I can still smell the ocean off the sand. I can feel the planks of wood well-worn under my feet. It is a comforting feeling, and whether I am 5 or I am 15 I hold your hand it feel some very natural. We chat about school, about clothes, about movies and about absolutely nothing in particular. We stay out of the way or the bikes and the tourists and sometimes on the days you don’t need an ass and the sun is not too hot we make our way on the hot sand and just pick up shells and coral and rocks off the shore. The sea foam hitting or feet. I always find tigers eyes and it is our favorite, we love tigers eye. I can’t find tigers eye that mean the same anymore.
When we are not at the shore I can smell hotdogs and French fries. The best French fires in the world. And we never have to go to Coney Island to get them. Because there is a place, our place, not more than a few miles from where you bought me all that awesome clothing. From where I had no fear to try on anything, I would spin and spin and let you pull and tuck and give me your honest opinion. Because you never hurt me with your opinion. Not even when I was older, when I was vulnerable to everyone. Not even when I didn’t want anyone to tell me how I looked or what to wear, I didn’t always listen but I valued our opinion. And after we ate you would kick my ass at rounds of skee ball, granted you were the one that taught me how to play, but you never just let me win. You gave me all your tickets and I would buy silly cheap prizes from the stand and we would get so excited over the friendship bracelets that would fall apart in a week and the candy that was terrible for us.
The slumber parties at your house were epic, not because you were one to bake, but because you introduced me to movies like Beaches, La Bamba, Schindler’s List and Mister Holland’s Opus. You had every issue of Time magazine. You answered all the questions I had with patience and understanding even though I had some tough ones. You didn’t care if I turned the La Bamba sound track waaaaaaay up on your stereo as long as you go to see my new dance moves to “Summertime Blues”, you would stop in your tracks to hear me sing along to “Wind Beneath my Wings” (that was our song). You called the refrigerator the Frigidaire and wore this weird brown towel wrap thingie when you got out of the shower. You always smelled the same. You collected little perfume bottles even when there wasn’t any perfume in them. You had the weirdest looking feet but they were always painted up and pretty. I knew every new diet fad before it became one because you had them all. I used to go out on the balcony just to watch the cute boys walk home from school and you knew what I was doing on the days you were home but you never said a word.
My first Broadway show, Cats men and women in spandex prancing around the stage singing. It changed my life in so many ways. You had already shown me so much in the style of music but this was different. It was BROADWAY. There was nothing better in my mind. As I grew older I had to share you but you were still mine, I had you first and for the longest. I didn’t call as often but when we talked nothing changes. The shopping trips and the hotdogs, the sleep overs, La Bamba. We got our nails done together, it was our new hobby. And if I hadn’t pissed you off we would have seen Cabaret together but that actually bright my mother and I closer so who am I to split hairs?
When I got so sick, you were there in the hospital to hold me hand, to make sure I wasn’t scared. You were there praying that the big needle didn’t scare me, that the leukemia wasn’t my fate but yours, that your #1 didn’t have what would eventually kill you…and I didn’t. I got lucky, it was just a chronic illness, not a terminal illness. A few years later you died of the same thing that was meant to kill me. Your body couldn’t handle it but I am pretty sure I could have fought it off. I watched you fall apart and then you bounced back but the second time around just went too quickly. I flew down there and crawled into your hospital bed and help you. I remedied you that you had to get better to we could take on the town. I told you we had to fix your hair because you weren’t looking very Ursula-ish that day (from the Little Mermaid). You told me to go into your show closet and take whatever I want, I knew I wasn’t allowed to cry but in that closet surrounded by dozens of pairs of shoes I let the tears streak my face because I wasn’t ready to let you go. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Not to my best friend. I was only 20, I hadn’t met the love of my life yet, or had babies, or graduated college. We had so many adventures left to have, so many more walks, so many more talks. I hadn’t called you enough, or visited enough in the past few years. I had been so wrapped up in my own life, would it have killed me to have picked up the phone once in a while or come down to see you? I prayed, I don’t pray but I prayed that night, because I knew you weren’t don’t saying goodbye but I knew it was the last time I was going to see you. I was so sad and angry and guilty and ashamed. I was so many things at once. I couldn’t cry in front of you, I wasn’t allowed to, I had to be strong. But I never knew how to be strong. You were my strong. The fourth day was there and it was time to fly my brothers and I back home, we stood by your bed and I sang, I sang our song, you know, “Wind Beneath my Wings”, and I held myself together until that hospital room door closed. Then I fell inwards, inside myself. I had no one to lean one. The boys were too young and my Mom was going through her own stuff, I barely spoke to my father and I just was so lost.
I am still lost my dear GK, I have bills to pay, and rent that’s own. I had two amazing kids to take care of and moods that swing back and forth. I feel guilty about everything and I can’t see things the way I used to. I try and try and try to find the simple things in life. I don’t know what I want anymore. I try to make everyone else proud and I realize it is my turn. And I was proud when I walked across that stage at 31 and finally had a degree. But you weren’t there, and a piece of my heart was missing. Let me tell you what I do have. I have two amazingly gorgeous kids that you would love so much, they sparkle and shine and are so very smart. They love to sing and dance and shop and just be in every fee moment of their lives. I have finally found an amazing man that loves me so very much. He is good to these kids GK, like the Brit was good to my brothers and me. I am finally writing, like you always said I should, and I am taking pictures when I can. The past year has been hard but I am surviving like you taught me I could.
Today is your day and here I am rambling on and on about things you already know because you can see me. Today I watch our movies and sing our songs. Today I will ty to introduce the kids to things that you taught me. Just like every day I try to instill the values you taught me onto them. In all the heavens I never missed anyone as much as I miss you.
Love you so much,