The Necklace

By the time my mother had been in jail for about five weeks for the murder of my father, it was my birthday.  As an adult in the midst of a family crisis, a rocky marriage, and a full schedule of work and a baccalaureate degree, my birthday was just another day on the calendar.

However, when my mother called as scheduled that day and asked my brother, sisters, and me how we were celebrating it, we lied and told her we were with our families at a restaurant.  We did not want her to know that we were at her house doing cleaning, repairing, packing, and remodeling, as we had been since that fateful July day more than a month earlier.  She had already been through enough, and we did not want her to know we

The necklace

all spent every spare minute at their home so we could sell it for bail and her defense fund.

We were there seven days a week working on the home, even though we all had full-time jobs and families.  We brought our spouses and children there, we ate dinner there during the week and all three meals there on the weekends.  So, I was not going to let something like a birthday keep me from doing my fair share.  Never mind the fact that the last time I had been in this home my father threw me out and told me never to come back; I wiped those memories from my mind, or tried to.

My little sister came to me that day, my birthday, away from everybody else, “Mom wants you to have this,” she said as she handed me a necklace.  My eyes welled up with tears as I saw the familiar piece of jewelry; it was a silver charm necklace.  The base piece was a wishbone with a silver strand across the bottom between the base where you would pull the “bone” of the wishbone apart.  There were at least ten charms on it, all made of pure silver.  I used to secretly steal into my mother’s room and sneak it off of her dresser, borrowing it from her when I thought she would not notice.

“Are you sure?” I asked my sister.

“Yes, she feels bad that we have all been working so much,” she answered, “and that she is in there on your birthday.”

I happily took the necklace, a little shocked that my mother actually wanted me to have something so special; we had never been very close.

A few years later, my mother started to distribute her belongings to my brother and sisters; everything I asked for was already spoken for, so she gave me nothing.  So it goes, so it goes.  Then, one year I was in the area for Christmas and she came over to my daughter’s house for dinner.  She had a gift bag filled with jewelry she wanted to give me; she opened the bag and laid out each piece as if it was something special.  It wasn’t.  “I wanted to give you all of the good jewelry,” she said, “I know you are the only one who will wear it and appreciate it.”  As she laid each piece across the bedspread, I tried to be polite and smile, but I was confused.  She had some nice pieces, and these were not those pieces.

The costume jewelry she gave me was old, worn, and most of it was not even fit to be worn.  I took it home and added it to my collection of junk.

A few months later she was visiting my home; she was in the guest room where the jewelry was laid out on a dresser, including the necklace my sister had given me for my birthday years earlier.  For some unknown reason, my mother started to go through the pieces of jewelry on the dresser; the junk jewelry she gave me, pieces of my own from long ago, and the necklace.

Suddenly, she calls me from the kitchen, “Come in here,” she screams, “what are you doing with this?” she holds up the necklace, fury in her eyes.  “I gave this to your sister; you aren’t supposed to have any of the ‘good’ jewelry.”  Her voice punctuates the word good, a direct conflict to when she made a point that she wanted to give me the good jewelry.

I explained the story about her being in jail on my birthday and how the necklace was given to me.  She was angry.  She claimed I was never supposed to get the necklace.  The rest of her visit was peppered with tension.

When she left the next day, I went in the room to clean and change the sheets, and the necklace was gone.

My daughter claims she wore it all that summer.

Happy Thanksgiving

I woke up virtually unaware it was even Thanksgiving this morning; it does not feel like a holiday to me for several reasons.  The fact that I am currently residing in a state with two seasons, hot and less hot, does not make me feel very festive and almost makes me irritated when I see Christmas lights against the backdrop of the Camelback Mountains or when draped around a saguaro cactus.

However, the fact that my children have stopped speaking to me some months ago and I am almost two thousand miles away from the man I love does little to add to my holiday cheer.  In fact, it leaves me feeling downright Grinchy.  So, when I woke up this morning and headed to the gym, it was just another day to me.

