Photo Image: photograph of Manuela wearing a yellow jacket and wearing dark rimmed glasses
I wanted to call you today. The realization that I couldn’t, ever again, do so hit me with the force of reality. It wasn’t a new realization, you’ve been gone a while now and I can’t. But I still want to tell you what happened today.
Do you remember that summer that Joe and I were up in Gravenhurst with Mike and Marissa and the girls? You invited us all over to your cottage, I think you’d only recently bought it. We drove there, getting lost twice along the way, the GPS gave up and simply fell silent. Eventually, with the help of locals out walking, we found you.
Ruby was maybe 4 or 5 years old at the time and Sadie a few years younger. We sat outside, I was in my wheelchair and was unable to get into the house. You’d set it up so we’d be comfortable in the shade and had prepared a few snacks for us which you’d laid out beautifully. You were gifted that way. While we were there you took an eager Ruby down to the lake. We watched you as the two of you wandered along chatting with each other. Ruby had been immediately comfortable in your company.
When delighted, Ruby has a wonderful deep laugh. We heard that laugh several times as we watched the two of you kneeled down scooping water. Then, you called whoever wanted to come down to the lake and you went out in the boat. The girls could not have been happier than they were then.
After everyone was back up I learned what had been going on between you and Ruby. She was full of the story of course, you had been catching frogs together. You’d scoop them up in the water and laugh as they wriggled free. This delighted Ruby no end and I could see, as you listened to her tell the tale, that you had been delighted too. It was lovely.
Then Ruby said, seriously, after struggling to say your name, a feat she’s never mastered, that you’d told her while catching frogs that girls could do everything that boys could do. She said that you’d told her never, ever, to think that she was less than any boy any where. Ruby, from birth, has loved the idea of girl power, so she was enthralled by hearing this message from you, a woman she’d only just met. It wasn’t a new message, she’d heard that same message from all of us for all of her life, but this was different, somehow. It’s like when you hear words from a stranger, words that you’ve heard all your life, and they sound new, and daring, and exciting.
We had a wonderful time.
|Image description: A picture of Ruby nearly 4 wearing a summer dress and holding out frog that she met on the lakefront of Manuela’s cottage|
I virtually never saw you out of a work environment, I loved seeing the you that you were at your cottage. It was like a glimpse into a part of your life that was hidden from all of us. I cherish that.
But here’s why I wanted to call you. I wanted to tell you that, when Joe was giving a ride to the kids over to their father’s place, Ruby asked if she’d ever be able to go back to that place where she caught frogs with the lady at the cottage. There must have been something about that moment, between the two of you at the lake that has her remembering it so vividly.
Just before she asked she was sitting quietly, in the car, deep in thought. She must have been visting you in her mind, visiting that moment.
Ruby wanted to go see you again. She wanted to catch frogs with you. She wanted to hear your voice again.
Me, I’d settle for a call.
Just a simple call to tell you that though your work will be remembered by many, and though I have a thousand memories of you at the offices, at conferences, on long drives in the van, it’s this memory that I come back to most often. The same memory that Ruby has, of a woman, a frog and a message. I had never seen you so relaxed. I had never seen you so at peace.
I remember you coming back up the hill, holding the hand of the little girl next to you.
And that’s how I remember you.
And I wanted to call and tell you that Ruby remembers you too. And she remembers the frogs. And the message – she is equal to any boy.
Manuela, I love you, I miss you, and I’d give anything to be able to tell you that. But I can’t.
If you still read my blog daily, like you did here on earth, in heaven.
I look for you in the comment section!!