Jenna’s red shoes

My Jenna Girl, circa age 4

My Jenna Girl, circa age 4

One night, several years after my dad died, he popped into my mind. (He believed in reincarnation, and I’ve often imagined him popping up all over the place.) I was feeling a quiet sort of sad, the kind too personal to talk about. So I slipped into my bedroom, turned out the lights and sat in my rocker, looking through the window and into the past.

Suddenly the door burst open. “Why’s the door closed?” It wasn’t a question, really. It was more of an accusation. Jenna, my youngest, was only four and had yet to grasp the meaning of closed doors.

“I’m thinking of my dad,” I said.

“Why?” Another accusation.

“I miss him.”

She walked over (more like grumped over). “Are you crying?”

“A bit.”

She frowned as she studied me. This was new, perhaps confusing. Crying was something kids did, not mommies. And then, sweet thing, she softened and slipped into my lap.

“I miss him too,” she said.

I leaned my head against hers and smiled. She never knew him; he had died before she was born.

“Mom,” she asked tentatively. “Will you die?”

Ah, what to say? I didn’t want to lie, so I chose my words carefully.

“One day I will, but not for a very, very, very, very, very, very long time.”

She considered this. We rocked.

“Mom?”

“Yes, Jenna.”

“What happens when you die?”

Hmmmm …

“Well,” I said, “people believe different things about that. But I believe, people never really die. They may not be around, but they move into your heart.” (Here I rubbed my heart.) “This way, they’re always there and you can think about them, even talk to them when you’d like.”

We rocked.

“Mom?”

“Yes, Jenna?”

“When you die … ”

“Yes, Jenna?”

“When you die — not for a very, very, very long time …”

“Yes, Jenna?”

“Can I have your red shoes?”

I laughed. “Sure.”

My father would have laughed too.

FYI: Jenna never did get my red shoes. I offered them to her years later, but she turned me down. They were too worn and, well, too red. Who wore such a horrendous color? Certainly not her friends.

Today, she covets my gramma’s ring. Perhaps I will give it to her — but not for a very, very, very long time.

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