I was in a haze. The drugs they gave me this time made my body paralyzed. I just had an allergic reaction to an anti nausea medication, just my luck, and my body started seizing up. I couldn’t move and lost control. Now I was under heavy sedatives to calm my body down and then I heard your voice.
“Is she okay?”, you said in your husky voice. I knew it was you and I couldn’t figure out how you knew I was here. You always popped up out of nowhere. It’s like God sent you to my low moments as a way to calm my nerves. As much as you annoyed me, you had a way of making me feel safe at the same time. Uncles.. what can you do?
We once took a family trip to Lake Tahoe. It was something you had to drag me to while my mother was away in rehab. I was constantly crying and worried, living anxiety filled days that no normal 13 year old should live. This was my first snowboarding experience. I remember falling so much and you reminding me that it was okay and to pick myself up. On this particular trip, I realize I learned a lot about life. We stood at the top of this mountain and just took in nature’s beauty. White snow everywhere with our breath visible. It was so cold and I was exhausted, but we stood there in silence for a long while just taking in the world.I remember you telling me that life gets hard and we aren’t perfect, but we pick ourselves up and give it another go. You were talking about my mom. You wanted me to be okay and I could see it in your eyes that you were sick of seeing my tears. You wanted to help me from life and shield me from its destruction.
Most days I felt very lonely and my go to place was the closet where I’d close the door and sit in the dark. My thinking was that no one could hear me in this dark place and I was safe to cry and sob while trying to figure out why they left me. At this point in time, I was living with you and your daily duty was to pull me out of this closet and make sure I didn’t fall apart in the process.
We did a lot of book store runs. I wasn’t going to school because of the sudden change. I knew my mom loved me, but she was stuck in her disease. I was 12 and the night before, we went to Walmart. I remember hearing my mom crying while talking to my grandfather on her cell phone. I didn’t know why she was crying at the time, but she looked lost. There was no more money coming in. He figured out where it was going, drugs. In the midst of all of this, my mother & I took a drive to Napa. At the end of our drive we landed at your house and I remember being excited that I got to see my cousins. My mom was crying in the kitchen. I could hear her hysterics but just didn’t know what they were about. When she finished up, she walked up the stairs and asked me if I wanted to spent the night at your house and I immediately said yes!! My only worry was that I didn’t bring clothes and i wondered what would I wear the next day, but I skipped the questions, gave her a kiss and she went on her way.
I didn’t know she was leaving me. The next day I waited for her & you and auntie were too scared to tell me she wasn’t coming back. I was scared and confused. She knew she couldn’t take care of me anymore and she didn’t want to drag me into her disease. My father was serving a 14 year prison sentence, so she left me where she knew I would be safe, with you.
When I heard the news, I was at the beauty store. My mother, now 10 years clean and sober and my absolute best friend, gave me a call and I didn’t think it was serious. You were an explorer and were always in and out of the emergency room with your wildness behavior. This time felt different. I went to see you just in case. Like you would always show up for me, I figured I’d pull back the hospital room curtain and surprise you but they wouldn’t let me in. I knew something was wrong, but never in a million years did I expect this.
I just saw you two days prior at a family barbecue and shared my pregnancy with you. You warned me that if I had a girl, “You will be screwed”. I had a girl. Can you see her? I think you were right. She’s only 4.5 months old and already sassy like me. You would love her smile, It’s enough to turn anyone’s bad mood around.
Thank you for teaching me how to love myself even when the world gets tough and i feel all alone. Thank you for showing up for me in my darkest moments and always loving me no matter what. Thank you for bringing our family together, even when we fought. Thank you for bringing me & Alli closer. Some of my best memories as a child were with you & Alli. I will cherish those forever and look forward to building more memories in your honor with our family.
I’ll catch you on River Park Circle where the stars shine the brightest.
I love you always,
Your niece Ashley