All You’ll Have is Each Other

| May 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

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When we were kids, my sister Anna and I fought like cats, as our mother said to her friends. I think I drew an illustration of this once—the two of us with crayoned ears and whiskers, going at each other with overstated scowls, exaggerated claws shooting out of our fingertips.

Someday, my father would say to us, your mother and I are going to be dead and gone, and all you’ll have is each other.

After a while, we started repeating it back to him. Someday— he would begin.

—you’re going to be dead and gone, Anna and I would chime in, our voices high-pitched, mockingly saccharine, and all we’ll have is each other!


My cousin visits Boston. It’s the end of my first full week of student teaching; I am tired. I wait until after she leaves to comment on her Facebook photos: “so sorry to have missed you – if you’re ever in the area again and want to catch up let me know!”

*

My grandmother mails me a package of heart-shaped sugar cookies, just like she does every February. I imagine her standing in her pristine kitchen, which looks the same as it has looked my entire life, looking out over the bird feeders in the backyard. I imagine her rolling out the dough with my two youngest cousins, sprinkling the red and pink sugar carefully and evenly, which is how she does everything. I imagine her filling her own dented green cookie tin and then portioning out the rest of the treats to be sent out to us older cousins, away at college or graduate school. I should call her and thank her. What will I say on the phone? I’ll do it tomorrow, I decide. Tomorrow passes, then a few more tomorrows. When it’s been nearly a week, I admit that I’m not going to call and I send an email instead—probably, unintentionally, identical to all the other emails-not-calls I’ve sent over the years.

*

My youngest sister, Erin, says she has something to tell me. She says she doesn’t want to tell me over the phone; it has to be in person. The next time we’ll see each other in person, I remind her, will be my graduation in May. I ask her if she wants to Skype or something instead.

“It’s okay,” she says. “Don’t worry about it.”

*

My turn to mail cookies—I send a batch to Anna, along with an excerpt from a poem by Aracelis Girmay.

The black & tumbleweed of those nights
became her home beside her sister.
They mother each other, still, like wolves, like any animal
will do, does, once she’s found she’s been pushed or fallen
out of the grave, to live.

They live. There is nothing left
to do              but live

*

My grandfather’s birthday passes. I intend to send him a message. I really do. The next day I intend to send him a belated message. I still owe my mother a call for her birthday; we’ve been playing phone tag for a few days and now I am sick and a snowstorm is bearing down on Boston and this should mean I have time while snowed in to catch up with my family, but really it just means the sky is very dark and I am so, so tired.

*

IMG_5602Over winter break, Anna and I were walking through my grandparents’ tiny snow-covered town. “I think,” she said “I’m glad I’m not the gay cousin.”

I am the gay cousin. Nobody even knows. Not because I make such an effort to stay closeted, but because my life and the lives of my extended family overlap so very little.

Next year, there will be no college winter break. There will be no family road trip. If I want relationships with my family members, I will have to maintain them myself.

*

I clean out my voicemail, but as always, I save the most recent message from my mother, the most recent from my father.

*

I call my sister. Her phone rings four, five, six times. In the silence before the tone, I swear I hear my father’s warning.

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Category: featured, Reflections

Emily Hurd

About the Author ()

Emily is a special education major from a tiny town in southern Pennsylvania. She's a firm believer in the virtues of art-making, rambling discussion, and consuming excessive amounts of both coffee and tea. Her other interests include reading and writing poetry, poking around in abandoned houses, and procrastinating indefinitely. Her proudest moment involved replacing the word "oil" on construction signs with "fish" so that the signs in question read "fresh fish and chips."

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