Only when I was forced to plaster a fake smile on my face and spend the afternoon eating a dead bird and a sack of potatoes on the lanai while the 80 degree sun shone down melting the ice in our tea at the home of my sister’s relatives did it finally strike me that it was indeed Thanksgiving.  No, it was not my Thanksgiving, not even close.  I would be celebrating in an entirely different way; but, those days are gone, at least for now.

As I sat there at the table breaking bread with a sister I have known sporadically as an adult, barely knew as a child, and her relatives, with my best Stepford Wife smile, insinuated into their lives temporarily, I tried to fit in.  They talked easily with each other about their mundane lives, their memories, and their shared relatives.  I smiled politely, helped with the dishes, and held back my tears.

While the sun was setting on the day, I decided I would take an inventory of my life and write down some of the things I have to be thankful and appreciative for even if they are not always apparent.

Even though my children do not speak to me, I have two intelligent, beautiful, and charming daughters; I hear through the family gossip mill that they are healthy and mostly happy, for that I am thankful.  One of my daughters has two children, I do not know one, but the other is adorable, and I love him dearly; he surely does not even remember me now, but I hear he is fine, I am incredibly thankful for him.  As for her daughter, I am certain she will be fine as well, so I am happy for my daughter.

I have a man who, while we are not together at this moment for various reasons, loves me even though I have given him many reasons to leave; I am more thankful for him than for anything.  He is the love of my life.

I am reasonably healthy.  Thankful.

My mother, sisters, and brother all have homes, and family and seem to be doing well despite the troubles in this country and the economic downturn in the recent years.  Very thankful.

Life could be worse; I know it is for so many people.  So, while my Thanksgiving Day was not what I would have envisioned, I am certain I will have many more; and I do have reasons to be thankful…

Sometimes you just have to look beyond the clouds to see the rainbows, I suppose.  I hope you had a better holiday.

 

99 Questions – My Answers

My answers…

1: Do you sleep with your closet doors open or closed? Closed; unfortunately, I grew up afraid of so many things, monsters being foremost in my mind and they live in closets and under the bed.  Seriously.

2: Do you take the shampoos and conditioner bottles from hotel? Yes, but I do not use them.  I have boxes of them that I kind of save and then eventually throw out.

3: Do you sleep with your sheets tucked in or out?  Well, they are tucked in at the bottom and about ¼ of the way up; and, of course the bottom sheet is fitted.

4: Have you ever stolen a street sign before? Not a street sign…

5: Do you like to use post-it notes? Absolutely! I have an unhealthy obsession for office supplies.

6: Do you cut out coupons but then never use them? Often, but I can also organize and use them when necessary.

7: Would you rather be attacked by a big bear or a swarm of bees? Probably a bear; it seems more swift.

8: Do you have freckles?  I don’t think so, not really.

9: Do you always smile for pictures?  No, I rarely smile.

10: What is your biggest pet peeve? Oh goodness, so many… cell phones at the dinner table or in line at a store.

11: Do you ever count your steps when you walk?  Almost always.

12: Have you ever peed in the woods? Yes

13: What about pooped in the woods? Yes

14: Do you ever dance even if there’s no music playing? No, I am not much of a dancer.

15: Do you chew your pens and pencils? No, not anymore.

16: How many people have you slept with this week? Zero

17: What size is your bed? Queen Size

18: What is your Song of the week? I don’t really have one.

19: Is it okay for guys to wear pink? If they want to.

20: Do you still watch cartoons? Occasionally

21: What’s your least favorite movie? Anything violent, any horror films.

22: Where would you bury hidden treasure if you had some?  Probably at my sister’s in Nevada; she is the only one I know who has lived in the same place for any length of time.

23: What do you drink with dinner? Water usually

24: What do you dip a chicken nugget in? I have not had a chicken nugget in probably over 10 years

25: What is your favorite food? Hard to say… peanut butter maybe.

