The Last Lines Of The Old Man And The Sea Distance – Cold Turkey Grieving on Thanksgiving Day

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Distance – Cold Turkey Grieving on Thanksgiving Day

“He’s gone.” The words reached my phone and ended up in my throat. It was Thanksgiving and my older brother – the fast-talking bodybuilder, quick-witted, always-laughing family man – had left us. After being diagnosed with Type I diabetes at the age of 11, she had made it every time. But he could not win 2020.

They say family are your first friends – your connection to the past and a bridge to the future. When I heard the news of my brother’s death, I was taking water – drowning in the last words and losing the moment. I couldn’t breathe. I ran outside. I couldn’t shout. Anyone shot in the ear was kept at home by government order. There would be no shoulder to cry on or comforting hugs. There would be no ‘Sorry’ or pats on the back. It was a cold cry on Thanksgiving.

Chris had texted us the day before to tell us that our uncle had passed away. Uncle Michael was larger than life. He was a wise man, a mountain of a man who taught us how to slide and cheat at cards. And within 48 hours, we could lose Uncle Robert to COVID-19.

It was difficult to realize – three relatives in four days. It was the most in a year that had already grown. Six degrees of separation, seven degrees of isolation, 6 feet for 15 minutes in a 24-hour period – our kingdom of the shell.

It was the year we stood on the edge of existence and stared into the abyss—everyone has our own version of the bottomless pit. Death became a hashtag, life became a meme, and survival became a staple of cyber food. We were all living under the band and over the rainbow save for zooms, hangouts and CGI crowds – live shows we wouldn’t have.

I found a picture of my brother when he was little wearing shorts and red suspenders. Someone like a teenager smiling in front of the Christmas tree in the back room of the house we left thirty years ago. He makes a picture on the weekend from college. Leans on his first car in expensive jeans; his eyes are bright, seeming to gaze into eternity.

There is a picture of us sitting in front of the pumpkins at a local farm store in the 1970s. I remember that day well. He didn’t want to be near me. A brother who argues. My mother begged him to come closer. He refused. He had his jaw locked on his cheek. I had just finished the cherry on my lips. I was wearing my mustard yellow pants and paisley coat. He was in his herringbone sweater. I walked away from him indifferently. I was a tough, little girl. He made me like that. Mom pointed her Canon hand-held camera with a curved reflector, the shutter snapped and the moment was frozen in time. What I would give to be closer to him now, to not turn away that day, to hold the space between us in my 8 year old hands and hold on to it forever.

The drive from Los Angeles to Phoenix for my brother’s “Celebration of Life” was long and lonely. It can be outside, hidden, and around the table of pictures. It was the best we could do. At a rest area somewhere between Indio and Blythe, I screamed into the desert and protested all that I had lost. The area was deserted except for a large saguaro cactus that dominated the picnic area. It was a very big tree. It had also seen its share of weary travelers and motorists. It had survived the noise of the highway, the smoke, and the dry conditions of extreme heat. His strong back and hard skin were well-regarded in an indifferent world.

My mother always said that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, but He gave me more at once. As I walked through the street of the moon, my thoughts returned to simple rooms and soft chairs, snowmen and sea shells, light bugs and barbecues, stick football and Halloween, banana chairs and small contracts.

I still have my brother’s number on my phone. He is still smiling from his Facebook page. His great, brave life endures in the eternal realm of memory. Technology is brutal in that way – cyber head fake, digital fraud. Like the “social” distance that separates us.

Nothing is done forever. There is no encore after the curtain falls. We don’t get a second shot at the final goodbye. So, when this big chase is over – shake hands, big fists and high fives. Hold on to everyone you love and never let them go. Say ‘I love you’ every time you wake up, and don’t let distance come between you and your family again.

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