The memories shift and fade over the years, but you are not forgotten. I remember your dimples and the way you smiled with your eyes. I remember your dark curly hair, your olive skin, your Levi's jeans, and the Rolex that jangled on your wrist. I remember your passion and excitement for inside jokes and family traditions; the pride and adoration for your children that poured out of you like sparkling gold.
I remember the Chinese restaurant, the Italian restaurant, and the Thai restaurant where everyone knew your name.
I remember frozen yogurt, peanut M & M's, Palm Springs, Yosemite, and sweet sun-filled days at the pool.
I remember the year I dressed up like you for Halloween; and in a house of all women you said jokingly, "You're the son I never had." I remember how you made me feel like your favorite person.
And I remember your pain.
I remember your sleepless nights, the days when you stayed behind, and the days when you cried. I remember your suffering, and how we all wished we could help. I remember how badly you wanted to be better, mostly for your family, but also for yourself.
I remember your steady spiral into addiction. The way it gripped you and pulled you under. The way it numbed your pain, the way it made you chase the high, the way it stole your soul and turned you into someone I couldn't recognize.
I remember when you became a stranger, and how I stopped seeing you for awhile. I remember when your world fell apart around you, and you lost everything -- including your family. I remember when your judgment became compromised, and I remember the turmoil.
I remember the last time I ever saw you. You looked different -- older, rougher around the edges, and sad. Your body looked tired, but you were so happy to see me.
I remember how shocking it was to see you after all those years apart, tied down to a hospital bed and recovering from an overdose that nobody thought you would survive. "He's been here before," the doctor said. "Maybe seven or eight times." Everyone was surprised to see you survive.
I remember when I sat next to you, faithfully waiting for the hours to pass. I remember filling you in quietly about the years of my life that you had missed -- and I remember repeating it all the next day when you came off the ventilator and were finally aware of my presence. I remember how anytime someone walked into the room -- even if it was a janitor to empty the trash -- you said with overflowing pride "Look, this is my daughter."
I remember when you repeated this sentence over and over again, "I always knew I could count on Rachel, I always knew I could count on Rachel," with speech so slow and slurred I could hardly believe you were the person I used to know.
I remember the day that you asked me if I was coming back, and I promised that I would.
And I remember that very same day when I walked away, knowing that I would never return.
I remember holding my breath -- constantly waiting to hear news of your death, and I remember the day I found out you were gone. My heart broke for you, and I thought, maybe he is finally happy now. Maybe he finally has some peace.
I remember you nearly every day -- when I watch Seinfeld, when I eat M&Ms, when I repeat your silly jokes, when I hear one of your favorite songs on the radio, when I feel sad, and when I feel proud of the life I've lived.
I wish your story could've ended differently. I wish you could've met my husband, and I wish you could've met your beautiful grandchildren. If I close my eyes, I can imagine how much you would adore them. I can see you smiling.
I'm so sorry that I couldn't save you, I hope you forgive me.
Mom says that I got all the best parts of you. I hope that's true.
I still remember you, because you are a part of me.