Dear Nana

Uncle Jay-Jay, Nana, and Me, Xmas ca. 1983

Dear Nana,

We all miss you so much.

I miss you. I haven’t seen Linda in a while. But Jenny & Tisha look more like you (and Grammy Jones too!) every year. A wonderful surprise. I don’t think any of us, including you, saw that coming. So does Mom for that matter. In the wrong ways as much as the right.

With Tisha’s two since you left, you now have six great-grandbabies, all growing up so fast. Elijah’s growing up so fast now too, he’ll be in high school next year. I wish he spent more time with you.

I live in Denver now. Wow, it’s been awhile since you left. Back then I was still in college. Still in Portland. Dating Maria that year. Elijah had just learned to ride his Spiderman bike on two wheels that summer when you died. I don’t even know how often you & me were speaking then. And then you were gone.

Then I left Maria. Then I left school. Without a degree. Not that I left them for anything to do with you. A younger me would have said how disappointed you would have been. Almost-40 me says you always knew. Or maybe you always doubted would be more accurate.

You left me that doubt. Not when you died, but when you were raising me. A younger me wants to cry out “how could you do that?”…raise me with doubts & fears I could never, would never overcome. I needed you so much. I had nothing, no one. Almost-40 me knows we raise our kids to be who we are, no matter how or what we would otherwise wish for them.

That last semester, after you died, after I moved out of Maria’s I got a place with a classmate. I think she had a crush on me. She was pretty smart otherwise. A pretty wonderful human being. Smart, and fun too. But I knew better than that. You were in my head. So I never went there. I met a girl at the part-time Airport gig I had that last semester. She was even more exciting. They all are, right? That’s your voice in my head there. See, you’ll always be here. With me. With us. We will hear you forever.

Anyhow, Ray was great for a while. A few years actually. She moved in with us. Then we lived in SoPo. Ray was fun, always so care free. Just wanted to be happy, just wanted to be loved unconditionally. That’s what I always wanted too. I guess that must have been what attracted me to her. I think at that particular time, she was the One.

Of course it all went bad with Ray. And as you better than anyone knows, when it goes bad again & again, after you’ve made babies, made engagements, broken up, moved on, time & time again…it gets real bad. Yeah, you know all that better than anyone. I guess I learned that from you too. It was real bad for a long time. Not just weeks & months. It was bad for almost two years.

It took a lot of help to get through it, I’ll spare you the details. But at the end of the day, I had to leave town. I was suffocating. I felt like I was going to die if I stayed. I felt like I was dying. Somehow I found a good therapist. I made an escape plan. I finally got out of Portland. My friend Emily from college, I think you might remember her, she had been in Denver for a few years…she promised me I would love it, and she was right. Coming here was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. Next to getting out of the van that day in Penobscot.

You’ll be happy to know life is pretty good now. I got fired for the first time in my life a couple of months ago. But you know what Nana? Life is still good. Yes, I met another girl. I always do, don’t I? She is It. Simply amazing. Probably the single best human being I’ve ever met. And she she loves me. Unconditionally. And Elijah came out for the first time last year. Twice! He loves it out here. He came for Spring Break. We only had a week, so we road-tripped to the desert, across the mountains, to a bigger desert, back to higher mountains, and back to the City. He even got to spend a little time in the City. It was a whirlwind, but he loved it. You really would have loved it. It was something you would have done for me.

Then he came back for summer break. He went to a really fun day-camp. He made Denver friends. He went to his first sleep-away camp. He learned to kayak. We backpacked in the High Rockies. We toured the City like tourists. Went to museums, and amusement parks, on bikes, and on trains & buses. I think when he’s older, he’ll look back at this summer as the greatest summer of his childhood. He’s said as much already. You really would have loved it. It was what you would have done for me.

We miss you Nana. I miss you. I wish you could see me. Happy. And sad too. I wish you could see this. I’m back in school in a couple of weeks. Hopefully it works out, but there’s no guarantee. Only that we’re here. We make family. Sometimes not the one we are born to. But we are here. We try to make the best of it. We remember the ones who showed us the way. We try to light the way for our little ones. Then we are gone. You are with me. You are still with us. Happy new year.

For Nana
Justyce & Nana, ca. 2006