How to Be Like Kevin

Kevin Fire! Lentz died March 4, 2016. He was my friend. My boyfriend. My beloved. He was a badass and together we were crazy, sexy, cool.

Call. And call again. Take the calls—even when you’re driving to dinner with your girlfriend and looking for a parking space. Take the call, especially if it’s your dad. Not because he’s 85, because he’s your dad.

Connect with people. Laugh. Let your funny be infectious.

Don’t be a hater. Speak your mind.

Apologize when you screw up. And mean it. Move on.

Own your anger. Be forthright, but be gracious.

Love women. Really love them. And music. Listen to music-LOUD! Especially the 80s. Hard rock. KISS.

But, take Etta James and the candles. Yeah, bring that old boom box to the beach. Play the game Washers.

Read. The Bible when you feel nudged. Take pleasure in reading.

Find your favorite author. Kevin’s was Lee Child, but he also read Mark Twain, JR Moehringer, and Alice Lundy.

Give people nicknames. ICE! ICE! ICE! Let it be your way of honoring them.

Pray. Out loud. In the morning. While drinking coffee and watching birds with your girlfriend.

Say, “I LOVE THAT!” often. Say, “I love you.” Write it. Bring back the art of hand-written letters.

Send kids’ Valentine’s Day cards with love to friends and family every year.

Enjoy good food. Make memories of meals, like cooking Chilean seabass at home or taking your lady to the high-class, like-you’re-in-Italy Italian Tony’s, where you used to go with your mom.

Also go to dive bars, like Villa Nova.

Bring home Taco Bell sauce packets that say, “Marry Me” and “Team Fire!” Present them like a bouquet of flowers.

Seek love. Be romantic. Be real. Dance.

Follow your passions and applaud others.

Take care of your business, but don’t be so serious. Make work fun. When it’s not, refocus. Readjust. Decide what you want and go for it.

Change. If you want to. Become better.

Be at peace with yourself. Take care of yourself. LOVE YOURSELF. And especially, BE YOURSELF. Kevin was totally himself, not imitating a soul.

Be emotionally courageous. Say: This is how I am. I have a temper and I can be selfish, but I’m the man for you.

Yeah, be a man—in the best sense of the word.

Support your team and Diva’s team and your people.

Show up. Be on time. And have some style!

LIVE your life. If it ever comes to your door, kick cancer’s ass!

Speak a unique language with your brothers—one your girlfriend couldn’t understand if she wanted to.

Make your cousin a brother and make the word brother mean something.

Give friends and family the value they deserve.

GO ALL IN. Whatever you’re doing: sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, sales, wooing a woman, loving your mom, hanging with friends, frying fish, developing relationships, telling a truth, listening… damn, Kevin could listen.

He could talk, but he could really listen.

Open doors. Pull out chairs. Hug. Hold your partner tight throughout the entire night.

Kiss too hard and love like this is your last chance and you want to get it right.

Buy little gifts. Don’t expect so much from others. Give because it makes you feel good.

Tell stories. And make them entertaining!

Hang with your boys. Be wild when you’re young, but never grow old.

Get out of the house. Travel, but spend time hanging at home, just chillin’.

Be like a kid, but be a man. Face life head on.

Be like Kevin, but you can’t. There was only one.

So, be like you. Be the wild, weird, wonderful you.

 

How a Political Refuge from Chilé gave me much to be Thankful for. #bloglikecrazy

How a Political Refuge from Chilé gave me much to be Thankful for. #bloglikecrazy

 

“I urge you to celebrate the extraordinary courage and contributions of refugees past and present.” ~ Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General

It was the day after Thanksgiving last year. My best friend Andrea was out of town. I called her father, Mr. Mena to see if I might stop by and visit.

I said, “Hola, it’s Alice.”

Papi said, “Oh, mi otro hija!” (my other daughter).

When I arrived, he wanted to cook for me. I didn’t let him, but I said yes to his Chilean wine and pride. We sat at the kitchen counter talking about life, family and politics.

