The school year is on its way. Things are going well. So well, that last week I went to a coffee shop alone to treat myself after dropping the boys off at school.
While waiting in line to get a coffee I noticed a young woman with two small girls. The girls seemed similar in age, but did not look-alike. The girls were giggling and holding hands. Seeing the two of them made me smile. I made a comment to the young woman how nice it is to have a friend to hang out with. She informed me one girl was her daughter and one was her niece. The two girls were cousins, not friends.
While we waited in line to order coffee the woman asked if I had children. I told her I had three boys. She mentioned she had three brothers and said she felt sorry for me. We both laughed. Our conversation continued. She informed me she takes care of her niece full-time while her sister works. At one point the woman asked about my extended family.
“Do you have any family in town?”- Young Woman
“No. We have a lot of good friends, but all of our family lives elsewhere.” – Me
“Oh. Do you have a sisters or brothers?” – Young Woman
“Yes. I have three sisters and one brother.” – Me
“That’s a big family. You must have a lot of nieces and nephews.” – Young Woman
I stayed silent for a moment. I wasn’t sure how to answer her question. I made a quick decision to tell the truth.
“No. I only had one niece. But sadly she died years ago.” – Me
The woman looked at me with wide eyes. I could tell she was searching for the right words to say to me. She placed her arm around both of the girls and gave them a squeeze.
“I’m so sorry.” – Young Woman
“Thank you.” – Me
For a moment I thought about trying to explain about my niece. How she was born to my younger sister, a woman who struggles with mental illness. How my mother helped to raise her until she passed away. How my two sisters, both single, raised her to be their own. How she was only 19 when she died from an accidental overdose of alcohol and medication.
The woman turned and faced away from me, hugging the two girls. I wanted desperately to tap her shoulder to tell her all about my beautiful niece. How my Tall Boy looks just like her. How funny she was. How she wanted to a cosmologist. How flawless her skin was. How much I missed her and being an aunt. But I stayed silent.
Tears filled my eyes as I began to think of my niece. Suddenly, having a coffee didn’t interest me. I headed toward the door to leave the coffee shop. I looked back briefly to see the young woman looking at me. Her eyes looked misty. I knew she wanted to say something… anything, but couldn’t. I gave her a weak smile and walked out the door.
She was lost for words, as I was with to her.
I walked quickly to my car. I opened the door mere seconds before the tears began to flow. I sat down in the car and cried. My heart ached for my niece. I missed her so much. I wished I could see her again and talk to her. Tell her all the things I forgot to say when she way alive. How proud I was of her. How sorry I was that we had a big fight. How beautiful I thought she was. How much I missed her funny jokes and smile.
I wished I had another chance to say, all the things I should have told her. Just one more chance.
I would not be lost for words.