It is often the smallest gestures that mean the most. So slight the act, the very person giving another a smile, a word of encouragement, may be completely unaware that they affected another. These aren’t invisible moments. Not to the person who has been on the receiving end. We just don’t know how our actions affect others.
As a child, our life was a mixture of a group of people trying, but without a roadmap. It always felt like we were wandering just a bit. In the 70’s we didn’t have mental illness announcements. We didn’t speak of things like postpartum depression, the days when the sun is technically shining, but can’t seem to break through the barrier of dark clouds that have settled over our hearts, controlling our life. My mom’s illness was not something that was spoken of to us, let alone to others. Oh, but when a prevalent doctor’s wife has a huge breakdown in the middle of the street, followed by a suicide attempt, this is never a secret. It just isn’t spoken of when the family affected is in the room. Don’t think for a moment we don’t realize what was being said. When the room goes quiet when you enter. The awkward silence, the attempt of looking like eating was all that was on anybody’s mind. No. They talk. They hurt without saying a cruel word. You are simply ostracized. As a child this is not easily understood.
My cousin Becky, was my lifeline through those days. I have written of her before. Many other times I have started to type little things that happened to us. But the tears would make the screen so fuzzy, I would hit “delete” to try again another day.
She was hardened and soft as cotton at the same time. I could expect a punch, or laughter. Many times it was a mixture of the both. She tried to teach me how to fight, but I had a leery feeling about getting beaten up. She still tried, but would always be close by to step in before I got killed. She was an angel that should and was feared. But she was my angel, still is.
There was an incident. It took place in a very trendy restaurant in a very busy area of Southern California. I don’t remember why we were there, but several families had gathered. Bec and I sat the farthest away from the grown ups that we could. It just was a strategic place to sit. You understand this if you have ever been in a family in the process of falling apart. The matriarch was, anyway.
It doesn’t matter what happened, but a moment of anger triggered my mom. She had a second when she couldn’t control herself, her rage, or what ensued after. That has sat with me for decades. Now that I am this age, I understand her illness better, I can honestly say I have forgiven. But it wasn’t that night.
After the words were yelled, the scene at our table stopped the entire place. When it was over, my mom sat down, and started her conversation at the exact moment she had left it. I sat in my chair, hoping that the rest of the people could just go back to their evenings. In those few seconds, it took everything I had not to cry. I had lost my pride, my laughter, my light. They were not going to get my tears as well. Becky taught me that.
Bec looked over at me and gave a half smile. I couldn’t return the gaze. I would have volunteered 15 years of my life to not be there right then. It just doesn’t work that way though, does it?
Under the table, I felt Becky’s hand wrap around mine. It was protective and firm. “I love you,” she whispered. “Never forget that.” She squeezed my hand with the loving touch of good. It was my hope and my savior that evening.
“I love you too, Bec. I never told you thank you for doing that. It was the world to me. You were so good! Every time I hear a big laugh, I think of you. I miss you so much. Thanks again. You saved me. So many times. But that night was the most loving thing you ever did. I have never forgotten. Never.”
Enjoy the Beckys of the world. They are very special, to be treasured. Have a great day. Let’s talk again tomorrow. I will bring the coffee. Ruth