my grandparents a fair number of years ago now. I wasn’t there at the very end for any of them, but even if I had been, I feel this would remain true. Of course this post is an elegy, a lament, but it is also a celebration of a life, its influence on yours, and it’s a beautiful piece of writing.

You think, therefore you are.

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