I go back and forth with looking at pictures of my niece. Sometimes I need to have them all around me, and sometimes I have to not look at them because I know the feelings of despair and emptiness that I feel just holding the pictures in the frames. I look at them with such a sadness. Sometimes I cry my eyes out, sometimes I just stare at them feeling numb, in disbelief. Even after all this time, I still feel like this can’t possibly be happening. Have almost ten years gone by? They have and I know where the time went.
It went to coping with a whole new reality, trying to survive this day after day after day. Asking yourself the same questions. Feeling that anxiousness that makes my heart beat faster. Closing my eyes and wishing it away. Praying to God throughout the day. She’s the last thing I pray for when I go to sleep at night. I’m positively certain that this is how it will be, until one random day, it isn’t.
The wait and weight will be over. My niece will have read this book. She will have received the hope chest that holds her time capsule. She will have read through the scrapbooks I made for her. She will have seen the pictures. Read through boxes of paperwork. She will have seen the pictures we hold so dear. We have them in them near the dining table, we have them on the fridge, we have them in our wallets, in our rooms. She’ll see that we kept her with us the only way we knew how after she was ripped away from us without us even knowing.
We did everything we could, we fought every step of the way. She had a family who would have loved her and taken care of her, after all, she is one of our own. She will always belong to us no matter what kind of legal papers they flash our way or the smug looks they give when we come face to face. I’m still waiting for someone to jump out and say it was all a nightmare. That none of this ever happened and we opened our eyes and things were as they were before our world imploded.
The pictures make it real. They capture the moment of time that we had, so brief, in such awkward places. At a freezing park with a monitor watching our every move, because WE can’t be trusted, in attorney’s offices. In the Los Angeles court where we saw family after family come out having been ordered to be torn apart. In the pictures, you can tell we’ve been crying, trying to put on smiles so it will be hard to tell we’re dying inside.
The pictures are a whole other monster. It’s a whole separate thing to deal with. It’s a different hurt that comes from deep inside. It causes physical pain, you can feel the anguish sitting on your chest like a bowling ball. We all fight through all the emotions because it’s all worth it to see her little face. To feel for that moment that she is ours to have and to hold, to make dreams really seem like a possibility even for a moment. I hold the pictures close to my heart, close my eyes and say ‘she’s still mine …. she’s still ours.’