for my sisters near and far, then, now, and forever...

Wake up, wake up, the sun cannot wait for long.
Reach out, reach out before it fades away.
You will find the warmth when you surrender.
Smile into the fear and let it play.

“Now watch where you’re swinging that thing,” his mother’s head-shake seemed to say as she smiled; his glance going back and forth between her grin and the long stick in his hand; a weapon of might, he felt.

“I mean it, Evan….drop it, please?” Her half-frown said. Just in time; he noticed his oldest sister walking by and nearly hit her in the head. He put the stick down and smiled with a tilt of his head as if to say, ‘Is that okay?’ She nodded and went back to hanging the laundry on the line.

He turned around and walked to the tree next to the patch of dirt that had been rubbed clean of grass by his and his sibs constant play. The bark on one side seemed almost smooth from all the shoes that had gained purchase to reach the lowest limb that offered help up to the crude tree house they had built. Reaching up, he grabbed the bough and in a few minutes he had scaled the side of the old Oak and was safe inside the canvas and wood fortress.

“I’m so proud of you, Evan.” The girl sitting at the back of the tree house smiled and offered him some Berry Kool Aid out of a Dale Evans thermos. He nodded and she poured it into a small paper cup and handed it to him. He drank it down as if it was the last thing he would ever do.

“You’re the one that’s brave.” He said, wiping some snot from his upper lip, leaving his sleeve smelling of Vapo-Rub. She shook her head but he shook his back.

“No, Evan. You’re the bravest boy I know. When I grow up I want to be just like you.” He blushed; it’s awfully hard for an eleven year old boy to be embarrassed by his twin even when they’re alone, but that’s what happened as he felt the warmth spread across his face.

“Maybe we can live together and be like partners in a store or a garage or somthin’?” He said with all the understanding of adulthood that any eleven year old might have….both of course just barely past their birthday by only a week.

“Or maybe we can have a place where kids can go to be okay?” Jodie sighed. Neither of them felt safe, apart from their lofty fortress; at least when old folks can’t climb because they’re too lazy. Uncle Evan even said so once, which made their tree house even more of a refuge than just from the odd neighborhood bully or teasing brat.

You wanna run away, run away and you say that it can’t be so.
You wanna look away, look away but you stay cause’ it’s all so close.
When you stand up and hold out your hand.
In the face of what I don’t understand.
My reason to be brave.

“You can’t stay up there forever. “ He had said; both observant and keenly and horribly mean in his tone.

“If I come down, will you leave Jodie alone?” Evan had said. He always offered and she always nodded and smiled at the bargain from hell. Evan would call out that the ‘coast was clear’ and Jodie would descend with his help at the end. And every time, after she was on the ground, their uncle would emerge from behind the hedgerow that abutted their yard with a cackle. You’d wonder why they fell for his lies, but children, even children who have had their innocence stolen, try as hard as they can to believe that things can be good in this world.

And every time their shouts would be unheard; their mother literally deaf and overwhelmed with the challenge of raising four hearing kids in a silent world. And every word they uttered to him would be met with threats and mean glares and even meaner, more evil laughter. Wanting to believe the best, they were convinced of the worst he had to say, and they couldn’t take a chance that he was lying about the bad things he intended to do to everybody else in the family.

Hold on, hold on, so strong, time just carries on.
And all that you thought was wrong is pure again.
You can’t hide forever from the thunder.
Look into the storm and feel the rain.

And every year… EVERY year… was met with doubt and fear and pain and sadness; the reasons of which neither twin would remember for a very long time. But the years rolled on until Evan had forgotten who he was and why he was angry. And Jodie remembered enough to tell him how brave he was, even if it was in a poem her friend had saved to be treasured and read at her memorial service.

* * * * *

“Are you going through with it?” The woman smiled and looked out the window, as if by glancing away she might indicate the whole world rather than just the Forsythia bush outside the office window. And of course the question was really a statement meant to affirm and strengthen.

“I’ve run away too long.” She looked down at her boots; nothing to write home about, as her mother might have said, they were non-descript black, calf-length, and low heeled.

“You haven’t so much run away as run alongside; waiting for a place to grab on and be pulled up. The helping hands have urged you forward and now it’s just one step and hop up to catch hold of the next dear soul in your journey.” She smiled warmly; the acceptance seemed to beam from her like a beacon in a storm.

“And you’re going to keep your name after all?”

“Sort of. It never went with my last name anyway, but it suits in a more Romanized form. Giana, si?”

The woman hardly spoke any of her father’s native tongue other than a few cute tourist phrases and a few oaths best left unsaid. But Giana Caruso was a lovely name. It may have taken all of her seventy-six years to get to the platform to wait for that train, but she was packed and ready to go, so to speak. Reaching out, not only for the proffered hand up by anyone kind enough to help, but reaching out before the sun faded away in the west.

“I’m so proud of you, Giana. You’re brave.” Her therapist smiled at her with that glow of acceptance and understanding for which we long. She shook her head only slightly, thinking of a little girl whose heart was big and broad and loving and innocent so many years ago. She blinked back a few tears and smiled as well.

“No… “ She paused. Maybe at one time, she might have felt otherwise, but she corrected an old error; perhaps for the last time as she remembered her sister and spoke.

“I wanted to run away so much; fearing that things would never change. But I realize that I’ve always had a reason to be brave. “ She smiled again and shrugged her shoulders as if to say, ‘here goes.’ She stood up and held out her hand in a symbolic gesture. The woman grabbed her hand and pulled her close in a hug.

“I’ll never understand, but you never looked away. You never gave up… “ She sighed; this wouldn’t be the last time they met, but a page had been turned in Giana’s life, so to speak. Smiling, she spoke at last holding Giana at arm’s length.


You wanna run away, run away and you say that it can’t be so.
You wanna look away, look away but you stay cause’ it’s all so close.
When you stand up and hold out your hand.
In the face of what I don’t understand.
My reason to be brave.

composed and performed by
Josh Groban

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