I fell in love yesterday.
No, not that kind of love. Not romantic love, but love nonetheless. I was surprised by it. I didn't expect to fall in love; I'd been angry for far too long. It's hard to explain why, so let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time there was a little girl. There wasn't much special about her, just an ordinary sort of girl, but she had a big brother. He was tall and handsome and funny, and she loved him with all her heart. Even though he was 18 years older than her, he was her hero and could do no wrong in her eyes.
There was just one problem. Her brother lived very far away. They visited when they could, but it was never often enough for the little girl. Her brother got married and started a family of his own. The visits were harder to come by, but she still worshipped him and he could do no wrong.
Then one day it happened, as it inevitably does. The hero fell off his pedestal and the little girl, grown now into a young woman, was devastated.
I'm sure you've guessed by now, that little girl was me.
I was 25 when my father died. My brother, Ben, was 43. Dad's funeral was the same weekend as his son's high school graduation. I'm sure it was a difficult choice for him. After all, Mom, Dad, and I lived in New York, while Ben and his family lived in southern Georgia. There was no way for him to attend both the funeral and the graduation. I know Dad would have wanted him to stay home, but it still hurt when we got the call that Ben wasn't coming.
I understood it. I knew he had his own family to consider.
I didn't like it, not one little bit.
I felt he had betrayed Dad, that he should have been there to hear the things that people had to say about our father, to listen to their memories of him and how he touched their lives. I was grief stricken and angry and disappointed. I couldn't be angry with Dad for dying, so I got angry with Ben for not coming to the funeral.
And I'd managed to stay angry and disillusioned for the next nine years.
I didn't talk to Ben. I didn't visit him. I did my level best to ignore his very existence. When my mother would tell me Ben had called and asked how I was doing, I shrugged it off and went back to ignoring him. I know it wasn't right, or fair, but it was how I dealt with the pain of losing my father.
That all changed this weekend.
My brother came to visit, came to see his family... came to see me. He and his wife flew up from Georgia for his birthday. My cousin planned a big family party in his honor. I was ambivalent about going. I really wasn't sure I wanted to see him again, wasn't sure I could bear to see him and not say terrible things, things I would regret later. I talked about it with my Mom and she told me it was my decision. For days I thought about it, trying to decide what to do. In the end, I knew.
I had to go. I owed it to my father. He wouldn't be happy with how things were between Ben and I. And so, I went.
When I saw Ben, he smiled at me and my anger died. It didn't matter any more. What mattered now was that he was here. I hugged my brother and tried desperately not to cry. My mom took Ben a present, two American Legion hats that had belonged to our dad. When Ben opened it, he did cry. He cried for our father and I finally saw how much he had loved Dad.
That's when I fell in love. The hurt was gone and he was my brother again.
He asked me to go to Niagara Falls with them the next day and I agreed without hesitation. We rode in my car, talking as if no time had passed, and yet savoring the time we had together. It was a perfect day, sunny and beautiful, and I never wanted it to end. We rode the Maid of the Mist, laughing like loons in our blue plastic ponchos, and took pictures of the rainbow. Ben bought me a baseball hat in the gift shop.
When I went to climb into my car to go home, Ben hugged me tight and asked me to come visit. He handed me the hat and asked me to think of him when I wore it. This time, I was the one that cried. After another long hug, I got in my car and headed home. As I pulled away, I could see Ben standing there, watching me go.
I put my hat on my head, making a silent promise as I did so that my next vacation would be a trip to southern Georgia.
And somewhere above, my father smiled.
Copyright 2004 by Beth Hackett
All Rights Reserved