When Kaia* was a baby, I would put my feet up on the coffee table at my parents’ house with my knees bent and sit her up on my legs facing me. She was only 6 weeks old when one day, I kept staring into her eyes, sticking my tongue out at her over and over again. This went on for several minutes, until all of a sudden, she stuck her tongue back out at me and I was so surprised that I shrieked and started crying and laughing uncontrollably. I could not believe that she was so smart and engaged. And then she smiled and did a little chortle right back at me. She had a sparkle in her eye as she kept sticking her tongue out at me, waiting until I would laugh, and then she would let out her own little laugh. I knew she would be a troublemaker like me. It was the first primal connection that I had ever had in my whole life, other than the ones I do not remember because of death.
I cannot help but wonder if this connection is now lost in the wind. I look into Kaia’s eyes and I do not see her. I talk to her and I do not hear her. When she comes over, sometimes she is sobbing and she tells me that she just wants a hug. I hug her and then I ask her what is wrong, but then it all goes into some conspiracy theory and I try to get her to go to the hospital and she almost, almost, almost agrees to go, and then she gets agitated and starts screaming at me and I have to tell her that it is time to leave.
I miss her so much. I keep remembering funny little things that she said or did throughout her life. Stupid things, that are not even funny unless you were there. She would sing the most hilarious song lyric at just the right time. She would take a photo with everything blurred out except the most hilarious detail. She would show up after school with a giant stuffed moose that some college kids had left outside the house they were moving out of.
Loving someone who is severely mentally ill without personal insight is like being in a purgatory between grief and hope. I am so sad and I grieve for what I have lost, but I cannot move on because there is still hope that she might come back one day. I do not know how to live my life from here.
*name has been changed