Growing up, I’d feel a sudden jolt of warmth or a thick pinching in my heart and I’d turn to Nate to question, “You?”
It was amazing to explore our connection together. I remember wondering if we would still feel each other if we had been separated at birth. He thought so.
But I couldn’t imagine the grief that would plague me if I could feel him and not know him.
His tough guy shell at school, the protector, and his huge heart. His secret nerd love for watching 80’s movies with mom and me on rainy weekends. His tireless drive to right all the wrongs in our world.
To feel that raw ache and to not know it was because he had seen a girl trip another girl would have been hell.
I think I would have felt lost. I think I would have spent my life searching for the source of these sensations in my chest. I would have always known that something was missing.
We started to grow apart after mom died.
My open grief unhooked any anger that came with the injustice of having lost her.
I worked with a support group. I was encouraged to consider forgiving the drunk driver that killed her.
Not for him, but for my own peace.
Nate was enraged by the idea. But, knowing how we affected each other, he pushed his anger and sorrow down.
Soon I could barely feel him. And I had never felt so alone.
Dad was bed ridden with grief, which the doctors diagnosed as depression after the first eight weeks.
Nate was hiding himself in a twisted gallant attempt to take care of me.
Before he did this, I would find myself stomping through the kitchen furious that there was no milk for my peanut butter puffs.
Or slamming my brush on the counter in a sudden fit of hair hatred.
At first, when Nate’s anger had fossilized, I felt relieved. Because I knew it wasn’t me and I had no way of carrying it or releasing it.
It didn’t take long, though, for me to feel empty. Not only because Nate was numb, but because his numbness left me alone in a way I had never been alone before.
I forgave the drunk driver. I said the words, but didn’t feel them. It opened my heart to a deeper sense of peace, though, where I had practiced my desire to be free from grief and blame, and then found the next step on the path of true forgiveness.
Nate blamed himself for the driver’s light sentence. He tried, but couldn’t write a victim impact statement. He couldn’t get beyond the big angry ‘fuck you’ to the guy.
Nobody but Nate believed the sentence would have been longer with one more statement. He wanted to hold onto something. And this, I knew, meant he was lost.
I tried to comfort him. He pushed me away. I didn’t let that get to me right away. I tried to reach out in other ways. But he didn’t want to be reached.
To have a person who was once so close that he was a part of me, suddenly keep me at arm’s length broke me.
I found my anger. I pushed it onto his shoulders.
He wanted to be alone. I didn’t.
It took me longer to forgive Nate than it did to forgive the drunk driver. Because the drunk driver didn’t mean much to me as a person.
And Nate was part of me.