5

You work all night, and you sleep all day, and I hardly ever see you.

I have only a handful of photographs of you from this entire year, all of them taken on a winter’s trip to see my sister. This picture of my nephew with you, in your signature hat and coat, on my nephew’s first trip down a mountain on skis, is among my favorites of all time.

It’s ironic, because this is the year I wonder, again, whether or not I need you, whether absence makes the heart grow fonder, or if absence is simply absence.

I have a career, I fix lunches, I walk the dogs. I have plans and schedules. I travel for work, serve on committees. I am the president of our school PTA.

In the summer, I take our son to Sacramento on a business trip, and we tack on a side trip to visit our old neighbor, the one who always believed in us more than we believed in ourselves. The one who brought us wine and See’s candies, who picked our gardenias every summer, who moved to California after her husband died, so she could see her first great-grandchild.

She treats us to lunch, our son and me, tells us funny stories, asks our son about school and his hobbies. She insists that we visit the car museum because, she says, what 13-year-old boy isn’t in love with cars?

But what she really wants to know is how we are doing, you and I.

She says: What I really want to know is if the two of you are taking care of each other. Are you? Because there’s nothing more important. You think there is, but there isn’t.

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