The sun is going down. Not in an immediate sense, but I live in a valley, and the sun begins to slide behind the mountains early in the late afternoon and a dimness begins to fall a long time before it is truly dark. That is what is happening now. I like this time of day. And I like to sit in my bedroom and watch the clouds and the children still playing and the tree outside blowing in the gathering wind. The tree is now covered in pink blossoms—one of them blew into my bathroom window in the night and came to rest on the rim of the porcelain sink.

But I have realized it’s also a trigger. Ruthie points this out. Recently, I noticed she got very distressed as it got dark, and I thought she was afraid of the darkness. Last night, she said the real problem: It’s getting dark and Nata is not coming back. She did not go to work in the morning and she is not coming home from work in the evening.

It wouldn’t seem like her thing to notice this, but Ruthie has a very clear sense of a family unit in her head. We are the mommies and she is the baby and she is very happy with that arrangement. She is perfectly okay with having two mommies. It does not give her pause. In fact, she likes for me to remember kissing Nata. I’m happy when I remember that, and she likes for her mommies to be happy. When her mommies are happy, she feels safe and content.

So, she’s deeply distressed that Nata didn’t get to grow up and do normal mommy things, like have a job.

But it’s also that there were never any safe separations. There were no safe partings and no safe reunions. There were partings when we didn’t know if the other would be safe during the separation or not and reunions when we met again only to watch one another suffer.

There was no time when we were separated for normal, predictable reasons that could be expected not to result in death. I mean, people die coming to and from work, but not often enough that you expect it. The odds typically seem way lower than 50-50. After we left each other, the odds on death always seemed about even. The odds of serious harm were almost certain.

Now I think this feels to me like a loss. I had a lot of dreams for the two of us. A big, big one was simply the dream of being able to leave her with the thought that I would see her again and she would be safe during our separation. I did not need to worry.

Every evening, I get to remember that dream. Every evening, I am reminded that I did not get that. She was never alive and safe, and I never had the chance to stop worrying about her safety and whether I would see her again. I worried, and then I grieved.


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