Telling It Tough


I’m forever the little sister, stomping in line behind my big sister, following in her footsteps closer than I care to admit. I’m the youngest, therefore determined to make my own path.

Yet, each time I forget something, my sister says, “I’m not surprised” or “Yeah, I get it” in a way that makes me think she thinks I’ve come down with what she had: widow brain.

The youngest child in me mentally screams, No, it’s not like that. Geez, I’m not even a widow. I wasn’t married. I was only with him as a couple for two years (the best two years of my life). But, no, my experience isn’t like yours. This is different.

Then, I start noticing how much I can’t remember. Days are spent walking into rooms to find myself dumbfounded. I stare at the ibuprofen bottle and only have a 50/50 shot at knowing if I already took them or just thought about it. Everything is a daze, a dream, leaving what’s unfathomable to feel the most real.

I need quiet; I turn on the TV loud (as he did). I’m lost; I’m found. I’m going away and coming home. I can’t go out, but refuse to stay in. I want my sister’s company, but resent it. I remember how badly I wished I could be my brother when my mom looked into my eyes after he passed.

Jayne loves me like that—like she’d do anything to take my pain away. I love her back the way she loved me when her husband died—with all she had left after loving him for 33 years, missing him desperately, daily, and putting on the prettiest public face she could muster.

She was my sister; she was a porcupine. I loved her anyway. I think that’s how she’s loving me now.

I know I’m prickly. I don’t give a shit. It’s exhausting watching people tiptoe around what to say to me—How am I doing? How am I handling it/things? I suppose they mean how am I coping with my boyfriend’s death. Today? Defensively. Because the word boyfriend compares him to guys whose names I can’t even remember.

Boyfriend trivializes what Kevin was to me. He was his nickname: FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! He was smooth jazz after a lot of hard rock-n-roll. He was Saturday morning at a Flea Market with a smile on my face. How did that make me feel so free?

Kevin was something to me that all my words can’t capture, yet I can’t stop trying. If you’ve never known this level of love, you may think I’m a girl crushing on and going nostalgic for a dead man—too sweet to be true.

Yeah, I lived with Sally the Cynic in my head, too. Kevin banished her upon their first meeting. She came back with a vengeance—and was flat out rejected.

Without my sidekick to tell me love like this was bullshit, I started listening to my boyfriend. He sounded like the ocean, smelled like coffee brewing, and appeared like a MAN. He tasted like pomegranates and fresh, drinkable water from a cool stream. He quenched my entire feminine being.

He caught the value of my tears and the tenderness of my stories, even though I tried to tell them tough.

Because I’m the little sister, I want to be BIG. Like my big sis when grief grabbed her by the throat, wrestled her to the floor and forced her to develop a new foundation. But, no, it’s not the same. And it is.

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