The hellos and goodbyes that waver beyond words


a family friend

A rather blurry photo of my mom, our late-bullmastiff JJ, and me all standing around a sunset campfire.

She’s always talked in sonnets—syllables that pour like rain through wide-open flood gates, stopping for nothing. Yet, when it comes to this, there have never been words.

Only music.

Bonnie Raitt paints the turns in the roads, coating the trees outside her windows in sunshiney saturation.

Sonny and Cher sing softly behind the Groundhog’s Day DVD that skips every other second along with her heartbeat.

Carole King hops from square to square on her gingham table cloth, resonant of sunsets and silky, late-night swims.

These melodies rest on the tips of her calloused fingers, and she’s come to recognize them. Recognize them for the nostalgia they bring in the dusky hours of the morning when time has utterly escaped her. Recognize them for the words she cannot transplant—the words that bounce off the walls of her brain and are destined to do so forever.

A Fourth of July sunset over Rainbow Lake. (Jessie Warren)

Goodbye seems a simple phrase, yet its letters are an entirely different story. With gradient hues of violet and aquamarine, they shift from moment to moment and person to person, and right now, they evade her.

She is sure of few things, but one rings ever-present in her mind: houses are humans within themselves.

Houses have dusty corners that they much rather leave hidden. Ladybugs crawl out from behind locked doors and darts strike the unfinished drywall, leaving holes in the surface that multiply over the years. Trees grow so lanky that their limbs threaten the eaves; they brush against the gutters yet refuse to be trimmed, turning their roots into thrones for her and her friends.

She’ll never find the right words because grief is not something linear.

Houses have epicenters where their sunbeams radiate most brilliantly. Couches cave in under the weight of tired bodies and dog fur, limbs crisscrossing over one another with little care. Legs that once coiled at the sight of a boat now skip across the crests of waves, light scintillating through the dewdrops that are sent spiraling into the air. Forts constructed out of bottom bunks hold in whispers—the sort that challenge the sunrise with each breath.

My siblings and me on our family pontoon boat. (Maryann Venskus)

Houses have times when they shine and times when they simmer, yet most of all, they have windows through which to view the sky’s transition from saffron to apricot to rose. Windows that sit suspended on the edge of firework crackles and still join in the animosity when the noise becomes too much.

She’ll never find the right words because grief is not something linear. Like houses, it shifts according to the level of care we pay it. And when its time to let it all go, we allow our palms to soften.

The music still plays—panging in a place deep within her heart that aches in a foreign way. As she flips through these photo albums, certain laughs escape along with the melody, and tears are swallowed back on the bass.

Everything is both within and without sync, and funnily enough, she thinks she is beginning to heal. Funnily enough, the words are becoming a bit clearer.

Goodbye seems a simple phrase, and even though she once cowered in fear of it, she thinks she understands now.

She thinks it may finally be enough.