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.

Weekly Writing Challenge

158 thoughts on “The Hug

  1. It is sad that government of the past think prison is rehab. The new will not use it as rehab. People will get self choice cure simply having their choices limited with a very good psychological testing to ensure that their own choices are working. If they refuse to cure their heads they get executed has terrorists. Prison doesn’t work. It only cages hate to be released when the space is needed fro something else some psycho government need wants instead.
    Prison is just inhuman. Mediation ad cure is done better outside of it. Makes it more of a reality call.


    • Thank you for reading my story and for commenting on it. I want to clarify that the prison I referred to was a figurative one. My brother’s mental illness is a prison of sorts, keeping him from the outside world, from his family, and from his true self. However, I do understand your view on prison and mental health assistance for those in need. Have a great week.


      • Well then it is a more effective prison. He just has to be allowed more choices in self cure. That would mean more self esteem help and not less. More his choices are OK without being judged.


  2. Touching story and quite unique. I loved your take on that image. I don’t know what else to say since you’ve been Freshly Pressed for this wonderful post. Congratulations for that!


  3. What a beautiful yet sad story, It completely took me in and made me think of how the characters felt right to the heart. Congratulations on your freshly pressed! truly well deserved 🙂


  4. Pingback: Freshly Riffed 19: Banana Cream Pie, Wanted Dead Or Alive « A VERY STRANGE PLACE

    • Thank you. The topic of mental illness is such a delicate one…even more so for those directly affected by it. I’m glad I approached the challenge this way, although it was not my initial intention. Funny how that works.


  5. Little Miss Wordy,
    Thank you for writing this, it’s a courageous post, a very personal one which I think might help others who live with mental illness in their family.

    Do you know my serious blog, Black Box Warnings? Would you like to write a guest post?


    • Thank you for taking the time to read it. I’m not sure about it being courageous, but it is definitely very personal to me. I would be honored to write a guest post for Black Box Warnings. Will you send me the details or direct me to them?


  6. I must say that this was hard for me to read. I wasn’t sure where it was going at first, but as I continued to read, I just got the biggest lump in my throat. This was simply beautiful and sad all at once.


  7. I think this is the first time you’ve left me speechless. I’m in awe of this story, of the intricate layers and deep hurts. Hopefully, there will be small triumphs along the way. You are so brave to share this with us. I’m glad that you did!


  8. I know I read this before. You left me a link on one of my posts. I went looking for it because I wanted to use it for my post of the week, but when I clicked on it, it was a dead link. Am I losing my mind, or does this sound possible?


    • Adam, I think you’re referring to my post “All Grown Up” all about my dad’s death. It was a different post, but I see how this one could’ve triggered you to remember it. You’re not losing it! I had to delete it because it is being included in my book. The publisher told me it couldn’t be public domain.


  9. This is such powerful writing…I was not there to witness my father’s death, and that has haunted me to this present day. You have shown me how watching him leave could be just as traumatising. I love your writing.


    • I believe with all my heart that a parent’s death is traumatizing whether you witness it or not, whether it is sudden or expected. We are NEVER prepared for it! Thank you taking the time to read my writing. I’m glad you enjoy it. I love reading your letters to your dad. It’s so beautiful that he lives on in your words!


      • I totally agree with you: we can NEVER be prepared.

        And I love reading your writing too. They’re always beautiful, and invested with emotions and with thought.


  10. Wow! Not sure if you are aware I read your blogs all the time, but you write amazingly well. This one brought tears to my eyes, so sad I didn’t get to see it any other way.


  11. This is such powerful writing…I was not there to witness my father’s death, and that has haunted me to this present day. You have just shown me how being there to watch him leave could as just as traumatising.


  12. Pure art. When you get me to cry, you have won the prize. You write so beautifully. This will be one I come back and re-read when I am not rushing off to work!!! I love your last sentence about hugs! What a great line for a poem:

    So…I find comfort in revisiting these hugs, for it is the only reminder of the person I once knew.



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