I realized today that the human activity I engage in above all others is missing people. Of course, all my family members are gone tonight doing one thing and another, so I miss them. And right now, I am baking mac and cheese for the family of one of my dear friends, who is on a dream trip to the Bahamas. So I miss all of them, too. And my true heart’s best friend has gone to the Redwoods or to a treehouse in Southern Oregon or to some fool place she says makes her feel like a hippy or an Ewok. I miss her too.
Every single day of my life, I miss my Grandma Edna. She died 13 years ago this month, and I’m still a little mad that she didn’t hang around to meet Violet. But I miss my grandfather, too, though he died when I was three. I can scarcely remember what he looked like, but the smell of a pipe can bring tears to my throat in a hot second.
I love my co-workers now, but I still miss my colleagues from City Club and the Federal Defenders Office and Energy III, the insulation company where I worked after high school. I miss my friends from law school and college and kindergarten. I miss Rodney, the boy who died in a car crash when I was in the fourth grade.
The odd thing is that I’m not lonely. Not at all. In fact, it is a rare and beautiful thing to be alone at the dinner hour when I can eat cottage cheese over the sink while I balance Martha Stewart Living on the cutting board. Nothing to cook, no dishes to wash. I can think my own thoughts, and they are not all entirely melancholy.
The vast majority of my time is spent with people who I admire and enjoy and love. But in the back of my mind, I am missing all the others. In fact, sometimes I miss the people I am with because I am thinking about the fact that they will grow up and go to college or get a different job or go the grocery store without me. As I drive Ruby and Violet to school, I often think I miss you even though you are still here. Sometimes I even say that out loud, but they look at me—as they say—like I have nine heads.
I also miss people I barely know—like the friendly barista who has worked in the coffee shop around the corner for the last few months but who doesn’t seem to be there anymore. And I miss all the dogs I’ve ever had – Zeke and Kaikatsu and Katie and Romeo. And Kia, the German Shepherd that we boarded for two weeks when I was in second grade.
I miss restaurants and coffee shops where I ate and argued and laughed with friends and lovers and kids—Ron Paul on Broadway and Chance of Rain and especially Esparza’s, where we went for chicken fried steak on Thursday nights even though I am a vegetarian.
I miss my Uncle Eldon and my Great-Grandfather Harry, who I never met. I miss my cat even though I have never had a cat and I don’t see a way in which I would ever have one. But you see, I know that if I did have a cat, his name would be Diego Rivera and he would be a calico, and he would have a gray eye patch. I miss him.
It’s a pathology, all this missing. I can’t decide if its ingratitude or an over-abundance of gratitude. Or if it’s just plain looking a gift horse in the mouth. But I do know, in that moment just before I say goodbye to you, when you are both there and not there—it is the sweetest thing I know. It reminds me how fleeting it all is. It reminds me we are damn lucky to be here. Now. Together.