You probably know the sad news, if you have read my blogs over the years, that Nana has passed away. She died in 2004, from emphysema. It was a peaceful death. She just got more and more tired until one day she was too tired to get up, so I took her to the hospital, and three days later she died while I sat beside her. She'd had breast cancer many years ago, and she told me that one of her first thoughts when she was diagnosed was, "Finally, I will get to find out what happened to Michaela." By that you know she meant that she thought she would die, and that she would get to see you, because she thought you had died. But she would never say it that way. And the thing is, she didn't die from breast cancer. She completely recovered and it never came back. She lived, and maybe you do, too.
I guess I'm telling you this sad news first, because I was going to tell you where we live, which is in Nana's house. It's not fancy, by any means. In fact there is a lot of work that needs to be done in it. But we have taken down all the wallpaper and painted the walls in colorful pastel colors. The living room is blue, and the kitchen and dining room are green. We still have the beautiful view. Do you remember it?
Here is the living room. To the right is Bella, one of our dogs.
Right over the fireplace is a sketch of you done by a local artist.
On the mantelpiece, these are photos of you. You probably
never saw these pictures, because we had them developed
after you were gone.
The view from the living room window at sunset...
All the kids are living at home now except for Alex. Alex lives a couple of hours away, and I don't see him nearly often enough. I have suffered from a kind of post traumatic stress disorder for the last couple of years, I think, which has kept me from doing a lot of things. Well, no, let's make that for the last 22 years. But he has a beautiful little family who I love very much.
This is not a new photo, but it is Alex and two
of his girls, Raina Joy (yes, named after you) and Kalia.
Libby has grown up to be beautiful, as I'm sure you have. Sometimes when I look at old pictures of you and Libby, it is hard for me to tell you apart. I have to look at the background sometimes to figure out which are pictures of you and which are of Libby. They have done age progressions of you, Michaela, to show what you are supposed to look like now, but none of them look to me like you. I'd love so much to see how you really look, to see if you still look like your sister. Libby has moved in and out of the house over the years, but is in now, so she will be here waiting for you.
This is Libby on her birthday.
I'm sure she will hate my choice of picture, but she is beautiful.
I chose this also, because it makes me think of the many birthdays I have
missed with you. When you come home, we will make up for them all.
We will light a forest fire of candles and eat cake for days!
Then there is Robbie. Remember, he was just a tiny baby the last time you saw him. Robbie doesn't remember you, because he was only a baby, and Libby probably has more memories based on photographs than actual memories, because she was only three. I can't remember, but I think it was Libby who was asked about her memories of you, and she said she didn't so much have actual memories, but that she felt as though she knows you because I have kept you so alive for her. Do you ever think that you would be a stranger if you came home? You wouldn't. You are a part of our lives, every day. I don't know how it is that I can miss you so much, and yet feel really as though you are somehow here with me every single day.
Do you remember also that when Robbie was a baby, you drew a picture of him in his striped pajamas, and you wrote him a letter, and folded it up, and wrote on it, "For Robbie when he is 9 years old." I guess you chose the age 9, because that's how old you were when you wrote it, telling him about himself and about you. The really funny thing is that I just happened to come across that letter one day. I dug out Robbie's baby book when I was looking for something, and there was your picture and letter. And Robbie just happened to be nine years old.
Is it any wonder that I feel you are here with me?
Anyway, Robbie is 6'4" now, completely adorable, and just the nicest boy. Well, man, I guess, since he is 23 years old. He has a day job as a merchandiser, but his great love is music. He's been in several bands over the years, mostly hardcore, although one of the bands played acoustic music. He was a screamer in a few of the hardcore bands, but now he plays guitar with them. He sings with the acoustic, and he has a beautiful voice. He's also been in a few plays. I think all this performing stuff is really weird, but I remember you were supposed to sing a solo in the Christmas pageant at Hillview Crest right after you were kidnapped. I'm sure you would have been the first to go into performing, but now Robbie and Johnna have both gone this way.
This is Robbie with Alex's other little girl, Shylah.
About a year after you were kidnapped, your dad and I split up. A few years later, I remarried. Jeff had a little girl when I met him, so you have a stepsister. Ariel came to live with us when she started kindergarten, and is twenty now and still living with us, so everybody sees her as simply a sister rather than a stepsister. I know you will enjoy getting to know her when you get home.
This is Ariel, one of your new sisters.
You have a new half sister as well. Johnna was born five years after you were kidnapped, but you were there at her birth as well. She was born during the memorial for Polly Klaas, another girl who was kidnapped and who had been found murdered. We'd had the memorial service on the television in the labor and delivery suite, and just as Johnna was being born the station we were watching broadcast photos of other children who were still missing. I looked up into the corner of the room, and there you were, smiling down at me as your sister was coming into this world. It was as though you were sending me a message ... but what?
Johnna is also into performing. She is an actress, and has been in so many plays I can't remember them all. Right now she is playing Beatrice in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. I'm writing a novel, by the way. I have written about you for years, but finally I put away the true story and started telling my story in the form of fiction. The book is about a mom and daughter. The mom is the mother of a missing child, who is based on you. I have described you as gold and light. The other daughter I have modeled after Johnna, and I described her as the storm. There is something about the two of you that reminds me of one another, and yet you are completely opposite. Oh, and by the way, I named her Johnna Joy, after you.
This is Johnna, in her prom dress.
And this is Jeff, my husband. This picture was taken when we went to see Robbie's hardcore band perform last week, and he was being silly. He said he was practicing hardcore screaming!
And finally, baby girl, here is me ... holding you.
I love you forever, Michaela ... as long as I'm living and beyond, you will be my baby girl. You have my heart always.