We had so many traditions, some stemming back to when we first met, 24 years ago, on 6.16.1986.
616 was always an important number to us. It was also the date of our wedding on 6.16.1991, in the place we’d met five years before to the day. We usually called each other every day at 6:16 PM. We marked all the times that our restaurant bill would add up to some variation of the number. It still comes up; I ordered something from Amazon last weekend. Shipping & Handling: $6.16. It was a funny thing to look for but we knew it was just a long chain of coincidences. Superstition was just a fun pattern, a way to connect, like playing I Spy.
Wednesday was 6.16 again. As I have every year, I went to 18 W. 18 Street where we met and wed. This year I went with my sister, Miranda, Patti’s maid of honor. Over the years, what was once a restaurant, then another, and another, is now a children’s books shop. Where we stood to be joined till death did us part, there’s now a cupcake counter. The cupcakes are made by the Cupcake Café. When Patti had her subway accident, she was on her way to pick up a cake from the Cupcake Café. She never made it, ending up instead in St Vincent’s Hospital (where she was declared death 14 years later, a week before the hospital was closed down forever). Two weeks later she missed going to 18 W.18 St on 6.16 for the very first time. This year she missed it again. Coincidence upon coincidence, but sadly proof of nothing.
I am reading The Lovely Bones. It makes me sad and I don’t know why I keep turning the pages. Susie Salmon watches her family (and the man who murdered her) from the after life. She follows their actions and their thoughts, hovering over and around them. She feels their pain, wishes she could contact them, but she is just a little girl forever more, beyond their reach. She believes that she’s in Heaven but to me it often seems like Hell.
I wish I could believe in ghosts or angels or spirits. People write to me to tell me that Patti is in Heaven, or watching over us, or waiting for us, or sitting with God, or one with the Universe, or waiting to be resurrected …. It would be so nice to think that she is hanging out with her mother and my grandmother in some wonderful place, and that we will join her soon and be with her forever.
I know you may be able to believe that and, believe me, I have tried to believe it too. Tried and failed. I can’t believe it, I can’t feel it, I can’t even imagine it. There is not even a flicker of doubt in my mind that Patti is no more and exists only in our memories and thoughts and in the cookie jar in my study.
Despite that, Patti does live on.
Just like my grandmother will always exist in the way I make beds, or can’t stand seeing dirty laundry on the floor, or the way I spread cream cheese on toast, or tend my garden. So I don’t need Patti to hover around my head or wear wings and play a harp or leave me five dollar bills neatly folded in fours. I don’t need to light candles for her or say Kaddish. I just need to hold her in my mind. if not my arms, and try to enjoy each day like she did. It’s a simple goal, a little trite, but easy to believe in. Even for an old skeptic like me.