When I was a young girl, one of my uncles taught me how to throw a punch. Since I was always a bit of a loner, he must have sensed I’d need to be a fighter. He wanted to make sure I grew up strong and confident, ready to face any battle… neither of us could have imagined the battles that would rage within for many years to come.
Almost 34 years ago, my mother married my step-dad, and our families merged. It takes a special man to love a child that another man created as if she were his own- that is what he has done. Though I still had my father at that time, he treated me like I was another of his daughters and welcomed me into his family. He had four grown children (three daughters and a son) who graciously accepted my mother and me even though they must have been struggling at the time with the dissolution of their parents’ marriage. I was too selfish to see that… it was all about me, and sadly, it remained that way for a very long time. I fancied myself a fighter- putting the boxing gloves on to fight to be a part of the family (I was too stupid to realize I already was a part of it), and fighting even harder against that family I loved when they embraced me. My siblings- after all this time, we’ve lost the “step”- have always been there for me, for all life events (major and minor) and have included me in theirs. Instead of welcoming the love I always craved, I orchestrated my own self-indulgent battles by imagining myself to be a heroine overcoming circumstances rather than the truth of victimizing myself with poor choices. I moved two states away, determined I didn’t need anyone, all the while perfecting the art of passive-aggression (sometimes just plain aggression) and self-pity. At least half of the past decade has been wasted battling abusive relationships, depression, and the self-imposed anxiety of not being good enough. My brother and sisters NEVER did anything to cause me to feel that way- it was something I chose.
Christmas day, my brother Hank was severely ill- his wife and daughter rushed him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with sepsis and pneumonia, which later developed into ARDS. Getting the news that the man we all love so dearly was in ICU with an uncertain prognosis shook our family beyond what any of us could imagine. With his loving wife and kids by his side, he has made a miraculous recovery. Though he has a long way to go to reach full recovery, he is well on his way, and we are grateful and encouraged to know that he will be ok. The power of love and the power of prayer… his and his wife’s is a truly great love story and we who are blessed enough to witness it have been changed forever.
Hank has a kind, gentle soul; a man of integrity, he is the “rock” of our family. Along with tears of worry and fear while he was battling for his life, there came the scalding, acidic, snot-pouring, selfish sobs of shame, regret, and guilt. I thought of the times he told me he loved me and I didn’t say it back. There were the times, too, that I tried to push him away- he wouldn’t let me get away with it and would physically grab me in a big hug. I am so happy he never gave up on me despite how hard I tried making that happen.
Recently, I thanked two of my sisters for letting me know I belong in the family. One of them said, “Baby, you always have,” while the other replied, “We are so glad to have you back in our lives.” My God, what an incredible gift it is to have a second chance.
Today, I visited Hank; to be able to tell him I love him and hear those glorious words returned has the snot flowing again, but this time in a good way. My sister, Claudia, speaks of the light that we all carry inside ourselves; it battles the darkness far more powerfully than any set of gloves.