26: What movies could you watch over and over and still love?  Old romantic comedies…

27: Last person you kissed/kissed you?  My boyfriend

28: Were you ever a boy/girl scout? Yes I was a Girl Scout

29: Would you ever strip or pose nude in a magazine? Yes

30: When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper?  February, 2012

31: Can you change the oil on a car? Yes, but it has been years

32: Ever gotten a speeding ticket? Far too many

33: Ever ran out of gas? More times than I care to recall; my first car was a 1957 Chevy with a broken gas gauge.

 

34: Favorite kind of sandwich? Peanut butter and jelly

35: Best thing to eat for breakfast? Biscuits and gravy, sausage, and mimosas… then a big hike 🙂

36: What is your usual bedtime? It varies, somewhere between 9 PM and 1 AM

37: Are you lazy? I try not to be

38: When you were a kid, what did you dress up as for Halloween?  I do not recall, I did not particularly like Halloween

39: What is your Chinese astrological sign? Monkey – The spunky Monkey is the original party animal! Charming and energetic, Monkeys crave fun, activity and stimulation.

40: How many languages can you speak? English, so 1

41: Do you have any magazine subscriptions? No

42: Which are better Legos or Lincoln logs? Lincoln Logs

43: Are you stubborn? Yes, unfortunately

44: Who is better…Leno or Letterman?  I don’t watch either of them, but Letterman

45: Ever watch soap operas? No, but I did when I was a kid

46: Are you afraid of heights? Not really

47: Do you sing in the car? Yes, the one place I do

48: Do you sing in the shower? No

49: Do you dance in the car? Uhh… no

50: Ever used a gun? Yep

51: Last time you got a portrait taken by a photographer?  Years and years… maybe my last wedding.  1997? Or the DMV.

52: Do you think musicals are cheesy? No, I love them

53: Is Christmas stressful? No, not at all

54: Ever eat a pierogi? No

55: Favorite type of fruit pie? I actually like elderberry, but have not had one in years, since my grandmother was alive, 1986.

56: Occupations you wanted to be when you were a kid? A teacher

57: Do you believe in ghosts? I do not know, I am open to them, but I have not seen one

58: Ever have a Deja-vu feeling? Yes

59: Take a vitamin daily? Yes

60: Wear slippers? Yes

61: Wear a bath robe? Sometimes

62: What do you wear to bed? Nothing

63: First concert? REO Speedwagon

64: Wal-Mart, Target or Kmart? If I had to choose from those (although I would rather stay out of them all) Target

65: Nike or Adidas? Adidas

66: Cheetos or Fritos? Fritos

67: Peanuts or Sunflower seeds? Peanuts

68: Ever hear of the group Tres Bien? No.

69: Ever take dance lessons? Yes, as a young child

70: Is there a profession you picture your future spouse doing? No…

71: Can you curl your tongue? No

72: Ever won a spelling bee? Yes, in the fourth grade

73: Have you ever cried because you were so happy? Yes

74: Own any record albums? Not anymore

75: Own a record player? Not anymore

76: Regularly burn incense? No

77: Ever been in love? Absolutely

78: Who would you like to see in concert? Matchbox 20

79: What was the last concert you saw? Trans-Siberian Orchestra

80: Hot tea or cold tea? Both

81: Tea or coffee? Both

82: Sugar or snickerdoodles? Both…. Equally

83: Can you swim well? Not at all

84: Can you hold your breath without holding your nose? No

85: Are you patient? Not at all

86: DJ or band, at a wedding? Band

87: Ever won a contest? Yes, several; most recently I won a place in a gourmet pizza contest.

88: Ever have plastic surgery? No

89: Which are better black or green olives? Green

90: Can you knit or crochet? No

91: Best room for a fireplace? Bedroom

92: Do you want to get married? Definitely

93: If married, how long have you been married? Not married now… been married twice before.  Once for 7 years and once for 8 years.

94: Who was your HS crush? I do not really recall

95: Do you cry and throw a fit until you get your own way? No

96: Do you have kids? Yes, two daughters

97: Do you want kids? Uhm… is this a trick question?