Although I’ve known this man since high school and he once introduced himself to my mother as, “Hello. I’m Alice’s father,” it’s never been just the two of us. Usually, I was in his home visiting Andrea.

You know how sometimes you drop by just to say a polite hello, and somehow time opens up to make space for words never considered?

Mrs. Mena was in the back bedroom sleeping. She hasn’t been the same since her stroke 20 years ago.

Although I never considered this question before, I asked how they met—some 50 years ago. Papi told me when he was a teenager he was friends with Mrs. Mena’s sister. Then, he saw Andree with her long hair, but he said, “I wasn’t thinking anything. I was 16.”

Later, he got free tickets for a concert because he’d pounded a dent out of a bus and the owners gave him the tickets. He fell asleep on the bus ride to the concert and awoke to Andree kissing him on the cheek.

His eyes lit up as he recalled their young love. They used to go out dancing and he’d buy her Coca Colas.

Even back when he was a teenager, Mr. Mena worked on cars. He built a car that was in a three-country race: Chilé, Peru and Argentina. Then, he got hired by the university and earned a paycheck! Mr. Mena told me he never had trouble making money.

Later, Andree wanted to get married. He was 19. She was 17.

Both their fathers approved and went with them to get married. Both moms were opposed, especially his because he was the family breadwinner.

Then, Mr. Mena told me about the coup and Pinochet coming in as dictator of Chile. That’s when Mr. Mena became a part of the resistance.

Because now Pinochet was in charge of all the companies, Mr. Mena and his coworkers would do things like leaving the lights and water on all night to wreak havoc. In the shop where he worked, they made sharp objects to throw in the road to stop the military and secret police.

He also took people to the French Embassy to escape.

Papi described helping one mom and her three girls go out the back of their house and in the front and out the back of three houses to escape the military police, who, he claimed were “so mad!”

“Why were they after her?” I asked. “Because her husband was part of the resistance.”

Mr. Mena drove the woman and her girls to a farm. Those were just the things they did. Yes, it was dangerous.

In fact, the military police captured and tortured Mr. Mena, but he “never told them anything because then they’d have no use for me.”

Then, they’d kill him. Mr. Mena’s sister and many of his friends were killed.

While he was held and tortured, Mrs. Mena searched and did everything she could to find her husband. By this time, they had three small children.

Mrs. Mena pleaded with the French Embassy and told everyone she could that her husband had been captured. She made a lot of noise and with the help of the French Embassy, Mr. Mena was released and the family fled the country.

Mr. Mena showed me some old black and white pictures of one man who came to Santa Fe, NM to visit and thank Mr. Mena for saving his life. He showed me a letter the guy had written him. Of course, it was in Spanish.

Somehow, our conversation wound to God. Papi said he doesn’t believe in God. But he said, “How easy to find him in this,” as he picked up an apple, “or a flower or ants building things.”

He told me he gets mad, all those people dying. ”Why does God do this?”

His wife, Mrs. Mena was healthy, fine, until a doctor prescribed Premarin which caused a blood clot and then she had the stroke.

I listened as this strong, masculine man, my father figure, praised his wife for getting him out of Chile, encouraged him to buy the land the house we sat in was built on and to work hard. She always supported him, and the kids in all their sporting events.

Papi said he talks to his son Ish, now grown with his own kids, about what it means to be strong.

“I say to him, ‘You can’t go to Albertsons, give them money, and say you want to buy time.’”

Mr. Mena emphasized the importance of being strong, deciding what you want and going for it.

Then, he told me—the girl who used to enter road races under the name Alice Mena because I wanted to belong to his family—how proud he is of me, how strong I am, how he sees me as having done everything on my own. (Not quite true, but I ate up his compliments the way I used to devour Mrs. Mena’s langostino empanadas.)

Papi kept preaching about how proud he is of me for finishing school. (Oh, yeah, I completed my bachelor’s degree at age 37!)

He told me what a great example I’ve been and that his daughter, (my best friend) Andrea looks up to me. The feeling is mutual.

Mr. Mena and I continued our conversation, now onto marriage and divorce.

It makes him mad when people say how much they respect him for still being with and taking care of Mrs. Mena.

