If my grief were a goldfish, it would be a miracle it had made it this long. Like us, it would be amazed it was still breathing, still surviving, in that tiny plastic bowl, after you’d won it for me at the Fair. It would watch the moon fill up and then disappear into a tiny sliver; it would watch everything, never understanding what it was seeing. It would swim around in a circle again, and would probably float to the top one day here soon.
If my grief were a human, she would be in preschool. She would wear polka dots and rubber sneakers and cling tightly to a unicorn lunchbox. She would love apples but hate bananas, and run through the door to ask you to throw her into the air whenever you weren’t working. She would have skinned knees and braids; she would have memorized every line of “Where the Wild Things Are.”
If my grief were an avocado tree, it might finally bear fruit this year. We would have waited for this day, when its leaves grew shiny, when green spheres dangled on its tips. Every morning, for so long, we would’ve sat on the porch, drinking our coffee as it drank in the rain. Then at last I’d give away all the fruit because I liked the way they looked but hated the way they tasted, and because you can’t grow avocados in Kentucky.
But my grief isn’t a fish or a girl or a tree; it doesn’t age or grow or sprout. It doesn’t shift in any linear or sensical way — it ebbs with the day, the hour, the minute.
My grief will never go on a first date or get flushed away or offer shade from the afternoon heat.
It will continue to live with me, inside me, forever. I will never let it go, not because I can’t (maybe I can’t), but because it is a part of me. Just like you are a part of me, and just like I will always hold your memory and your face, whether it’s been four years or forty.