No words available
by Ted Streuli
My first thought: “I don’t know what to say to her.”
My second thought: “Isn’t that kind of pathetic? I’m 60-years old. She’s my daughter. I’ve been talking to her for half my life. How can I not know what to say to her?”
I’ve made a living with words. I’ve used them to make people laugh, make people cry, make people mad. I know how to get from A to B, and anyone who’s sat down to a martini with me knows that I can get be as chatty as a politician in an election cycle. I can sit down at the computer knowing I have 45 minutes to produce 600 words and without a great deal of thought they find their way to my fingers with time to spare. I can tell you what a gerundive is and why that should have been a semicolon instead of a dash, so it is rare that I find myself without words, which have been my loyal companions since junior high.
But on Monday they abandoned me, so I turned to my wife, Betsey, for help. She’s a lawyer. She always has words.
“Will you please call Kaitlin?” I said. “We have to call right now, and you’ll be better at it,”
Kaitlin generously produced Stevie in July. Yes, like Stevie Nicks. The first grandchild, a girl, who has Nikko’s black hair and her mother’s frequent smile and no one will convince me it’s really just gas. She’s curious and animated and all the things we newly minted grandfathers think their granddaughters should be because, well, they’re all perfect, aren’t they?
I get pictures and videos by text and I can’t wait to meet her. Big eyes and pink dresses and faces that say, “Whatever is this new thing?” and “Oh, I’m so glad to see you!” I have a ticket for an October flight and for a few days I’ll get to coo and cuddle and revel in those eyes being pointed at me. If I’m lucky, I’ll graduate from “Whatever is this new thing?” to “Oh, I’m so glad to see you!” before the too-brief visit concludes.
But the visit will be different now.
There was a cryptic message on Facebook Monday morning, one of those vague prayer requests that could mean anything from we’re having a spat to the water heater broke to this might be the right lottery ticket. Privately, I asked what was up and she sent me a link to a news story, just the kind of thing I would do.
At approximately 4:50 am Monday, the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District responded to a report of a vehicle crash in the 2400 block of East Cypress Road in the city of Oakley.
Upon arrival, Engine 53 located a two-vehicle crash with one vehicle off the roadway and on its side. Another vehicle was in the roadway blocking eastbound traffic. One person was trapped in the vehicle requiring extrication.
A short time later, at least one person was declared deceased on scene, another involved sustained minor injuries.
No other information has been provided as the Oakley Police Department is on scene investigating the crash.
“I think Nikko’s dead,” she wrote. She was right.
What do you say to your daughter, to any young woman, whose infant daughter will never know her father. Her father, whose image will be shown as he was at 30 but never any older, who won’t attend a father-daughter dance or help her with her prom corsage or walk her down an aisle.
There is no instruction book for this. What does one say?
I dug around in my bag of words and phrases, looked on top and in the bottom corners and flipped the bag over and dumped them all out and still nothing was any clearer at all.
So I told Siri to call her and went with the only thing I could find.
“Hi, honey. I love you so much.”
Such a devastating loss. I’m so sorry for you all.
Of course, you found just the right words. May you have strength in navigating the rough waters ahead.
Prayers for you and your family now….words later.