“Where else would I be? She’s my wife. She’s my life.”

Mr. Mena has always been a proud man. It felt different on this day.

More than in the past, I took in his kindness. How respectful and full of admiration he was for the woman who welcomed me into their home, cooked for me and often restaurants where she was dealt the blows of conflict between her Chilean Spanish heritage and the New Mexican Spanish culture I grew up around.

Mrs. Mena slept for most of my visit. Papi and I went into the back bedroom and woke her up. She looked at me with a mother’s adoration. Tears of joy leaked from her eyes.
I held her, hugged her, kissed her, looked into her soul and told her I wished I could take her pain away. She shook her head no.

Mami pointed to my diamond circle pendant necklace, diamond earrings and rings and her eyes lit up like I’d landed some rich man. I reminded her I worked in a jewelry store for many years. She always loved jewelry. She still loves it and shopping.

Mrs. Mena eyed for (since spoken language is no longer her friend) Mr. Mena to give me a big bag of Lindt chocolates.

Papi told me about the foot surgery she had to fix her foot that wasn’t quite right since the stroke. Now, it’s even worse. She can hardly walk. He drives her in a van and she has a scooter.

Mr. Mena’s doctor told him he better take care of himself or he’ll die before her. “I try, he said.” But, he has diabetes, is overweight and his health doesn’t look like it’s rooting for him.

He showed me a new Mercedes he’s working on making into a truck. He’d sold his old prized Mercedes sedan. “What do I need with a car I can only drive once or twice a month?” He also sold his apartment in Chile. “Andree can’t travel.” It seems not too many years ago he was insisting otherwise.

His priorities have shifted. His purpose is caring for his wife and watching his grandkids grow up.

Mr. Mena told me he spoke in Washington, DC at the UN years ago. His talk was called “The Ismael Menas of the World.”

I considered the multitudes of people like papi who came from harsh circumstances to build their American dream.

The Ismael Menas of the world: people to be thankful for.

How my Sister & I Grew up in Different Families. #bloglikecrazy

“There is space within sisterhood for likeness and difference, for the subtle differences that challenge and delight; there is space for disappointment—and surprise.” ~ Christine Downing

My sister once told me one reason siblings are different is they’re not born into the same family.

Jayne—the one and only first born—was welcomed into the world with hope during a stage my mom and dad had been told the world was tough, but maybe they didn’t quite believe it yet.

Our brother—Mr. Middle Child—arrived on the scene into Hey, maybe we can make it.

Then, just five years after my sister’s arrival, I was born into the heart of challenge.

I swam in my mom’s frustration for nine months. I ate her Oh God, what have I gotten myself into? for nourishment.

Maybe that’s why I spent too many years wishing to leave this world.

Or what I was doing at the age of eight weeks, returning to the hospital with pneumonia, checking into an oxygen tent, and keeping human touch at a distance.

My mother said the doctors told her, “Go home and take care of your other children.”

Five days later, when my parents picked me up from the hospital, a nurse said, “This time, take care of her.”

My mom hardly had room for me in her arms with all that pressure.

Besides, my independent streak and fighting inclinations had already taken root in that tent. I won my first battle and was ready for more.

However, as a toddler, I quickly learned my mother was not somebody you wanted to do battle with.

The lessons my sister learned—baking, measuring, and Winnie the Pooh seemed spent before I arrived.

We all learned about Mama Bear and that saying: If mom’s not happy, nobody’s happy. Yeah, totally true.

My mom wasn’t happy.

My dad worked. If I said all the time, it might seem like an exaggeration, but if I said he was a workaholic, that might be underplaying it.

My father appears as a visitor in my young memories.

Then, right at that crux, where my parents parted and my sister did her final years at home, the families my sister and I lived in shifted again.

By the time I was a teenager, I knew parents were just playing at righteousness and big sisters were really the difference makers.

After all, who explained divorce and that love that goes on, anyway? Who took care of me when I was sick or let me tag along on dates? Who worried when I stayed out late?
My big sister parented me when my parents were busy doing other things—like trying to get their sh*t together.

