I give him a hug. It’s been nearly 3 years since I’ve seen this man, my cousin, who is like a brother to me. He used to give me rides on his motorcycle, back when we were young and carefree. Nothing in the world could hurt us.
We were in our twenties. Long conversations. Time. Before spouses, kids, illness.
We were poor. Philosophical conversations were cheap. . . yet rich.
Now I stop by his family’s new clothing store while I am in Oregon.
I’ve not even arrived, and I am disappointed.
I have few expectations.
His life is busy now. He’s distracted. He is rushed. Always stressed.
No time for talk.
Oh, how I’d like to just go for a walk. Ask, “How are you really?” and have you answer honestly.
Regardless of your circumstances, you now just say, “I’m fine.” You aren’t fine. I know you too well for that. But confiding in me would reveal too much.
It’s no one’s fault. It just is. It won’t always be this way.
. . . Right?
It’s a season. I just don’t like seasons that have eggshells to step around. We never had an eggshell relationship.
Once I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 24, he seemed to not really know how to talk to me. He looked at my blog once. He said, “Nothing I say is going to be right, so I can’t win. Why bother trying?”
It’s true. I don’t always know what I want to hear.
More often than listening though–I just want to speak.
When you have the rare someone who loves you unconditionally, well, you want to be able to share without conditions.
He doesn’t know how to respond to my illness, so it’s usually ignored. That should make me feel good–he treats me “normal.” But he’s one of the few people I can be the real me with–the un-normal one.
Small talk while children run through clothing racks.
My son resembles his son. His son resembles him at 13 years old. His son is the age he was when he became one of my best friends.
Were we ever that young?
He offers me a tortilla chip. A chair behind the desk.
“No thanks.” I don’t want to be wimpy. I don’t want to sit and miss out on the little bit of conversation there is.
The visit is over. It’s time to go. He gives me a hug.
Pictures snapped record our time together. But it wasn’t time. . . just a missed opportunity.
And this is weird, but there is an odd sense of frustration that my scars didn’t even get a chance to show themselves.
Why? Because they have changed me.
I want to show my hand scar and say, “Here are my new silicone fingers.” I want to point to my ankle scars and say, “Here are the scars from the flesh eating bacteria. So much has changed since I saw you last.”
I want him to know I am lucky (or blessed?) to still be here. He could have been standing at my funeral.
Am I selfish to need to be needed. . . just a little bit?
If he doesn’t see my physical scars, how can he understand how those scars impacted my soul?
He’s the kind of man I could call at 2 AM and he’d make sure I was okay. He’s said, “Call any time. . .” and I know he would answer the phone.
But I don’t have 2 AM crises-call-him-right-now kind of moments. I just want to reconnect.
I miss him. My brother. My friend.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: A right time to embrace and another to part.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,5b, NIV, The Message)
I look forward to the season when we can talk again.
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and she lives in San Diego with her husband and son. She is gradually learning how to balance motherhood, family, illness, and ministry, but she still knows it will be a lifetime lesson. You can see the books she has written, including, Why Can’t I Make People Understand? at the Rest Ministries shop.