98: What’s your favorite color? Purple

99: Do you miss anyone right now? Yes, so many people…

My Two Precious Girls

I have not talked about them here because, honestly, it has been too painful for me to think about them for so long, but memories, thoughts, and pain are all too consuming now

Precious Moments – Sisters

so I had to find a way to release some feelings.  The only solution that came to mind was the soothing relief I feel, if only temporarily, when I put fingers to keyboard and start to tap away.

It seems strange for me to permit thoughts of them to enter my mind, as I spend a great deal of energy blocking them; but, as I draw in a deep breath right now and allow myself to type this, I am at the same time allowing myself to remember.  I have to children, daughters; beautiful, talented, intelligent, adult daughters.

My head is spinning, I feel dizzy, nauseated, my heart feels like it is beating out of my chest as I cannot seem to get the words out as rapidly as my head is thinking them.  I sense I need to write this, and then file my thoughts deep away in the furthest recesses of my mind, covering them with a hard callous, so I cannot be hurt by them anymore.  I thought I had been doing so well, pretending not to think about them, deferring the conversation when somebody brought them up in conversation, acting as if I was not hurt that my family thought I was the quintessential bad mother.  Everyone around me acted as if I spent my children’s lives screaming “No wire hangers” and whipping them every chance I had.  I didn’t.

I loved my girls with all my heart, I still do; but I was never meant to be a mom.  The example I had from my own mother was non-existent at best, abusive at worst.  When I was younger, I hated babysitting and being around young children, preferring to be alone or playing with stuffed animals and Barbie Dolls.  Quite contrarily though, I wanted to be an elementary school teacher, figure that one out.

But, when I became pregnant with my first daughter at the age of 20, I had been married for a year, and although not planned, I was happy and decided we could make it work; she was going to make us a family.  When she was born, I spent every second with her; my parents were shocked when the babysat her for 2 hours when she was 6 months old and she screamed and cried the entire time, she had never been away from me for a moment.

My second daughter was born 15 months later; I adored her as well.  I thought I really had the mommy thing down; I truly grew into being a mom.  We lived on an incredibly tight budget; I learned to sew and often made them matching outfits out of sheets purchased from the second hand store, I took them on outings every day to any free event I could find or even the park or library, and I entertained them by reading and doing crafts.  We were never bored, there was always something to read, to paint, to draw, or even to just lip sync to.

I cooked all of our meals from scratch since it was cheaper than going out to eat, often perusing cookbooks all week long to find exactly what they would like.  We would go on long bike rides by the river; me pulling them in their cart, them sitting with their little helmets clanking together eating apples and singing little songs I had taught them.  Their dad was hardly ever around, preferring to spend his time playing music with his friends and eventually having an affair with a 17 year-old girl who worked for him.

Eventually, their dad left us on December 31, 2004; we moved on and they were adopted three years later by a man who loved him like they were his own.  My life changed in a very dramatic way as well; I was no longer a stay-at-home mom who could spend every waking moment indulging myself with my children, playing games and savoring every precious moment.  I had been left in an incredibly harsh way by a man I thought was supposed to be there; I had been crippled by emotions, humiliated, and panicked.

My reaction was to go to work full-time and to go to school to obtain a college degree; additionally, the often times well-covered symptoms of my bipolar manic depression disorder, borderline personality disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder all started to shine through.  It was a dramatic time for all of us, and it was not long before I moved out of the house, leaving my girls with their new father; I would not have done so if he was not a loving, caring, and stable man.  He was the best parent for them at the time.

We got back together a few times, trying to work things out, but we were just too different; but we always loved the girls no matter how little we had in common.  The girls came first with both of us; they did very well in school, were given almost everything they wanted, and knew they were loved.

Finally, when my oldest was a senior in high school and the youngest was a junior, my then husband and I decided it was time to end the marriage.  The news was devastating to the girls; he was their dad for all intents and purposes, and they loved him.  The oldest had been having a lot of problems communicating with him at the time, boyfriend problems; nobody was good enough for her. But, the youngest was moving with him to the new house he purchased.

Everything seemed to be working out mostly smoothly, as we remained friendly; we never had any animosity, we just were not in love and did not have much in common.  He was happy for me when I started to date a man I fell in love with, only wanting to see me happy, and life went on.

