I said goodnight to everyone, walked to my car, got in, and drove away. At the first red light, in the quiet safety of my dark car, I let myself cry.
Telling a friend about my brother’s cancer had torn the scab off yet again. I tried not telling my friend but when, face-to-face, she asked me a second time, I couldn’t say no. I’ve gotten better at telling my brother’s story without breaking down, so I came close to crying only once.
My friend asked me if there was a genetic component to my brother’s cancer. “I don’t think so,” I said, “I think his smoking and drinking were probably the most significant factors.” The words left my mouth matter-of-factly, but I felt a twinge of guilt nonetheless.
“I still love you,” I told my brother as I drove home. Do I wish you had made different choices because if you had, you might still be with us? Of course. Do I blame you for your cancer? Absolutely not.
A familiar wave of grief returned as I thought about the decades I had imagined with my brother. Seeing my children get married and become parents, helping our parents retire and grow old, laughing at ourselves as we aged – all things I always assumed we would do together.
My radio jolted me back to the present – “You’re amazing, just the way you are” – words of the Bruno Mars song that was my ringtone. I blinked the tears from my eyes and thought as I laughed, “Thanks. So were you.”
© Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2015.