Ok, are you with me so far?
1) Parents fall in love.
2) Get pregnant.
3) Get married.
4) Have my sister.
5) Have my brother.
6) Have me.
7) Struggle.
8) Make a new decision.

My formative years were filled with my parents arguing, cutting up credit cards, building bookshelves, road trips to therapists, and me being left alone. Well, often in the care of my brother and sister.

This was the 1970s. These things were done. My parents tried for traditional, but that’s one thing neither of them could adhere to.

The thing is they tried—really hard. They wore us all out with the struggle.

What a different world develops in five short years—both the years since my sister was born and the ones after my parents divorced.

Jayne found love and leaped into it. She moved to the other side of the country.

I was unprepared for life without her. She built a family with her husband and sons, as she should.

I found myself a part of a new family with my stepmom, stepbrother and stepsister. We did family stuff like vacations, dinners, and playing canasta.

I was getting the love I needed. So was my sister—in another world.

In the beginning—her beginning—my sister was served hope with a side of parental presence. I arrived for leftovers.

I never saw the full meal in my original home, so I didn’t miss not getting dessert.

Jayne knew something had been left off the table. She took off to find something sweet.

I stayed home and was introduced to peace. Plus, I got my turn to be the big sister! I poured love and protection into my stepsister’s atmosphere.

See, my sister showed me how, having arrived first in the world. And those five years, they made all the difference.

 

 

How Morgan Corinthos’ Death on General Hospital Helped Heal my Grief. #bloglikecrazy

Morgan Corinthos—a 20-something, vibrant, got life by the hands, and finally getting his sh*t together, young man—died on my soap opera a year ago.

Before my real-life beloved died over a year and a half ago, I used to sit on his bed, in his bedroom (which felt like our clubhouse for two), and watch General Hospital (GH).

Often, Kevin would be showering or doing paperwork before he headed out on sales calls.

I found comfort in his bed, making a picnic of some random treasure I found in his refrigerator or leftovers from our prior night out.

I felt at home in Kevin’s house, bedroom, bed and space, enjoying one of my favorite guilty pleasures: my GH hour.

Kevin never made me feel guilty or chided me for watching my soap. In fact, he watched a couple of his own. Sometimes, we watched them together.

We even spent a few Saturday mornings in bed with Lifetime TV movies.

Kevin was all man and a sports guy, but he grew up on the soaps his mom watched. He knew the characters’ names and no matter how many years one stops watching, in a couple of shows, you’re caught up like a family reunion.

Now, Kevin’s dead. I’m not in his bedroom. I’m in my home. At 2:00 most weekdays, I turn on GH for a moment and get a rush—of being in his home, in his presence, like he’s still indulging with me.

It was like Kevin cried with me when Morgan Corinthos died on my show.

If he’d died sooner, I couldn’t have taken it, but Morgan’s girlfriend, mom, dad, brothers and sisters are six months behind me on the grief journey.

Morgan’s death on GH reflected my feelings and kept me in tune with how many people around Kevin were shaken by his death.

Morgan’s parents wanted answers. Why did he die? His girlfriend felt guilty for trying to move on. His siblings wanted to assign blame.

Some characters on the show acted unexpected kindness and sincerity. Others fumbled with words.

I related to GH in ways I felt disconnected to my new reality minus my man.
So, I watched more religiously than ever. It was my crying hour.

The show mirrored my emotions, but it couldn’t hurt me the way I was cut when my favorite character was written out of my own life.

Recently, it was the one-year anniversary of Morgan’s death. People of Port Charles (where the show takes place) came together to commemorate.

It matched my recent experience of seeing Kevin’s best friend Garry, with whom I’m forever bonded. He talked about how he was ready to start traveling and imagined he and his wife would take cruises with Kevin and me. But, now we can’t.

I vicariously celebrated Morgan Corinthos—a character on a soap opera, a man in his prime, embracing life and balancing intensity, passion and intimacy, like my Kevin.

I cried for Morgan, his mom, girlfriend, brothers, sisters, and their pain.I shed tears for Kevin, his dad, brothers, and wide array of friends.

