on the day Maya Angelou died

on the day Maya Angelou died,
a torrential downpour
parted the sky &
cleansed the ground below
with Mother Nature’s tears.
no tribute could do justice
to the phenomenal woman who faced
intolerance with understanding
& adversity with calm resolve.

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When your little brother knocks

When your little brother knocks on your bedroom door,
(sobs wracking his gangly frame)
open it & sit beside each other on the floor.

“What’s wrong, bro?”
Everything.
“That’s not very specific.”
“I think you…”
“I would what?
“…would be better off without me.”

When your little brother’s eyes are bloodshot,
(a never-ending stream of tears flowing)
hand him the tissue box & wring your hands.

“That’s not true. Why would you think that?”
“I’m a burden. I’m always messing up.”
“You’re doing great in band! Your grades are decent, too.”
“If I was dead, no one would have to worry –”
“I’d have to go to a cemetery to see you.”
“But — “

When your little brother teeters on a ledge,
(more often than not these days)
carefully pull him back to safety.

“Dad thinks I’m worthless. Mom will never be proud of me, either.”
“You can’t leave Brie & me.”
“It’s all so pointless.”
Promise me.
“I know, Sam. I promise. I won’t.”
“Good.”

When your little brother’s confidence flourishes,
(years later, but it couldn’t have happened soon enough)
let go of the breath you didn’t know you were holding.

Yesterday would have been my grandparents’ 70th anniversary.

Lola & Lolo's wedding photo.

Lola & Lolo’s wedding photo.

Yesterday would have been my grandparents’ 70th anniversary. (They were always excited to share the day with their youngest grandchild’s birthday.)

Lola and Lolo were together for 64 years before Lolo died. They met in the Philippines during World War II; Lola was a nurse for the U.S. army and Lolo was a mining engineer. It was love at first sight. Three months later, they married. They had my three uncles two to four years apart and my mom a decade later. Their life wasn’t perfect (no one’s is), but they did everything together as a team.

Lola was a chronic worrier, so Lolo always made her laugh. When he became diabetic in middle age, she managed his medication and administered his insulin shots. He doted on her, picking up her favorite flowers or jewelry just because. They called each other “my dearest darling” and were still sweetly affectionate even as octogenarians. As Lolo was dying, he told Lola not to fret. For the five years after his death, she was inconsolable. Life was unbearable with her other half missing. When she died last December, she was finally at peace because she knew she would see him again.

My grandparents were one of the few couples who I consider to be role models for a healthy and happy partnership. My mother disregarded the epic love she witnessed while growing up. The only similarity between my parents’ and my grandparents’ marriages is that my parents got married after dating for five months, while my grandparents did after three. Lola and Lolo were in constant communication, but they didn’t fill the silence with meaningless chatter. They didn’t avoid their issues by buying each other expensive cars or watches. They didn’t use their children as pawns in fights. When things got hard, they leaned on each other. They were each other’s best friend. All of us grandchildren aspire to have a relationship as long-lasting and fulfilling as theirs.

Lola gave me one piece of advice about men, which I’m sure she would be happy to know that I followed:

“Find the man who you will be happy to wake up next to — not just because he’s handsome, but also because he’s a good man.”