I knew I had unravelled in a few minutes everything good I had done for Tim over the past near-month. But I didn’t care. It would point up the contrast between the green pastures he had had with us and the brown scorched earth he was choosing instead.
As soon as he got home, he’d see. He wouldn’t have us waiting on him hand and foot. One night should do it. He’d be a Humble Tigger then, a Sad Tigger, a Melancholy Tigger, a Small and Sorry Tigger, an Oh-Jerry-and-Jessica-I-am-glad-to-see-you Tigger.
On the drive to his place (I made sure not to have Jerry come with me) he sat very quietly in the back seat. It took an effort but I told him the truth. I told him I loved him. I said how much it hurt to have him leave the family when I was nine and how glad I was to have had the chance to get to know him as an adult. I told him how much I enjoyed having him live with us, serving him. I apologized for worrying too much and treating him like a child.
After a long minute he said, “Apology accepted.”
While he clutched his new pillow, his jacket and his leopard-spotted hat, I lugged the rest of his stuff out of the car in two loads and dragged it back upstairs to his apartment. He followed me in and looked around. “This doesn’t look too bad.”
“That’s because Jerry scrubbed it within an inch of its life.”
“Thank him for me. Please thank him.”
I said I would. I said, “Your wallet and the things you’ll need right away are in this sack.” And I left.
I was upset the rest of the day, couldn’t settle down. I missed him. I missed waking up and going downstairs to peek around the curtains, anxiously study his body, laid out as if already in a coffin, and be comforted he was still breathing.
I missed us all reading and eating together. On Resurrection Sunday Tim didn’t wake up until we got back from church. (I’d hidden the knobs for the stoves in a drawer to be sure he didn’t try to cook anything.) Then he said he wanted “those eggs Jerry makes.” So Jerry made what Ted would later call “Easter Eggs Benedict”–for all of us. Jerry poached the eggs, I sliced the ham and mixed our signature Hollandaise, mayo and mustard. I had Tim toast and butter the English muffins and squeeze the oranges for juice. It was wonderful, the three of us working on a project together. Tim took his part in it so seriously.
I missed being able to watch movies with him at any time of the day, or drive him to libraries, restaurants, plays. We had all planned to go to the $1 bookstore that day.
I missed doing things that made life easier for him, setting out clean clothes and his daily pills. I thought our care for him was subtle, like noticing a blind man feeling for his cane and quietly moving it within reach. He thinks we put a fence around him so small it was restrictive. What we were trying to do was put a fence around him wide enough to keep him safe, giving him freedom to live a full life.
I even missed his frigging teeth sitting pink on the sink in the guest bathroom.