Have you ever been ice skating?
When I lived in New York, we used to ice skate on Lake Ontario.
Our daughter wanted to go ice skating for her birthday and I wondered if maybe my parents still had my old skates stored away in the garage. I would have worn them some time around 1985. For some reason, it didn't occur to me that I might have outgrown them.
Every time we circled the rink and took a break we would ask each other if we had fallen. No, not yet I said. Not me, said my son. Yes, five times, said my daughter.
We had stood in line earlier that day at the grocery store. She looked up at me and said, I don't even feel like I'm going to be 9 years old tomorrow. I looked at the cashier to see if he got the hint. I don't think he heard you.
I didn't want him to hear me. I wasn't bragging that it's my birthday.
Why not? It's nice when people wish you a happy birthday.
It is nice! she smiled. I do like it.
It is your day.
I am uncovering, slowly, a few details here and there. There was an obituary and a newspaper article. There is the shame of spying on all these strangers and the shame of caring. There is the guilt of having this distract from happier occasions in the here/now. After skating, we went out to a Mexican restaurant with Alex's sister and her husband, our close friends all these years. They offered support and encouragement and there was even the stubborn, pointless guilt suffered by those incapable of processing kindness.
The waitstaff emerged towards the end of the night with a birthday cake and we all sang paeans to my daughter. The funeral was a few hours earlier, while I was out for a run and mentally composing a letter to a stranger who might or might not remind me that nothing from 30 years ago still fits.
I have been reading with sadness the story of the house fire...
She hasn't responded, and probably won't. No hard feelings. Not after all this time that never even passed.