I kept it for so long, without even knowing why. I had a reason. The candle is from my 15th birthday, the last memory I have of my sister smiling, the night my sister got sick. But it wasn’t until today, while I was staring at it, that I realized the real reason I kept this candle.
As many people will confirm, I tend to be completely ridiculous. In every manner. If it’s absurd, then I’m all about it. So it is with great joy that I embrace any relationship that will nurture that side of me. I have been blessed with the greatest family for me. Outside of them, I do meet some amazingly tolerant individuals. Though it is always sad to eventually understand that most people have a line, and I am always crossing it. Even so, it is all for that comfortable feeling, the complete, and sober, loss of inhibition. The moment when I do something I cannot believe I just did.
I think of the time my father found the magnetic poetry poem on the fridge. It had something to do with his penis being small, in not so acceptable language. He joked it off, and I still cannot believe I got away with that to this day. I think of screaming “MOMMY” throughout my mother’s house, trying my best to sound like a psychotic 5 year old, even though I am in my twenties. My mom may or may not react at all to these episodes, as I laugh until tears well up in my eyes, though my favorite response from her is a simple, and dry, “shut up.” To be honest, ninety percent of my most ridiculous moments include, are created by, or are simply witnessed by my brother. And some of my fondest memories, like the time we rode a bike circus-clown style, involve him.
We liked to ride one bike into town to play video games at the comic store. This particular time our cousin came along, so one person sat on the seat, one stood to pedal the bike, and the third sat on the handle bars. If you can imagine, this feat is not easily accomplished with three young men, so stopping and trying to remount the bike was out of the question. We simply rode through the busy intersection screaming, eyes half closed, nearly paralyzed by the fear-laughter that was seizing our breath. We made it through, by the way.
My silly instinct can be as simple as when I try to pick my boyfriend’s nose. I giggle quite uncontrollably, as he fidgets away from my intruding appendage. It is such intimate, absurd love that prompted, I believe, my sister to grab my foot while we sat on the sofa, and sing “nobody knows, the trouble I see… nobody knows the sorrow.” You just don’t do that kind of stuff with anyone.
My father has always been a big sharer of his emotions and words like love. When I was young I had no idea what it was all about, but it seemed nice. Of course, I would think, I love my family. But it was just a concept, it had no real value to me.
When I was told that my sister was brain dead and the doctor suggested to remove her from life support, I became aware of that feeling; love. I still remember immediately thinking that I was living some cliché because my reaction was to get upset and say “I never told her I loved her.” Cliché or not, it was real. When it was taken from me, I knew what it was, how it felt, and how important it was to me. “I never told her I loved her,” was a living nightmare that I could only fight with tears. I went to her side, I looked at her, and I cried. It was love I was feeling. Kind of like you aren’t entirely aware of your fingers, or any other part of your body, until you slam them in a car door. In the hospital that day, I became completely aware of the love I have for Christine Elizabeth Landers. Every time she sang a song using my foot as a microphone, every time we had a laughing fit while pulling each other’s hair (I have the Polaroid to prove it), and every time she indulged my silly will.
Back in the day, she would spill a jar of pennies over my head while singing the song “Pennies From Heaven.” The memory is bizarre, yet I know it was fun, and I even asked her to specifically recreate the action again! I still do not know where the song “Nobody knows the trouble I see” comes from or why, while sitting on the sofa in the den watching T.V., she would grab my foot, held as if a microphone, and sing. I know that the joy I felt and the laughter we shared was strong.
It hasn’t been the only time in this life that I knew about love because of its absence, and I can only hope those souls are thoroughly aware of the love I have for them. But that event in the hospital was how I learned to identify love. How to feel it.
I can look at this candle now, and understand that I kept it to remind me that when we were in Hunan Wok, and I jumped up because the waiter was coming with my birthday desert, and she tried to trip me, and I stumbled, and we were creating this ridiculous scene, I was loving her, and I believe she knew it.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.