How are you.
I feel a massive weight of air and sadness when I ask him this. He always smiles warmly, and says, “Good, good.” It’s the polite thing to say.
I really like him. He’s a very gentle person. There are people who exude warmth simply with their presence. I’d say he was one of them. He keeps his head down, works hard, doesn’t talk much. He has a very kind smile.
His 26 year old daughter passed away of cancer this past spring/summer. It was hard to find a moment to say something. More times than not, when we passed each other, the time was not quite right, and never private.
Mid summer, I did find that moment. I stopped him outside. I think I said, I’ve been wanting to find a moment for so long. I’m so sorry.
He was startled. Probably didn’t know that I had heard. And then he gave a smile and began talking about her. Pulled out his phone and started looking for something. And then he hesitated, turned to me, and asked, do you want to see? And I said, of course. He turned back to his phone and pulled up a photo of three young adults. His children. Two boys, and the girl between them- the middle child. He was so proud of her. I said she was beautiful, because she really was. And he said she was a web designer. Said she was so good to them. And then his body started to shake, and he went back inside.
A while later, in the same afternoon, we came across each other again outside. We stopped. He said thank you. That he was so grateful for the people here that were so good to him. He started to shake again and I hugged him hard. I didn’t know what to do. I asked him if there was anything I could do for him. Did he need any water. (Why in the world did I ask that? I just couldn’t think of anything else.) He said no, and afterwards, he said in his broken capacity at English, “Right now, you are my daughter.” And I understood.
“I hope no one has to go through what I did. Every night when I go home, it’s like I die 100 times.”
He turned towards his car, put up his arm, placed his head against it, and cried. I squeezed his arm briefly, and stayed put for a moment, saying – please let me know if I can do anything for you. And then I left, to give him his privacy.
I don’t think I will ever forget that moment. Grief etches hard in the mind. And the way he collapsed against his car –
Every time I ask him, how are you, this scene replays before me. When he says, “good, good”, I know it’s not. How can it be.