The girls were a different story.  My new boyfriend was incredibly generous to them for many years; collectively, we spent a great deal of money on them.  We paid for my oldest daughter’s cell phone bill for 5 years after she turned 18; we bought her a car when she had her first child, not to mention so many other things we paid for.  The youngest cost us less money, but we still paid for things; we paid the deductible on her insurance when she had to have surgery one year, and we bought her a washer and dryer when she bought a new house.

So, what went wrong?

This past year, my boyfriend and I went through an incredibly difficult time where we have spent some time apart because he could not deal with my mental health issues and things I have done in the past, namely the attempted suicide and the depression.  So, he sent me away to spend some time with my children and family for a while; he also stopped filtering such an abundance of money to the girls.  My allegiance to him has not faltered, I saw his point and we have been working through everything.

However, my children took a stand against him as well as me.  I had been depressed at my situation in general; I was not taking things very well but was doing the best I could.  I was staying at my oldest daughter’s house; by then she had a baby boy who was about to turn one and was pregnant with a girl, they would be the same distance apart as her and her sister.

I was thrilled to be with my grandson, not so much at first, but he grew on me; I loved getting up with him every morning.  I wasn’t at her house long before she started to depend on me; her husband would go to school every day of the week and I would babysit for them.

My boyfriend still sent me money every month to take care of my bills as well as to pay for my groceries and anything else I may need so I would not be a burden on my children, he just wasn’t paying for anything extra.  I just could not get out of my funk because I wanted to go home and be with him.  However, I did the best I could, playing with my grandson, hanging out with my daughters, wanting to enjoy their company.

One day, though, we went to Starbucks for a mother-daughter-daughter talk; I wanted to talk to them and just lay everything on the table about how I felt.  I knew my mom had told them some things about me; my family can be terribly gossipy.  Telling them how much I loved them, tears filling my eyes, I sat there across the table looking at their stoic faces; I had no idea what to do.

“Mom, we don’t think it is fair that you burdened us with your issues growing up,” one of them said, I have no idea which one.  My head was spinning by then as I realized what they were talking about.

“Yeah, mom,” said the other, “you were a terrible mom.  You were crazy and we should not have had to know you had a mental illness.”

I sat there at that table thinking how I wished one of those times I had tried to commit suicide that I had been successful.  I just did not know which time, though; before or after I had them.  I love them with all my heart, I truly do; they are beautiful, intelligent, and sometimes charming girls; but I didn’t raise them to be so hurtful and mean.

They have not talked to me in months; I heard from their father that they want a need a real mom in their life, not somebody who gets depressed and is sad.  Wow.  I don’t know what to say to that other than the fact that I have been there for them through so much.

If I don’t make it through this, I just want somebody to tell them how much I loved them and that I thought the world of them.  That is all I can say, time for me to close the door again.  Time to be flat.

 

Door Number Two

Even though I met my second husband when he was 16 and working for my first husband

Door comparison

Door comparison (Photo credit: Daveybot)

in a fast-food restaurant at the time, I clearly did not make an impression on him.  He was the best friend of my younger brother; he soon became very close to the entire family, embracing the moniker “Camaro Chris” to distinguish him from my brother-in-law “Big Chris”.

My husband, children and I soon moved over 700 miles away and would only come back for brief visits, so I did not see him after that, and he apparently forgot about me, even forgetting my brother had another sister.  For the entire time he knew my family, my brother, both of my sister’s and my older sister’s family all lived in the same house with my parents.  Additionally, my parent’s house was peppered with wall to wall pictures of family; in the living room there were three graduation pictures, my older sister, my brother, and my younger sister.  Then, every square inch of the rest of the living room and all down the hallway the dusty paint did not even show through for the pictures lined up one after another of my brother, sisters, brother-in-law, parents, niece, and nephew.  There was not a solitary picture of me or my family; not for lack of their existence.

