This is something else you are missing: Betty Ann, 11 months, October 17, 1944. I'd like it to mean something happy, her first steps. But all I could think when it first started was, "Great, another person I love walking away from me." Mother tells me I need to stop having these thoughts. She says I need to tell Betty Ann that you are in the war, deployed to France or Germany, fighting the good fight for all of us. That you never return will be just another sad piece of wartime fiction, like the cheap brass wedding band on the third finger of my left hand my father bought for me. It turns my skin a dull, bruised green, but I'm not allowed to take it off. It's another one of the bargains I've made with my folks to keep them supporting me in all of this. Lies are compliance, are the secrets we'll all take to the grave.
Betty Ann has your eyes. That's another thought I'm not allowed, but it's the truth. Your eyes were so blue it was like they swallowed the whole sky, some suffusion of light and molecules scattering through the space between us. When she looks at me, I see you. A final parting curse you left. A sign that proves your existence, though nothing else can. I tried to tell you all of this that day. I tried to say, "You have a daughter." But, your wife wouldn't let me get the words out.
Still. Betty Ann is here, striking out into the world on her own two feet. Betty Ann is yours. Ours.
Silence is not erasure.