I called your Mom to offer my condolences about Grammy. And when she said I could come to the funeral if I want, I imagined the death stares from her aunts and how someone would nudge Uncle Jimmy, and he’d walk over, rolling up his shirt sleeves. So, I said, it’s probably better if I don’t. I was about to hang up when she said, “I thought you should know, Jill’s expecting.” But I knew. You posted the sonogram on your IG.
I assume you don’t remember I still follow you. I won’t lie; it hurt when I saw your wedding photos and realized you hadn’t invited me.
Thankfully, a commotion came from the kitchen, and I said, “Oh shit, my dog, I gotta go!” Which was the truth. Lucky had knocked down the frying pan and was licking up cold, white bacon fat. I should’ve renamed him Kelly Slater when I brought him home from the pound; he’s so good at counter surfing. But I couldn’t. His name was why I picked him. It just screamed second chances.
I knew all that fat wasn’t good for him, so I jingled his leash and said, “Hey, bacon breath, wanna go for a walk?” Which is how I find myself here, walking past the Community Center with its library and playground. There’s a little girl picking dandelions, and she reminds me of you. You must have been around three, and I was spraying down the driveway. I had neglected to close the front door and out you came in your pink nightgown. “Daddy want help?” I showed you how to collect and stack the lemons lying in the grass. And while you toddled around, I finished cleaning up my puke so your Mom wouldn’t see.
Suddenly, Lucky lunges and starts barking like a maniac. A woman is walking two little fluff balls on the other side of the street. I’ve learned to always have a solid hold on his leash when we’re out. “Sorry!” I yell and reel Lucky in, his eyes bugging out because he’s cutting off his own oxygen. He reminds me of me. We’re just two old dudes trying to manage our triggers.
When we get home, Lucky flops onto his dog bed. His eyes follow me as I pace the living room. All these years, I’ve been trying to screw up my nerve to finish Step Nine: direct amends. Somehow I can lay out my fucking soul to a room full of strangers, but the minute I think about calling you, I get all shaky and sweaty. It would be easier if I could do it shitfaced, but I guess that’s not the idea, haha.
But, to be honest, I prefer remembering things my way. You’ll always be my Jillie-bean. Jumping on our bed Christmas morning. Whale spout pony on top of your head. And do you remember those yellow cherry tomatoes I grew every summer? By the time I mowed all the grass, you stripped that poor plant of all its tomatoes. Then I’d fill up your seahorse kiddie pool. And while you’d get naked and splash around, I’d plant myself in a lawn chair with my box of beers, and I used to think, it doesn’t get any better than this.