So, when my first husband and I separated on December 31, 1994, and I arrived in Reno at the beginning of February, 1995, I was sitting on the couch, when in walks this young man of 20, almost 7 years my junior.  “Hey, who are you?” he asks me boldly, sitting down on the couch like he owned the place.

I was stunned.  He looked exactly like he had when he was 16; long hair, almost to his waist, thin, and smoking a cigarette.  “Uhm, I’m Jimmy’s sister,” I replied, using my brother’s boyhood nickname that he hated; I am the only one in the family who refuses to call him James, something he has insisted on since his voice changed around the age of 13.

“Wow.  That’s weird.  I didn’t know James had another sister,” came his response.

Looking around the house I could see how he might feel that way.  Still, if he had paid any attention four years earlier, he may have known that there was another sister; perhaps I should have been a little more put off than I was.

It was not long before we started spending a lot of time together, flirting, talking, staying up all night chatting as he worked on his car; I was lonely, and he was shy.  He didn’t date a lot and I had just been dumped by my husband of seven years, so it felt good to have some attention.  We dated for several months; then, it was going to be his 21st birthday and I thought I would treat him to a special dinner at his favorite steakhouse in town.

He picked me up and we made small talk as we drove to the restaurant, for some reason I was still nervous when we went out; we had been dating for several months, but we had not been intimate, we were taking things slowly.  I ordered wine and appetizers, he had iced tea, he does not drink at all.  Right before our dinner came, we started to talk about our relationship for some reason; his exact words to me, “You are actually a lot older and heavier than who I would typically date.”

I believe in being honest with people, I have always been known as somebody who does not mince words, and everybody always knows where they stand with me; but, there is a time and a place.  For him, the time would have been before we started dating, and the place would have been anywhere but there.  I stood up, placed enough money on the table to cover the entire bill and walked out of the restaurant, heading toward the door.  He sat there for quite some time because he found me across the street walking the direction of the five mile walk home.  Eventually, he talked me down off of the proverbial ledge and gave me a ride home.  Somehow, we recovered and continued dating after that.

In retrospect, I should have walked away that day and never looked back, as that them reverberated throughout my marriage to him like a sonic boom.  Years later when my weight ballooned and we had been separated for three years, he came to me and said, “You have to lose the weight, it just isn’t attractive.”  I accepted it with as much grace as I possibly could, it hurt, but he was right.  I lost over 90 pounds in less than a year, and I was proud of myself.  What was a little bit more difficult to take was having to step on a scale in front of him every day, and still going out to ice cream parlors, ordering pizza, and going to the movies while he and the girls ordered popcorn, all while drinking only water; sometimes it just felt cruel.

Even after losing 90 pounds and the rest of my family started to call us “The Skeletor Family”, he would still say “You need to tone up some”.  I was working out three times a day and we could not spare the $30 a month for a gym pass so I worked out in the Nevada cold, snow, and wind 365 days a year.  When I would ask about the gym, while earning over $50K a year, less than he did, it was just not a priority.

The final straw should have been when he would constantly comment about young girls that were 18, 19, and 20; my bruised ego from being left for a 17 year-old in my first marriage had never healed.  I thought, I can lose as much weight as possible, starving myself and working out like an Olympian, but I will always be almost 7 years older than you.

That night at the steakhouse was the beginning of the end.  It should have just been the end.

An Evening with Uncle Pete

Sunday afternoon I had the chance to reconnect with my favorite uncle, Uncle Pete, after

Memories

an absence of 7 years in each other’s lives and a sporadic connection for the last 20 years.  Prior to that, though, Uncle Pete was one of the constants in my life, one of the few adults that I could always look up to and count on to be there for me and provide guidance and often, fun.

Our irregular relationship was more a casualty of my poor life choices rather than anything despicable happening to our bond.  Essentially, it panned out as, life happens and people and relationships go by the wayside.  However, I often thought of my Uncle Pete and held fond memories in the recesses of my mind in spare moments whenever I allowed myself quiet times of reflection.

