The Hug

Photo Courtesy of Cheri Lucas

I cling to him, feeling the slippery slope of time catching up to me as the ticks on my watch drum in my ears like a tribal rain dance circling round my brain. If only I could freeze time and force it to turn around and head back in the opposite direction, even if it is against oncoming traffic. I know this is a route he is all too familiar with as he has spent his life on a similar road, always heading in the wrong direction, dodging incoming obstacles. It wasn’t always like this for us. There was a time when we traveled a different road, one smoothly paved with stones of hopes and promises. The uphill challenges on that road seem like small bumps compared to the mountainous climb that is his life now. I hold on tight savoring the hug, not knowing when I will have the opportunity to experience it again. My only thought being that it is the kind of lasting hug I will revisit time and again in the future, when he is out of my reach once more. It is the kind of hug that also makes me revisit the day I officially lost him.

I found him in his room. The youngest of three, he was the only one left with a room at home. As I approached, trying to connect words of comfort I didn’t believe existed, I realized he was putting on a shield of armor I would find impossible to break through. As he tied his green apron strings and adjusted his name tag, the look in his eyes showed turmoil more akin to a battle weary soldier than a nineteen year old stock boy. As my sister and I carried on with our distant lives in other states, my brother had lived the daily nightmare of slowly losing the man we all thought invincible, our father. He said he wished he could just go to work like normal…like none of this was happening. My heart understood his wish more than he would ever know. Still, I couldn’t let him leave as panic swelled within me and the minute hand ticked on the black cat clock on the wall, left over from our younger years and more innocent times.

I did what I thought was right at the time. I somehow convinced my little brother to stay and face our nightmare with the rest of us, and within a couple of hours of being home our father looked around him and took in each and every face in that room including my brother’s. He asked our mother if all his loved ones were there and when she reassured him they were, he took a deep breath and finally went home. I hugged my brother, grateful he had stayed by our side.

I would like to say that was the end of our nightmare, but for my brother it was the beginning of something much worse. For the next eighteen years he has lived behind bars with visitation rights that are never long enough, and in a cell that doesn’t often see the light. He is trapped in darkness. Of his own making or mine?

You see, the day my brother stayed and witnessed our father’s death he died along with him. Gone was the nineteen year old stock boy who played basketball with his headphones on because to choose between the two things that gave him the most joy wasn’t possible. Gone was the son who took pride in handing over the earnings of a grocery store employee to help with the bills at home. Gone was the light in his eyes. When I look into his eyes now I still see the turmoil of that fateful day and no medication has ever been able to erase it. So…I find comfort in revisiting these hugs, for it is the only reminder of the person I once knew.

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158 thoughts on “The Hug

  1. Oh how this hits my heart so hard. Stunning writing, and heartbreaking story. Humans are so incredibly strong and yet so fragile. We all have different breaking points. It just crushes me to read of your brother’s. I am so sorry. I hope and pray you take NO blame or responsibility for this. Oh do I hope and pray…

    1. Thank you Christine. This post was the most difficult post I’ve written yet my fingers flew across the keyboard as I told our story. It is our story, mine, my brother’s, my family’s and while it is a sad one it is just one moment. That’s what I hang onto…

  2. I remember reading this when you first published it, and I came back here thanks to our BB Facebook thread. As I started digesting your words for the second time, I had the same thoughts: MAN can she write. And though your words haven’t “fixed” your brother (or have they?), I’m still in awe of your talent. xo

    1. Yes, you have been around since my early days here and I so appreciate your visits and comments. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes more than words to “fix” but your words, those you took the time to share with me here, bring me comfort even today. Thank you.

  3. This is an amazing story and I am so honored that you shared it today. You write eloquently. Please accept my most sincere condolences and wishes for comfort and happiness as your life continues on its journey of growth.

  4. What a woman you have turned into. Your gift is truly that. You never knew because I never told you but you all these years later I can humbly say to you that I am so grateful for you. You helped me more than you will ever know when my dad left me. It is as if though I have selective memory and don’t remember so much from that cruel night but I remember you walking up our block in the wee hours of the morning with your mom and comforting me in a way that only a 13 year old could. I will always remember for you that and because of that you will always have a special place inside me. Congratulations on your book. I will always be a fan but more importanly a friend. Much Love ~ Chucky.

