It was late. She was supposed to be in bed. We were both tired and cranky and I knew her Grandma coming to pick her up was in a bad mood. I dressed her in pj's and her snowsuit over top. The boys were off at a movie. Unaccompanied Minors. I remember the name the way that pointless trivia sticks with you when more important memories fade.
I sat her in the chair trying to keep her awake for the late night pass off I hated but couldn't change. She was going to Grandma's for a Friday overnight visit. Our relationship had grown increasingly strained in recent weeks and I struggled to find a way to fix it. There was no rational solution when dealing with an irrational person. Our difficulties made no sense. There was no logic to the complaints. I dressed her in the pink snowsuit and Grandma wanted her in the red. Her hair was growing too slow. I took her swimming at the pool. I let her mother come to visit. She loved us too much. She missed us too much.
Complaints I could not predict or rectify.
I wanted to scream "Don't you see how much she loves us? Don't you know how much we love her?" I was willing to do ANYTHING to fix things, driven by a fear that she held the power to break my heart. I grovelled. I begged. I paid. I fixed. I cried. I tried my best.
She left that Friday night before the boys even had a chance to say goodbye. She never came back. There was nothing more I could give and I knew, deep down, that inevitably Grandma would make me pay for the bond that Jazzy and I had, that she hated. An angry phone call and irrational complaints we could not fix. Shelby said no more and he was done with Grandma's drama. We couldn't play this game with our hearts, the boys' hearts or that baby's heart anymore.
We quit playing her game and we lost what mattered.
She left that night in her PJs. I handed her to her Grandmother. I kissed her cheek. I told her I loved her. "Mama" she said with a smile. I told her I would see her tomorrow.
Tomorrow never came.
I didn't know it was goodbye forever. I am not sure if I would have survived the night if I had known it was THAT goodbye.
My boys are haunted by her disappearance and their choice to go to the movie that night. They came home and she was gone. The child they adored. Their beloved baby sister. And she never came back. They never got to say goodbye.
Three years. I can breathe again. I go weeks without crying now. I smile and laugh and know I am healing. But never, ever does a day go by that I don't think of her. Ever. I gave her a year but I will love her for life.