birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Words Unsaid

While we’re fantasizing here, I might be interested in a do-over for all of 2017. I know that’s a lot to ask but there are several things I wouldn’t mind seeing again and unfortunately, some instances where I think I really dropped the ball. And it’s not things like, why didn’t I take that job?? Or, wish I could take back that last remark.

There were plenty of great moments from last year I’d like to revisit – entertaining dinner parties, long walks, maybe read a few of the books I read last year all over for the first time. I got to see snow! That’s a big deal for a Los Angeles native. I might spend fewer hours watching the news next time I do 2017. The political situation last year…well, don’t get me started. That’s not why I’m here.

I lost a couple of good people in my life last year. One death was very unexpected and, honestly, there is not really anything I could have done except maybe encourage people to spend more time with their friends while they can.

The other death was my brother’s.

My brother, Michael, was 14 years old when I was born so we didn’t exactly grow up together. I adored him. He was a continual source of fun when I was a wee pup and in the teen years, became more of a father to me than my actual father. Our parents divorced when I was eight and my father was a bit of a prim and disapproving sort. But Michael was worldly, a painter and an architect, and he took a real interest in me, my studies, and my life in general. He encouraged me to make art and took me to investigate colleges. My parents – and their respective second spouses – thought college a waste of time and money for a girl. But he convinced them otherwise and off I went.

There was a long period of time when we had little contact, but in the last twenty years or so, we reconnected and became great friends. He was talented, competent, well read, concerned about my family and interested in the world around him. He was funny and knowledgeable and we leaned on him and loved him.

I drove up and back to San Francisco several times to see him in the hospital last year. I was waiting for them to release him so he could go home and we could go visit with him and his wife up at the beautiful house they designed overlooking the lake. It would be like it always was when we visited. Long lazy days outside, big meals cooked by everybody, quiet nights by the fire and a little must-see-satellite-tv. Maybe he had to take it a bit slower than on previous visits but we wanted to make him feel like old times.

In the hospital, he was constantly surrounded by family. His wife, daughter, sons, and spouses, grandchildren, my sister and myself all hovered around in an unending parade of cheerleading, working to boost his spirits, and medical talk, talk, talk of what the doctors might try next - We’ll beat this thing! - if they can only figure out what the hell is wrong with him.

I wanted time alone with him. I didn’t want to talk about tests and procedures. I didn’t want to present a face of false cheer. I wanted to talk with him.

It didn’t happen. There was always someone or other around when I was there, presenting a cheery outlook and speaking in upbeat banter. Keep it light! I should have insisted but I didn’t want to appear rude. The last months, when he was so very ill, in and out of hospitals, I just wanted us to have some time to ourselves. What’s it like? Are you frightened? How do you get through a day? What are you thinking? I want to know. Tell me.

I want to tell him how much I loved him and what he meant to my life. I want to be able to go back and hold him, hug him gently, but firmly. He had less time than we thought. He did go home to the beautiful lake house and we planned to drive up the next week. That last time I called, he was feeling too tired to come to the phone and I said, that’s ok, let him rest. We can talk later.

I’ve been dreaming about him lately. We talk and talk. We have a grand old time. And I wake up happy.

Fight Like a Girl

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