    1. P.S in case i forget, happy birthday in a few days. just one of many more alongside your family. Cuidate and God bless!

    2. Chucky! You made me cry! Thank you so much for your sweet words, but I know that had the situation been different you would have been there for me as well. You have a special place in my heart too. I love you my friend!

      1. Never cry. That fateful day brought a lot of change. A young boy was forced to become a man in a matter of hours at 15, a family ripped apart from the inside and 2 kids that never got to really know they had a father. When the smoke cleared, literally and figuratively, there you were. Your curly hair blew in the early morning wind and as I saw you getting closer in your pj’s, you approached me and patted me on the shoulder and head and told me it would be alright. Not sure why but I believed you.
        I have kept that memory in my head and heart for over 25 years now. Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, your consolation and comfort had a big part in making me the man I am. I have been all man for longer than most but without you I am not sure how life would be different.
        For that, I will always hold you on a pedestal and will always love you as a dear friend. My eyes have not seen you for about 20 years (at least not in person) but my memory of you is still as vivid today as it was then. You will always be that beautiful little girl, adorable in every way, with the short curly hair and great smile. That is how I see you in the annals of my mind. Be good and know in your heart that without knowing you did, you helped me get by that forgetful night. Thank you for all you dd and have done for me. It oozes out of me as I comfort my kids when they fall and need a loving, comforting hand and hug. When I tell my wife that I am fortunate to have a great wife and know in my heart that I would never do her wrong. Because I have great respect for women as I was raised by a house full of them after that night. But what most people did not know know was that there was a young girl who has left such an imprint in me that I would have lost it had anyone ever hurt you as we were growing up. So now that you have a son of your own, take a bow and know that as a young girl and with no intent , you helped make a boy into a man. God bless you, your husband and entire family. Always know that I will always be here to return the favor.
        Much love ~ Chucky

      2. Hope you and the family are all well. Read this great story again and have read it countless times since the first. I love your brother very much and pray for him regularly. God willing, he will wake up one day and Coke back to the Machi I remember.

      1. I want to see photos of those grand sons! Are you on FB? If so, find me so we can connect. We are living in Puerto Rico, but still have our house in Texas and will be back in April for a visit.

  5. Your words brought alive the pictures in your mind. I feel for you. Losing the living is worse than losing someone to death. I hope your brother heals. No matter what, always reach out to him.

  6. You other post about your mom going through surgery and especially this one have made me tear up. Last year, I had to say goodbye twice. I was often calm during those times, but people did not know the turmoil going inside me that started from December 2011 till the last goodbye. I’ve been wanting to write about them but I am not ready. All I have is a little tribute to my parents. It’s not enough, but until I’m ready, that’s my “default” story…I MISS THEM EVERYDAY.

    Thanks for sharing your stories to us.

    1. I am so sorry for your loss. I understand not being ready to write about it or them, but you will when you’re ready. You will know in your heart when the time is right…don’t rush it. In the meantime, keep them alive by reliving those memories of them that will forever be imprinted in your mind and your heart. No doubt, you will continue to miss them. Unlike what people say about time healing all wounds, it won’t heal completely but it will soothe our pain so we may go on. I pray you find peace in your heart, strength to move forward, and comfort in remembering them. God bless you.

      1. Thank you. Don’t worry, I am really at a happy stage right now for several reasons. Plus, at least I know they’re not suffering anymore, that’s actually a relief. I was told you never really forget loved ones who depart and well, I really don’t want to. I have been moving on 🙂 …Keep on writing good stuff!

  7. Leimos tu muy sentimental escrito. los que hemos vivido esos tiempos, los reconocemos. Plasmas en tu escritura lo acaecido con toda claridad. Viva MI CHARMIN !!!!

  8. Congratulation for being on Freshly Pressed! It’s a sad story but what I like in the story is you have the compassion to relieve the pain suffering by your brother. It was really nice growing up with a big sister for us to lean on especially in bad times. Well deserved to be on FP 🙂

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