It’s a little early for a Christmas party. But who’s counting. We’re in my sister’s backyard. There are twinkling lights hanging over a fenced area. The whole family is here.
My sister’s neighbor is performing minor surgery on his Harley. It’s loud.
My mother is drinking a beer. I am, too. We are humble, working-class people. If we’re going to have a Christmas party with loud Harleys, by God, we might as well have cheap beer, too.
There is a kid running around. A girl. She is my alleged niece.
She calls me “Uncle Sean.”
My sister talks to the girl in a high-pitched voice. “Tell your Uncle Sean you love him.”
The kid remarks, “UNKO SUH WIGBSKGH SWERW
Now the kid is on my lap. Her diaper is wet, she has green snot running from her nose, and she smells like a pot of collards.
I could just eat her all up.
She looks like her mother did at this age. She has the same eyes. Same personality. It’s a get-your-hands-off-me-I-can-do-it-myself-thank-you-very-much personality.
And I’m going back in time. Decades back.
If I close my eyes, I see my baby sister on her rump in a big hayfield. She’s five. She’s got a dog with her. An outdoor dog, with ticks and fleas.
She’s staring into space. It’s cold. She’s got yellow snot on her upper lip.
“Is Daddy really dead?” she says.
Her face is big. Her cheeks are clammy. My father’s untimely end is fresh on her mind.
“You’re gonna catch a cold,” I say. “Let’s go inside.”
“Why would Daddy kill his own self?”
“You’re gonna get fleas if you—”
“What if YOU die next? What if MAMA dies?”
And the tears come. They’re hot tears. I remember this because they were all over my chest and shoulder.
“Nobody’s gonna die,” I tell her.
“I’m scared. What’s gonna happen to us?”
“I don’t know.”
“I miss Daddy.”
Daddy loved her. She was his only daughter. He’d carry her on his shoulders and display her to anyone who had eyes.
“I love you,” she said.
“I love you, too,” said young me.
“A hundred times a hundred,” she said, hands outward like she was measuring a fish.
“Oh yeah? Well, I love you a thousand times a thousand.”
“OH YEAH? HOW ‘BOUT A MILLION TIMES A BILLION TWO TRILLION…”
“That’s a lot of I-love-yous.”
“…TIMES A GAZILLION, AND BILLIONS, ZILLIONS, TRILLIONS!”
“That’s too many to count. I’d be counting I-love-yous until I was an old man.”
“Yeah, and when we’re old people, we’ll STILL love each other, right?”
“With white hair and everything?”
“And we can eat cake every day?”
“Don’t see why not.”
“LOTS AND LOTS OF CAKE?”
And here we are. Older. No cake, but there’s a toddler in my lap.
The kid’s cheeks are clammy, she’s wearing a winter coat.
My sister is straightening the kid’s jacket, buttoning it up the kid’s neck. She kisses the girl and says, “Now tell Uncle Sean you love him.”
“I WUVOO,” says the kid.
“I love you, too, darling,”
Just like I will always love a girl I once knew.
Times a billion.
Multiplied by the depths of forever and ever.
Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - November 30, 2017 11:30 am
Awwwwww!!! That is so sweet! There is no end to love. It just keeps going and going.
Deena - November 30, 2017 1:05 pm
I love how deeply you love.
Connie - November 30, 2017 1:26 pm
You make me cry every single day and I would hate to miss a day of reading what you say. I am an old lady, but I’m the oldest sister of 8 kids and there is nothing in the world like having a sibling. I love them all, even when I want to strangle them. I love their kids and their grandkids. Thank you for sharing yours with us.
Cindy Bailey - November 30, 2017 1:35 pm
Your sister is a lucky girl!
Brian Heinz - November 30, 2017 3:06 pm
Thank you. Family is every thing especially in the eyes of a child.
Pat Durmon - November 30, 2017 3:21 pm
Jack - November 30, 2017 3:48 pm
Janet Lee - November 30, 2017 4:43 pm
I am so happy for you!! That is how families ought to be in spite of heart wrench! Blessings to you and yours!!
Sandi in FL - November 30, 2017 5:36 pm
There’s something so special about having a sister to love. I’m very thankful for mine. She is dear to my heart.
Elaine Karrh - November 30, 2017 10:07 pm
Jack Darnell - November 30, 2017 11:15 pm
SWEET! Love is a powerful thing!
unkle kenny - December 1, 2017 5:56 am
A good big brother is as close as she’s ever gona get to your father. I am sure she has always looked up to you, and allways will. The questions of a child are brutality honest. I am very sorry that she ever had to ask those questions. It makes my heart ache to know that you had to try to take the place of a man . Life is hard , living is harder. Trying to answer questions that don’t have a logical answer is not dooable. Making the best of a bad situation is the true meaning of life.In that my friend you have done good. uk
Cheryl Duncan - December 1, 2017 9:56 pm
I wish people could understand that things pass. What seems unbearable is actually bearable. 42 years ago, I attempted suicide..I thank the Almighty everyday for my failure. What I would have missed. I remember reading the letter I left for my two very small children after I got out of the hospital…the reality of what I nearly did not only to myself , but to them, was terrible.But, I’m glad I read it. When I read things like this, it reminds me . Except for grace, this could be my children’s story. My heart breaks for those who think there is no answer, and for those they leave behind. Bless you.