Tuesday, October 18, 2011
I have been thinking about Manny a lot lately. I think it’s the weather. For many reasons, some of which I can’t even explain, the fall reminds me so much of my brother.
Manny was diagnosed with leukemia in early October 1993. I remember exactly what I was doing when I first heard the words “cancer” and “leukemia”. It was early in the morning and my sisters and I was getting ready for school. I was in the middle of tying my shoelaces when my mom said, “Manny has cancer. He’s in the hospital.” I would be lying if I said those were the exact words. I don’t remember what was said at all. I just remember sitting on my bedroom floor, carefully tying my shoes, and being completely unable to look at my mom as she spoke. The biggest shift in my life was so mundane. Shoelaces. Sometimes, when I am tying my shoelaces now, I still remember that moment and the quiet that filled my ears afterwards. Silence can be deafening like that.
It would be another lie if I said here that I understood the importance of what my mom said. I did not. In fact, up until the day he died, I never really believed Manny could die. Knowing a person can die and believing your brother could die are two very different things. When I was 10, I knew people died. I knew people with leukemia died. And despite this knowledge, I lived firmly in the belief that Manny could not die. This conviction was rooted in my complete inability to picture my life without my brother. If I could not picture my life without Manny in it, I reasoned that life could not exist. It was so simple.
There was only one time that this reasoning failed me. About a week before my brother died, for reasons I cannot remember (perhaps there was no reason at all), I imagined living without him. I understood, for an instant, that Manny could die. And it broke me. I cried hysterically for a long, long, long time. I begged God not to let it happen. I must have promised Him that I would be better, love more, give anything- just please don’t let Manny die. Please. I begged and promised and pleaded and cried until I couldn’t think of anything more to say. I suppose there was nothing left, really. When you’re 11, it’s hard to understand cancer. And it’s difficult to grasp death. And it’s unimaginable to realize fully that you might have to live a life without your brother.
In life, you have to learn that you can’t always get what you want. Even if what you want is full of good intentions and a lot of love. I learned the hard way. I learned that a life without Manny was possible. I am still living that life. It's not one that I would have chosen for myself. Or for Manny. But I have learned to make the most of it. I hope that I have made him proud. It's all I have left to give him now. My prayers did not save him. So now, I do my best to keep his memory alive. And share as much as I can. I say his name here and out loud so that I will remember and others will know that Manny was here. He is so missed. He is so loved.
This post has taken a detour. It was supposed to be about pumpkins. And art. And Manny. It was supposed to be a lot happier than this one sounds. This happens to me sometimes, I start writing and what I thought I would be writing about is not at all the end result. I have to run to a meeting now. The pumpkins and art will have to be for another day.