Sometimes you think you'll have a chance to say what you want to say, until you learn from the unpredictable sequence of life that that chance will never be.
“I know she liked you, but please understand that this is what she wanted.”
He said to me as he explained why I never knew that the woman who lived two floors below me was dying of cancer. I'll call her Teresa. She wasn’t just my landlady; she was the matriarch of the house I live in.
I came back from Holland in December with my souvenir in hand, waiting for the right time to give it to her.
But her door stayed closed for a month. So I kept on waiting until I would run into her while doing laundry in the basement. But she never popped in from running her errands. So I knocked on her apartment door but she never answered. Her son answered and told me she was sick. So I waited until I heard news that she would get better. Three more months went by. Then one day in April, spring finally came. It was the warmest day we had had all year. I heard the bird songs in the sky; I noticed the leaves blossoming on the trees in their new shade of green. The sky was blue. The clouds were wispy. Today will be a beautiful day, I said, as I walked out the house.
And that’s when a woman appeared and told me that Teresa had died that morning.
Teresa found out that she had cancer back in September. That was when I was leaving for Holland. I had told her that I would tell her all about my trip when I came back. But she didn’t want me to know that I wouldn’t see her again.
So today, two weeks after her death, he explained to me: “I know she liked you, but please understand. No one else knew, and this is what she wanted.” I told him I respected that, as I fought back the tears. He said that in her final days, she instructed her son to put out the sun dial that now sits in our driveway. He told me to go outside and read it. So I went. On the sun dial I read the words:
Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be.
I wonder what we would have talked about had I seen her one last time. Maybe the sun dial is my answer. Maybe she had been waiting for the right time to tell me.
*Written as I listened to Bitter by Meshell Ndegeocello