It was a late Spring afternoon. Mike and I sat across from grandma on the back porch in the shade, the hanging baskets of mixed pansies fragrant on a gentle breeze. I remember it so clear–she was wearing her light blue jeans and her pastel yellow, short-sleeved blouse with the white flower basket across the front, a lace collar. We were enjoying the moment I remember, it was quiet between us–a gentle kind as sweet as Spring. And then she said something to both of us that I’ll never forget.
“I want you two to know something, what happened to you–it wasn’t your fault. Neither of you.”
It was quiet. I choked up. She’d never brought it up before. And I wanted her to hold me and say it again and again, yet the one time was enough for a lifetime.
Mike, my cousin and best friend my entire life, has Rheumatoid Arthritis. Bad. He’s 34 and has had his shoulders, knees, hips, and ankles replaced. He’s a fighter. He obviously cannot work and he fills his time with creation, and discovered he’s one hell of a sculptor–he is self-taught, and his work is incredible. (Here’s his blog: Chicks Dig Scars). If you’d like to read my essay all about Mike it’s HERE. Ok, one more–my interview on him for his blog is HERE.
He has had his battles with depression and anxiety and addiction–of which he put himself in rehab and got off his pain meds (even though he needs them–he’d rather deal with it naturally instead of on those) and is doing quite well. But he struggles. Every day. And he’s optimistic–we both are somehow. We feel old in our souls sometimes, and I think that connects us more than anything. After I got sick with Complex Trauma/PTSD and psychosis–we really became even closer. Grandma was told (not by me) about the sexual abuse I endured (before the PTSD hit–she passed before I got really sick), and that was what she meant out there on the porch. Grandma and I never spoke of what my stepfather and mother and I went through, but her extra hand squeezes and hugs and the tone in her voice–a fierce gentleness. My mother said she went to church and said a rosary for me. Her faith gives me faith. Every day. Mike knows this too, she had said so many prayers for him. He was so special to her (we all were of course) but Mike was extra special–she knew his goodness and his spirit. I think she admired him. I see her in him–their strength, their quiet suffering when they hurt, their faith and optimism and outlook on life–they both knew it was incredible to behold.
Mike and I have had many late night talks (damn near twice to three times a week sometimes) about life and the meaning we’re bound to discover in ours through all the hell and the pain and the beauty. And often these conversations turn to Grandma. He’s dreamt she held his hand when he was doing bad, and I’ve dreamt beautiful dreams of her dancing, tell me how good she felt (she died of cancer). Our dreams are oddly what holds us to the earth. I want to be a writer, I want to see the world without being so afraid–especially of myself. He wants to travel and experience EVERYTHING. I never met someone so hungry for life–he was always like that. In many ways he taught me nerve, how to have it, and now he’s helping me get it back. Next month he’s going camping in New Mexico and I’m thrilled for him–it’s just something that suits him—its only natural for him to go out into the woods, set up camp, and live off the land. He loves it. I hope when I’m better (as I’m gradually getting) I’ll be along side him. I know grandma knows I’ll get there. I know she sees us and smiles, that special Grandma smile with the twinkle in her eye.
Lostinthevalley Photos @ Etsy