Walking with Obie

I have a friend who always has said, “I didn’t know the difference between a disaster and a blessing.”

For the first 40 years of my life, I felt that EVERYTHING was a disaster. My life, my job, my decisions, my marriage, my current situation, my past. Everything seemed to prove to me that I was a train wreck and nothing good would ever come of it – or, rather, me.

It’s really hard to have any self-esteem with that view of the world.

In my recovery, I learned that this was my “bondage of self.” And, boy, did I want freedom from that world view, self-perception, and self-fulfilling prophecy. Today, I can say I am free from my bondage of self, unless I choose to go back to my self-crafted prison. Which I work very hard daily not to do.

So, as I wrote in January, my sister’s death was sudden, shocking, and life-changing. I’m still thinking about what she’d like to do together, that I need to call her, that she couldn’t possible be gone from my continuing life. How can I turn 50 this month when she will not be here to celebrate with me, considering she is one of the people who kept me going as a child?

As result of her death, I was given the opportunity to spend time with my sister’s son, Obie (a nickname she and I gave him early on). I picked him up after school and took him to my home to stay until his father could pick him up after work. Obie’s routine didn’t change here at my house. He ate a snack watching the cartoon channel and then went to my kitchen table to do homework. Sometimes he displayed some aggression toward me, sometimes we played around and laughed, once we went to my computer and made a goofy short film in which we just said anything and acted like monkeys. And, my favorite time with him, was when he finished his homework and we went for a walk together.

Walking is one of my favorite things to do anyway, and having someone with me is often delightful. The chance to talk with this almost-13-year-old nephew was a gift from a Higher Purpose. I lost my sister but for a while I gained my nephew.

When Obie was born – it was the same day that Hurricane Bonnie was hitting our coast. Bonnie was the size of Texas. Not that I actually know what the size of Texas is, but that’s what the weather guys were saying. I didn’t know Obi was in the world until after his birth – meaning, I wasn’t at the hospital awaiting his birth, because his parents didn’t let anyone know that was where they were. A few months later and for his first couple of years, I was happy to babysit him and spend time with him. When he was about 5, my father died and my relationship with all of my siblings drastically changed. Not for the better.

So, after that, occasionally Obie, my sister, and I would go to a movie or I’d come over and visit with them after he was home from school. He came by on Halloween once and I tried to get a card to him for every holiday event. With most of my nephews and nieces, I had the opportunity be a part of their lives from birth, babysitting, going to dance performances or ball games, at family gatherings, or attending their graduation. Not so with Obie, so far.

The point being that Obie and I don’t know each other very well. Getting this new window of opportunity was awkward for both of us. He was, understandably, anxious when he was with me after his mother’s death, he had heard a lot of negative talk about my family and he often repeated it judgmentally to me. But, we also got to go for walks together away from his house or mine. I took those opportunities to tell him how much I loved him and his mother, how much I missed her and probably always would.

I have written before that I can’t fathom what it is like to lose your mother at 12. My own mother died when I was 44 and that was heart-breaking for me.

I got to see how special Obie is – his faith, his intelligence, and, surprisingly, his compassion – he once said, “Well, I don’t have any brothers and sisters, so I guess I don’t know (how they feel about losing their sister).”  This is a capacity for compassion that I rarely see in people who claim to be adults. (And, there are times when I must include myself in that observation.)

As far as disasters versus blessings – this was one disaster that also brought me some blessings. And, that’s as much as I’ll give it. I still have moments of disbelief and frustration, when I say to God, “No, no,” or “I want her back.” In my heart, I will always long for lost moments, for the loss of sharing a phone call with her, of talking about the past, present, and future with her.

My sister will always be with me. If only in my thoughts, prayers, and hopes. I will have to learn to accept that as enough. For now.

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