I cried when Kevin’s best friend told me he had other friends—good ones—but no one he connected with or could expose himself to the way we did with Kevin. He was a safe place and a grand party for each of us.

Garry said he hadn’t been able to cry. He cried—but hadn’t cried.

I’ve bawled at least a hundred times. I need the cleansing.

I let the triggers hit and the tears flow, even the ones ignited from a story line that wasn’t actually mine. It was close enough. Close to my heart.

Thank you, Morgan Corinthos for playing a part in my healing. His friends and family toasted him on the show: Here’s to Morgan!

Yes, here’s to Morgan Corinthos, and General Hospital, and wherever we find a path to process our pain.

Making Peace with the Unpredictable Triggers of Grief.

Life surprises us—in love and grief.

Early on, the best we can do is breathe, fall to our knees and howl animalistic cries for our oozing wounds. But, we can’t live there.

Eventually, we stand and walk on in our grief.

When grief is fresh and raw, we’re vulnerable to being toppled by every song, word, passing thought, article of clothing, shared food, a coffee cup that once held his hand,  a random email, a favored restaurant, … any memory of involving our loved ones who had to leave us.

Why did they have to go?

 

Repeatedly, we believe the worst has passed, as if we’re over it simply because for one day, week, month, or even a year, we function unengulfed by the gigantic hole in our hearts.

We act as if we overcame a bout with the flu or a nightmare vacation. Now, we’re home safe and feeling better—better able to navigate.

Now, I’m back in control.

The triggers move to the back and we believe we’re in the driver’s seat.

Maybe, but just as there’s mystery and magic in love, what ignites our grief can surprise.

If someone told me shopping would be my sucker punch after my beloved’s death…well, I wouldn’t have believed them any more than I believed I’d fall in love with a salesman I’d known for decades who lived in St. Louis and had a KISS painting on his living room wall. I went to visit and to see a Hall & Oates concert. Kevin’s kiss was not on my list.

Life surprises us—in love and grief.

I’ve watched my sister plan for the days that might wreck her—anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays shared over 33 years with her now-deceased husband.

Often, the dates and places we imagine will break us don’t. Then again, sometimes they do. There are no rules or formulas.

We can navigate better through love and grief, but to imagine that we’re in complete control is laughable.

My now-deceased boyfriend Kevin was a shopper, not like a shopaholic, but like a man in love who enjoyed seeing my face light up with the gifts he gave. Most often, it was clothing.

It wasn’t just that he bought me gifts.

Plenty of men have done that and there’s nothing that punches the way guilt does when you don’t like a gift you’re given—because it offers only two options, neither good.

First, lie and say you love it, like it, appreciate it, or even just “thank you” can feel like a lie when you’re thinking why the hell did you get me this?

Then, there’s option two. Tell the truth, which rarely makes the giver feel good, since most gifts are given with love and an invitation for happiness.

My ex-husband lavished me with gifts, which at first felt fabulous. Over time, I tried to tell him when the style didn’t suit me.

He’d say, “What don’t you like about it?” “Try it on.” “It looks good. You should keep it.”

Or, in response to my saying, “I just don’t like it,” he’d say, “Yes, you do.”

That’s just one man, and maybe I sound like a bitch complaining about my history of men giving me gifts, but my fortune often came wrapped in contorted feelings.

That’s why when I opened the first box from Kevin, I did so with trepidation.

We were headed to the St. Louis Big Muddy Blues Festival. He gave me a brass (not gold) necklace and bracelet handcrafted by his friend.

He said, “Icey, everybody needs a peace bracelet to wear to the Blues Fest.”

I needed the peace that perfect present offered. Not too over the top and ideal for the occasion. He didn’t invest big money, but put in the thought.

As much as we like to say it’s the thought that counts, getting it right feels nice. It was one more way Kevin helped erase my painful history.

He went on to give me gifts—mostly clothes—right up until he died.

His packed bag ready for a visit contained a final gift: a light sweater, blue, pink, and gold, a festive Reba McEntire design purchased from Kohl’s, one of Kevin’s favorite shopping spots.