So, a few years ago when I heard the devastating news that he had a seizure while out of town on business and upon further investigation was found to have a brain tumor the size of a baseball, I was heartsick.  Of course, being my typical Uncle Pete, nobody in our family knew until months later; he had already had surgery to have the diseased part of his brain removed, had been through therapy and was learning to walk and talk again.

The news struck me particularly hard, as we had been closer than my brother or sisters had been to him; I spent almost every summer at my grandmother’s home in Humboldt, Arizona.  My Uncle Pete is only 12 years older than I, the youngest of 4 children in his family, he was still living at home when I would visit, so we spent a great deal of time together.

Even as he grew into a man, he would come and visit my family, always bringing me a special gift or trinket, something signifying our special bond. I am not certain if my sisters or brother ever noticed or were jealous, they never said anything; I think it was just understood that we were close.  Everybody looked up to Uncle Pete and we would get excited to see him come; he was positive, intelligent, a great athlete who competed in marathons all over the world during his vacations, and an incredibly witty conversationalist.

The last time I saw him was the fall after my mother’s murder trial; it had been an exhausting year for everyone in the family, and Uncle Pete came to Reno for business.  He stopped by each house individually because, by then, we were mostly not speaking to each other; at least I was out of the circle by then.  Then, he made special arrangements with me to spend the night in Sacramento with me and my girls the next night so I would get some additional time visiting with him.  We had an excellent visiting; we went out for Mexican food and he regaled the girls and I with stories of his latest triathlon.  That was 2005.

I did not know what to expect when I saw him on Sunday, but I was hopeful; I had talked to him on the phone once, and his voice sounded the same, a little slower, but the tone, the inflection was the same.

When I saw him, I was immediately impacted by how much thinner he looked, not the same toned athlete of years past, he had always been slim, but he was skinny.  We hugged, a warm encouraging hug; I did not shy away as I usually do when somebody, anybody, approaches me to hug them.  I genuinely wanted to hug my Uncle Pete, this man I had loved and missed for years.

We all visited and chatted easily; I felt myself observing mostly, my sister even commented that I was quieter than usual; most who know me would say that I am more like a “chatty Cathy” than an observer.  I was trying to be patient as he tried to find the words to finish his sentences, as he looked to the sky searching for words that he had known his whole life, but now they escaped him, taken away by doctors when they scraped away parts of his brain.

I held back tears as I watched him trying to prepare our dinner, denying any help we offered, insisting on doing everything himself.  He obsessed over the fact that there was no ice for the drinks, to the point of having to stop everything he was doing; we all piled into the car for a brief trip to the grocery store.

We finally got to the best part of the evening; he wanted to know about his past, with me.  His memory is gone, but when he is reminded of things, he knows them, he recalls them.  He was thrilled when I told him story after story about the two of us from when I was little; first, he balked, claiming “That cannot be, you would have been 5, and I would have been 10,” then I reminded him that he is 56 and I am 44, thus, making my story plausible.

I told him stories about pretending to be “Jeannie” from “I Dream of Jeannie”; I used to have some purple harem pajamas when I was about 8 and would wear them all of the time.  He would let me tag along to his friend’s houses and their girlfriend’s always thought I was so cute when I would cross my arms, snap my head forward, and blink my eyes, casting a pretend spell on them.  He remembered.

Then there was the story about the night we lit my grandma’s hillside on fire when we were playing “firehouse” with Tony the dog’s doghouse.  We would light it on fire and then put the fire out; we had done it several times successfully, but one night the fire did not go out, unbeknownst to us.  We went to sleep only to wake up with several fire trucks on the hillside dousing the fire.  We just stared at each other in amazement as everyone wondered how the doghouse could have caught on fire, although I am fairly certain my grandma knew.

Several stories later, my Uncle Pete looked like a kid on Christmas Eve almost begging, “Come on, you have another story, don’t you?”  I did have more stories, but I was so sad, so sad for him, I just did not know how to continue.  I had never loved another relative the way I have my Uncle Pete; and, talking to him that night, I realize that he had no idea.

Even as a child, I had no way to reach out, to love, to share. I wish I knew what happened, what flattened me, and why.