I’m doing the dishes late at night when I hear footsteps in the hall. I stick my head out of the kitchen to see Andrew coming out of the bathroom in his pajamas, sniffling.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

He pauses and then looks at me with tears. “I’m just real sad.”

I grab him in a hug, he’s almost as tall as my shoulder. “Oh honey, I know. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s just that it wasn’t enough. To see her for two weeks wasn’t enough to make up for the year that she was gone.” This is the most adult thing I’ve heard my ten year old say yet.

I hug him for a minute longer because I know he feels bad, but I don’t know what to tell him.

“Mom?” He asks. I never told them to call me mom, but they do anyway. Even when she begs them not to.

“Yeah?”

“I forgot to write her a letter.”

“Hey,” I say, “ do you want to write it now?”

He nods his head and we both head to the table. He grabs a pencil and paper, and I decide to make him a cup of hot chocolate.

The letter takes only a few minutes for Andrew to write, and I wish his third grade teacher could see him now. I give him an envelope and stamp, plus instructions on how to address a letter.

In silence he finishes the hot cocoa and stands up, unsure of how to say goodnight again.

I ask “Do you feel better?”, even though it’s a ridiculous question.

Andrew shrugs and looks at the ground so that he doesn’t start to cry again.

“You don’t want to talk about it?” I offer, and he nods.

Then he looks up at me with shiny green eyes. “But I’m glad I wrote the letter.”

“She’ll write you back, okay, and we’ll set something up so you guys can see her again before school starts.” And he’s off to bed.

I return to my dish washing. His father would kill me if he knew I was encouraging them to see their mother more, but doesn’t he remember how it felt? Maybe I parted with my own father at that certain tender age when a child is too painfully aware of what they have lost. Having been there myself, it seems like I should have some good advice but I don’t. There really is no cure for the common heartache.

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