Every time I wear the sweater, I get compliments. The first I wore it, I only had it on about an hour when I stood in the bathroom at Kroger. One of the employees came out of a stall. Her eyes lit up.

She said, “That’s a beautiful sweater.”

I said, “Thanks. My boyfriend just gave it to me” (kind of).

She looked into my eyes, then at the sweater, then back in my eyes.

She said, “Wow, he really knows your style.”

Yes, he did. I have a closet full of clothes given to me by Kevin, clothes that make me feel more like myself. He knew my style before I really did.

My sister and I enjoy shopping together. At least, we did before Kevin died.

After, I needed a dress for his memorial service. Jayne told me when she needed one for her husband’s funeral, she said, “Okay Tom, you’ve got to help me with this.” The first dress she tried on was the one.

I said, “Maybe Kevin will help me.” Same thing. First dress. Perfect. Slim fitting, but not tight. Black, with one white and one lavender stripe—the color of the Tanzanite bracelet Kevin gave me and the color of the sky since he died.

I sent my little sister a picture of the dress and told her, “I still want to look pretty for him.”

It was the kind of dress my man would’ve found for me, but now, he’d never buy me another piece of clothing.

That was the thought that hit me the first time Jayne and I ventured on a typical girl’s shopping afternoon after his death. We went to Kohl’s, where Kevin took me shopping for my birthday.

Kohl’s in Columbus mirrors the Kohl’s in St. Louis. The dressing room is set up the same as the one Kevin sat outside as I tried on clothes he picked out.

He participated in the process—the perfect balance between the guy trying to ply his gal to win her favor by shopping for her and the bored man in the corner.

Kevin enjoyed shopping with me. He enjoyed being with me and seeing me happy.

There, in the dressing room entrance, I reminisced and forced myself to swallow the fact that none of it will never happen again.

My tears took me into a hot, wet flood of emotion. I missed him so bad I wanted to throw up. I dropped the clothes I’d been considering. I got my sister and we left of the store.

She said, “I’m sorry.” She was sorry I had to endure this pain she knew too well.

We weren’t too far down the road before I realized, “My bracelet!” The Tanzanite one Kevin gave me. I called the store as we drove back. The gal assured me she looked in the dressing room and found nothing.

The bracelet wasn’t expensive; it was irreplaceable.

We raced back—Jayne wanting to fight for her little sister and me desperate for the damned bracelet, as the memory of the moment he gave it to me hit me like a slap.

I tried to tell myself the loss was nothing; the bracelet didn’t matter.

Not too long before (hours? at lunch that day?) I told Jayne something I never got around to telling Kevin, although he would’ve been jazzed about it.

People get diamonds when they get married because it’s the hardest substance known to man. Many people think diamonds are unbreakable, but they can break, like marriages. Hit hard enough in the right spot, they can shatter.

I sold diamonds and jewelry for years and took full advantage of my discount. Tanzanite was one of the only stones I love, but never acquired.

Without that knowledge, Kevin gave me a Tanzanite bracelet I love more than my 3-carat diamond tennis bracelet.

Tanzanite is rare—much rarer than diamonds. It’s only recently discovered. Its color—which can range from light lavender to deep purple—is unique in nature. However, Tanzanite is fragile.

I told my sister that was exactly why if Kevin and I had married, I wanted my ring to be Tanzanite. It represented him, us and our crazy, sexy, cool love, recently found, unique and special enough to be worth caring for.

Now, I’d lost the only piece of Tanzanite jewelry I owned.

It was with me one minute, then gone—like Kevin.

It was too much to bear.

As we made our way back to Kohl’s, I prayed no one played Finders Keepers. My sister insisted I not give up hope, but she was scared for me.

She drove like a woman determined to stop disappointment.

We parked and split up. Jayne headed to customer service. I went to check the dressing rooms. I couldn’t remember which one I’d been in.

The bracelet must’ve fallen off when I tried on clothes. I checked the floors in every dressing room. Nope. Nope. Nope.

