Mommy's Coming Home Today

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Abigail fought me every step of the way. She was like her mother that way: stubborn and a tad cantankerous. Well, at least as cantankerous as is possible for a five year old. She had wanted to wear her favorite sundress which, of course, was inappropriate for the situation.

“Abi, you can’t wear that today. You have to wear the black one,” I hadn’t slept much in the past three days, but I tried to stay patient.

“Why?”

“Because…” I didn’t know what to say.

I should have been prepared for that; she was always asking why. Every little thing, always “why?”, but as I stood there, watching her clutch at the yellow fabric dappled in daisies, I realized I had no idea why she or anyone had to wear black. That is, other than it being a tradition. Rebecca would have laughed at my stupidity. I thought of her playfully reproaching me and I felt my eyes water.

“Okay, okay fine, wear the other one, Mommy liked that one best anyway.” I caved, I was too tired to argue with a five year old.

“Thank you, Daddy!” She squealed, as if completely unaware of what was happening. Then she saw the tears forming.

“It’s okay Daddy, Mommy will be here soon.”

“She’s not, Abi,” I said, mournfully.

Rebecca died eight days ago. We knew she was going to pass and had already made arrangements. Cancer has a way of dragging a death out, convincing you that you’ll be prepared for what happens by slowly easing you into the idea. You’re not prepared though, not prepared for the void left by the person you love. Abigail, however, didn’t quite seem to grasp the concept. She kept on insisting that Rebecca was coming home.

On the night of Rebecca’s death, I pulled Abi aside and said that Mommy was no longer here. That she has passed away. She just smiled at me, gave me a hug and said: “It’s okay Daddy. You don’t have to be sad, when Mommy gets back we’ll make cookies. Then you’ll be happy.”

I was baffled, but I persisted. I didn’t think a five year old was capable of denial.

“Sweetheart, Mommy isn’t coming back. She’s dead.”

“I know, Daddy. She is, but she isn’t, too. Here,” gently pointing to the ground as she spoke, “she is, but here,” her arms seemingly gesturing to everything, “she’s coming home.” She looked at me like I was an idiot as she said it. I didn’t put much thought into what she was saying, five year olds tend to speak in non-sequiturs. I figured I’d explain how death worked at a later time.

I tried explaining it a few times since, but Abigail mulishly held on to the notion that her mother was returning. So, here we were, the morning of the funeral, and she wouldn’t let go of the idea.

I left her room and headed to the first floor. Shortly thereafter she followed suit, almost skipping as she came bounded down the stairs.

“Daddy!” She yelled, as she met me at the front door. She did a quick pirouette causing her dress to bloom outward. As she came to a stop, the dress seemed to change. From yellow to sky blue, and from daisies to daffodils. I knew I was tired, but not so tired as to start seeing things, especially something so vivid.

As I watched her, she started speaking again: “Mommy’s coming home today!” She leapt into the air and as she returned to the ground, the dress went back to its original pattern.

I clearly needed a nap. I checked my watch to see how long before the mourners arrived. I had maybe ten minutes. So, a nap was out of the question.

“Daddy, are you okay?” She could see the confusion in my face.

“Yeah, Sweetheart, I’m okay. Just tired is all.”

“Okay, Daddy.”

I shook my head, trying to jar myself into reality. I forced a smile and looked down at Abigail, but the dress had changed again. Now it was mint green with pink rose.

“Abi, what color is your dress right now?” I asked, hoping the question would somehow prevent further hallucinations.

“It’s yello-“she looked down at the dress, “Uh-oh, it’s green now.”

She closed her eyes and curled her tiny hands into tight little balls, and the in an instant the dress was back to the original pattern.

“Now, it’s yellow.”

“Abi, how did you do that?”

“I... I think,” I could see her trying to find the words that she did not possess, that no one possessed, to explain what was going on. After a few seconds of thought, she began again.
“I’m wearing my dress here and here I’m wearing the other ones, but sometimes things get mixed up.”

“You mean there, don’t you?”

“No, it’s the same here, just somewhere else.”

Maybe I was hallucinating, but maybe, just maybe I wasn’t. Maybe, in some other universe Rebecca was coming home today, healthy and smiling. Maybe Abigail could see her there.

“Is that how Mommy’s coming home today, she’s in the other here?”

The doorbell rang. I turned to see my brother in law peering in through the window.

“Mommy’s home!” She shouted again for what felt like the millionth time and then looked up at me to answer my question, “Duh, Daddy, here she’s gone but here she’s home.”

I started to cry.

“Is she… Is she smiling?”

“Yes, Daddy, and so are you.”

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