A white piece of paper folded in half and printed in blue ink: a letter from the summer of 2002.
I had been hastily looking for something but knowing instantly what was in my hand, I sat on the edge of my bed to read it.
“How is it going out in Glorietta? I hope everything is going great…Katie and I are excited that y’all want us to be in the wedding. I can’t wait… We hope to hear from you soon. Well I got to go. I will talk to you later. Bye”
Signed: “Soon to be brother-in-law, Jacob Edfeldt”.
And sitting there in my bedroom all by myself, I laughed out loud. Then carefully folded it back up and tucked it safely into my box of treasured cards.
Three years ago, Jacob came to visit. It was spring break of his junior year in college, and he had a few days free. He came to see Ben and me, but mainly he came to spoil Tucker rotten.
We had a friend who had recently been deployed and had left his Wii with us. This was not the best thing for Ben and me as we were quickly reminded why we don’t have gaming systems of our own--Mario Cart is addictive and we are-- just a little bit-- competitive with each other.
One evening, Ben had a meeting at the BSM, and I wondered what Jacob and I would do in his absence. We knew each other, of course, but neither of us had ever quite figured out what to talk about for very long in each other’s presence. I had a bad headache and after putting Tucker to bed, I planned to chat with Jacob for a little bit and then go to bed early. But then I returned to the living room.
And Jacob was playing Mario Cart.
For a few minutes I sat and watched until I succumbed to the music and Princess Peach’s annoying “yippee”. We road around on raceways, a railroad, and a ridiculous rainbow until I called it quits and went to find Excedrin. I came back in to say good night when I heard the Nintendo music from my childhood. Jacob had found a game for the “older” Mario Brothers versions that hooked up to the Wii and there was Luigi hitting his head on bricks, jumping on flowers that made him grow, and fighting dragons for his princess.
When Ben arrived home after 11, Jacob and I were sitting side by side in the living room clutching controllers and intently talking strategy as we tried to remember the secret tunnels and tricks.
We had bonded over Mario.
The next morning was Jacob’s 21st birthday. We hung up the birthday banner and put streamers over his door. I made pancakes, and we gave him his birthday present and then drove him to the airport. Ben, Tucker, and I hugged him good-bye.
And that was the last time.
We have a house full of things that remind us of Jacob: Christmas ornaments, photos, a blanket, T-shirts, a pillow in Libby’s crib that was Jacob’s as a baby, a set of Mickey Mouse ears with Tucker’s name on them that we found in Jacob’s things after he died.
And every now and then we find something we have forgotten about-- like a white piece of paper typed up by a 14-year-old boy and sent to me for encouragement while I worked at a camp.
And he is still making us smile.
*Telling Tuck and Libby all about their Uncle Jacob today on his 24th birthday, and I have to admit I’m humming a little bit of the Mario Brother’s tune.