Then, in the last dressing room, the little corner shelf held my bracelet—and more, a sort of restoration of my heart.

I was elated. It was worth the trip back. It was worth the hope.

When I told Jayne, she saw the Band-Aid on my battered soul.

Shopping would never be the same easy high it once was for us. I’d decline for months.

When I did go, many times I felt the heat of tears and we’d leave.

I love the wardrobe Kevin blessed me with. Somehow, all the clothes he gave me suit me perfectly. They fit me, not just in size. They become me.

Surprising colors, like blues and pinks I long ago decided weren’t mine. Like Kevin, the blouses, jeans and shoes were an upgrade I never imagined.

I joke that I’ll be wearing the wardrobe from Kevin for decades.

However, Jayne and I recently returned to shopping. She needed shorts for her trip to Florida with her boyfriend.

That, too, was bittersweet. Kevin was from Florida and for our first trip he took me to Indian Rocks beach, back when he was convincing me to call him my boyfriend.

Deep breath. My sister was excited for her trip. I was thrilled for her.

We went to Clothes Mentor, a second-hand designer store Kevin likely never went to. Still, I wasn’t in a shopping mood.

Until I was. Jayne and I spent hours trying on clothes. I didn’t even cry.

We scored. We walked away with two big bags of clothing (over 20 pieces, but only one pair of shorts) for under $200. Nice!

Plus, as elephant journal founder Waylon Lewis says, “The most eco thing is second hand.”

On that Saturday, I allowed myself to be happy. It’s part of the path to loving life again.

I do, mostly. And, I have a new favorite outfit. Kevin would love it.

How our Grief is the Same.

 

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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, as she’s loving me now.

I’m prickly. I don’t give a shit.

It’s exhausting watching people tiptoe around me. How’s she doing? How’s she 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 decades 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 mountain stream. He quenched my entire feminine being.

Kevin valued my tears and delighted in 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.

An Open Letter to My Brother’s Girlfriend, 27 Years Later

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This is an open letter to my brother’s girlfriend, 27 years after he died in a car accident on a straight Arizona highway. He was 27. I was 25. How old were you?

You lived in California with Bill and we’d never met. Bill told me about you—that you were pregnant. I’m sorry you lost your baby along with the man you loved.

To me, you were just one of his many girlfriends—the one who was driving when you went off the road, the car flipped, and my brother died. It was impossible for me during those days to not feel like—ok, you’re dismissed now. I didn’t want you punished, but I wanted you gone from my life as fast as you’d arrived. How fast were you driving? The fact that you were drinking isn’t for me to judge. Those were partying days and I’ve had my own.

What could be a worse punishment than losing your baby and your boyfriend? Maybe losing them, plus experiencing the guilt, then add in having to face his family who crossed arms more than opening them.

After all, you were just the girlfriend—not a wife, sister, mother, father, or even a stepparent. You were an outsider to us.

Yet, you were the one close to Bill. You lived with him, made love to him and created life with him.

But, I was his sister! And, my mother was crumbling before me. The picture in my mind placed you way in the background.

I didn’t know what I didn’t know—how it might have felt for you. Now, 27 years later, I have a clue, as the girlfriend of a suddenly deceased, fully alive, thought-we-had-tomorrow-in-the-bag man. Healthy! Happy! Gone.

I’m not so much apologizing as acknowledging how intensely challenging the entire ordeal must’ve been for you.

The love I shared with my boyfriend, Kevin Fire! Lentz, was extraordinary—better than any relationship I ever had. We were deeply in love and loving every minute of it.

You had to be in your late 20s when you had this life-erupting event. In hindsight, it’s likely you felt you found the love of your life with my brother and held tremendous hope for your future with him.

He was excited about the baby. He talked about you. I don’t remember the specifics, but he always spoke positively of you. Now, I consider that for where we were in our lives, that meant something. He didn’t talk much about his other girlfriends. They usually just showed up.

I’m sorry for the pain you endured and the scars Bill’s death must have left on you. I pray you’ve found peace, joy and light and your journey has smoothed.

Sincerely,

Bill’s Little Sister