My brother’s and I grew up at the end of a cul-de-sac in a medium sized town. Our two-story, colonial style house was surrounded by woods, a large field, and Mormons. We spent our summers playing hide-and-seek, riding bikes, and engaging in pinecone wars. Good times folks.
I recall with great clarity the time that the bad neighborhood kid relentlessly pelted GC with pinecones until he cried. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was okay for me to fight with and beat the snot out of GC, but no one else was allowed to. I punched bad neighborhood in the nose, making it bleed. I admit that I took great satisfaction in that.
My mother, however, was appalled that her daughter would resort to physical violence. Seriously? I grew up surrounded by boys! and I could hold my own against most of them. I had a mean right hook and a horrifyingly accurate pitching arm. I once clocked GC in the back of the head with a tap shoe that I threw at him as he was attempting to escape down our homes long hall way. I knocked him cold and gave him a concussion. Had she somehow forgotten who I was?
The minute my Father walked in the door, Mother let loose with a verbal flood that I’m sure was meant to make sure I caught hell from my father. After all, I was his only daughter and girls DO NOT behave in this manner.
My Father, took one look at me and laughed until his eyes watered. He slapped me on the back and cried, “Thata girl!” My Mother, who was disgusted with both of us, marched my eleven-year-old person up the street to apologize to bad neighborhood kid. It was not my greatest moment, but I remember every detail of this event and realize now that GC has always been important to me. More so than my parents, more than my two other brothers, he was my family.
“I have cancer,” he said.
Silence hung between us for a moment while I digested what he’d just said.
“What kind?” I asked. I hadn’t gotten too excited at this point, because frankly, GC is a drama queen.
“Skin cancer,” he choked.
You should know that my family, on my father’s side, is of French decent. Which would account for our dark hair and eyes, however, I am a white girl, while GC is of the darker persuasion. He spent the majority of the 80’s, 90’s and these last few years baking in the sun giving his skin that tanned, healthy look that the girls so love.
“Well, if you have to have cancer, that’s a good one to have,” I chirped.
GC told me how it was too late, how terrible it is, that he’s dying. I looked at him with narrow eyes. In my big sister voice, I told him to pull it together, get to the doctor and stop being so dramatic. I urged him to take care of business, something he isn’t good at. He has a child to care for and a family who loves him. He sat in the passenger seat and sniffled.
“It’ll be okay,” I promised. In my heart, I worry for him. I know him too well, and I know he avoids unpleasant things, hoping they’ll just go away. They never do, but it’s the way he rolls. I do not doubt that he may have skin cancer, but how bad is unclear. The past has taught me that this matter will get a lot worse before it gets better.
That night, I drove back to Brookings and had dinner with the Chaplain. We then drove the Rehab and I introduced Omi to the Chaplain. She was happy to meet him and when he asked permission to visit her, she said, “Oh! Would you?” My heart broke.
The next day my brother’s and I bid farewell to our Omi. We promised we’d return soon, and as we walked down the hall Baby looked at me and said, “She said goodbye to me like she doesn’t expect to see me again.” We were sobered by this truth.
If only we’d known how true that statement was.
Two weeks later, our Omi would go home to be with the Lord. Watching her die, I was filled with a mixture of sorrow and joy. As she passed into the arms of the Savior, I remember thinking what an empty void she would leave.
I couldn’t have known that in a matter of hours the drama, that this family seems to thrive on, would rear its ugly head and lash out at me with a new, and stronger vengeance.
I should have known.