I remember when, a few years ago, his sister was on the athletic track, Robert climbed the big rock next to the bleachers while I kept an eye on him, one on his sister and one on the time for when I’d have to go and collect Andrew from tennis.
Now it was, Robert on the track, me on the cold bleachers, Florentina at work in the City and Andrew… all around, but invisible to me.
Behind dark sunglasses and a copy of the vegetarian Times I did my best to look invisible or at least, absorbed. I haven’t been out much since AD (Andrew died). I mean, I do go food shopping, I have even been out to lunch a few times – I went to Washington as you know, but that’s different – what I have not done since Andrew died, is being out amongst local people, for when I do, as I did yesterday for the first time, I seem to stick out like a sore thumb, and kind people feel the need to come over and commiserate, and get all sad, and they don’t know what to say, and I have to do all the talking and make them feel better. But I don’t mind, sometimes.
And there I was, doing my best to look anonymous, in turn checking the track for signs of Robert’s turn to pole vault, and reading the Vegetarian Times, except that I couldn’t even see what I was reading without reading glasses, when my cell phone rung.
“Hi it’s Karuna,” one of my Ammassociates, as Andrew used to call my Amma friends. “How are you?”
“I am. Robert has a meet and I am at the school track watching.”
“What’s he doing?”
“Pole Vault and high jump.”
And on we chatted for a while, she telling me about her year-long efforts working out what to do with the small house in the Hamptons she’d inherited from her father. A subject that, in different formats, has been part of every conversation I’ve had with Karuna for more than a year.
In fact, I was sitting in the car having a similar conversation with her on the phone while waiting for Hugh, the day before Andrew died. That subject duly exhausted, she had then asked if we wanted to join her and other friends for Christmas.
“Florentina would probably enjoy it, but Andrew and Robert are adamant that we have Christmas at home.”
” What about if we do something around Christmas time then, will the kids come?” She asked.
“Oh yes,” I said. “But I have to tell you something. Do you remember that salad you made when you came to my house?”
“Well, afterwards Andrew came to me and asked: why did Karuna have to ruin a perfectly good salad by putting all that stuff in it?”
“What stuff? ” I asked, knowing perfectly well what he meant.
“All that stuff, you know… dill, garlic, cilantro, celery…”
“You could have just not eaten those.”
“No, you couldn’t. The whole salad tasted bad.”
“I won’t put any of the stuff next time,” she had laughed.
“By the way,” Karuna said added after we’d already said good-bye. “I made a salad last night, and I said to Andrew…. See Andrew? I am not putting any of that crap in the salad, I’m making good salads now.”
We both laughed and cried at the same time.
“That boy, that sweet, sweet boy,” she sighed. “I have to tell you something,” she continued. “It took a lot of courage for him to do what he did.”
“Yes, he’s always been a brave little boy,” I agreed. “I just wish…”
“I know, we all do, but he was very courageous.”
“Karuna? ” I asked suddenly. “Have you dreamed of Andrew?”
“No I haven’t, but I talk to him, and sometimes he talks to me. And he told me: look after my mother, you are good for her.”
“Yes, you drive me crazy but you are good for me, you always make me laugh. And you make Hugh, Florentina and Robert laugh too, and we love you.”
And we love you Andrew