My husband is not gone from my life.
He is not here to regale us with his stories…I must retell them as best I can remember, with little or none of the flair I remember him having. He is not here to sing to us, to dance with his grandchildren, to laugh with his family.
But he is still around. I’m in Orlando at Disney World as I begin to write this, with my younger stepdaughter and her family. On the first morning of our three days, as we ready the three small grandchildren at the hotel, the eldest, the five year old boy, the only one Mike met, got dressed in his favorite Peter Pan costume. Mind you, Mike loved costumes and particularly loved Peter Pan – he really was the boy who never grew up. So seeing that child in his Robin Hood-esque hat, exactly like ones Mike would wear, wielding his plastic sword with the type of glee he unknowingly shares with his grandfather, was the first pang. But my stepdaughter had the Disney radio station playing on her phone, and of all the hundreds of songs, at that moment, a song from Newsies came on. Mike worked on Newsies…it was his favorite of all movies he ever worked on, and Seize the Day started playing in the midst of that moment of soaking up our little Lost Boy…tears. This is how Mike talks to all of us. We all have so many stories of what song came on at what moment, and maybe, it’s just us, maybe, no one else will get it, or believe it…but we know. We just do. He is trying to tell us that he is with us. And we heard him, loud and clear.
The next day, at Magic Kingdom, my stepdaughter and I are with child #2, the three year old girl. We are in the princess store…the one with all the pretty little dresses from all the Disney princess movies, and she carefully goes through all the dresses, the dolls, the accessories, from each film. I tell her, Tutu (that’s me – Hawaiian for grandma) will buy you one thing, pick anything you want, but just one. During her sojourn through the shop, while she is examining the wares, I nudge my stepdaughter and point to the toy bow and arrow set from the movie Brave. We exchange a smile, knowing how much Mike would have loved that, having been such an avid archer. But we do not point it out to the child, she being the pretty-dress-princess type. Believe me – she did not notice the bow and arrow, at least, we did not see her notice it, and we were hovering with her every single second, and she did not comment on it at all.
She says, with her adorable three-year-old lisp, let’s just think about it for awhile. We laugh and exit the store and go on a ride. Afterwards, we head back to the store.
My stepdaughter and I are both holding her hand as she enters the store, and she walks purposefully along its length. We follow her lead. She literally makes a beeline to the rack with the Brave bow and arrow, points to it and says with full authority: this one. This is what I want.
My stepdaughter and I look at each other, eyes wide…we say, don’t you want a pretty princess dress? Or a tiara? Or a doll? Remember the pretty dolls? No, she says, this is what I want, I really want the bow and arrow.
No one will really ever understand except us. My stepdaughter and me in that moment both totally started crying. With big tears welling, but with a smile, I say, ok sweetie, you got it. Let’s do it. I pay for it, still crying so much I can’t even see the price or receipt and I don’t care. This child who never even met Mike wants a bow and arrow, his most favorite of all, and that’s all that matters. How she got that into her head…I can just only imagine. And the rest of the trip, it was the treasured toy. It was carried on rides, swung around in line, grasped in strollers, and shared, sometimes with difficultly, with her brother. Who knew.
Well, maybe someone knew.
Seriously, even retelling this story, I am crying.
The third day came as a bit of a lark. Orlando’s Disney World has four parks – Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Since we had three children ages five and under we had ruled out Epcot and Hollywood. We were going to do Magic Kingdom for two days. But since my son-in-law and stepdaughter have followed Mike into stunts, we got an offer from one of their friends for passes to Hollywood, which has a big Indiana Jones stunt show. And after Animal Kingdom on day one (which was amazing, the Nemo and Lion King shows were epic, and we saw real live safari animals!), and Magic Kingdom the second day (very much like Disneyland, and at the rapid pace at which we move with them we did most of it anyway – my fitbit was on overtime believe me) we decided to dig into Hollywood. And so glad we did.
I felt Mike with us every second through this day. The film ride, going back through classic cinema, had Mike’s touch. When I met him, he taught me about the history of film – really. We watched a ton of really cool old stuff together, and he did the same for his girls. So to see Robin Hood, Funny Girl, Tarzan, To Catch a Thief (the last movie he ever watched before he died)…so many of his most favorite movies in front of our eyes…and Star Wars. A few years ago Disney bought the Star Wars franchise and it was front and center in this park. Mike LOVED Star Wars…he had action figures, video games, glassware, costumes…everything Star Wars you could imagine. This park seriously exploded with Star Wars all day long…starting with a parade of storm troopers, a live action performance with Chewbacca and all the gang, an extravaganza of movie clips and fireworks at night, and the rides…oh man the rides. My eyes filled with tears so many times. Wishing he were with us, wishing he could see the kids’ faces…but he did. In his own way, he did. We just couldn’t see it.
Little things too. Like…Mike had a big head. He really did. Every single hat he ever wore – and he had a lot, he loved hats…ended up crooked. It was his thing and we laughed at it. That’s just how it was. Well, this five year old boy, who reminds us of him in so many ways…that Peter Pan hat he wore two of the three days, was always crooked. I would fix it, I would pull the strap around and straighten it the same way I always tried to do for Mike in his hats, and five minutes later it was crooked again. I pointed it out to my stepdaughter and she laughed. That was just another thing.
He is not gone from my life, and never will be.