I remember chrysanthemums in the garden. He told me to pick off the dead-heads and I was confused. I thought they were still beautiful.
We would spend days spent playing hide-and-go-seek. I would hide among his clothes in the closet, covering myself in the dirty laundry as a disguise. I didn’t care. I was six. Even though he was 6 foot 6 and wider than a car he would play along, hiding behind curtains and wherever he could squeeze himself in.
There were countless picture books, page by page. Peter Rabbit. The Very Hungry Caterpillar. My sister and I snuggled close, one on each side, pressing ourselves as close as we could to see the pictures.
There were weeks where the bruising around his head was bad enough that he had to cover one eye with gauze because pus kept oozing through. I remember how terrifying he looked, but I wasn’t scared.
I gave a class presentation on heart implants in third grade. I was so proud that he was one of the first people in Utah to get one. I told the class that we was only supposed to live for a few years after the transplant and how it had been eighteen and he was still here. I didn’t comprehend what that might mean.
One day, he brought me Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. His face fell when I said I had already read it.
We always celebrated Christmas at his apartment, eating cream cheese and crackers for hours. There was a wreath that would talk if you clapped, and I would play music box carols so many times that my mom would get mad and tell me to stop.
For a while, he came to live with us. My mom let him sleep in her room and she took the couch. My sister and I kept barely-foot-wide passages through our toys so he could walk, but our mom yelled and made us clean them up.
I remember the day my parents told us he might not make it through. I cried. Hard. Tears streaming down my face. For a while, he left the hospital with barely enough energy to walk. He smiled at us anyways. I thought there was hope. We spent days at the park. He would sit with my mom and watch my sister and I play. We begged him to come play with us, but he would just shake his head and chuckle.
When he went back to the hospital, we visited him constantly. He couldn’t remember who I was. I taped the picture I drew him on the wall anyways. I remember the couch when they told us, the feel of the fabric on my legs, my dad crouching down in front of us. He cried, too, the first time I can recall.
I wore a sparkly pink skirt to the funeral because black was too sad. We ate cream cheese and crackers after, just like Christmas. The smell of his apartment made me cry all over again.