August 26, 2015

Dear Thithie,

I must have been four or five.
Dad was still living at home.
I think it was summertime. The ground was hot on our feet.
You brought out your cassette player and popped in a tape. I danced between the cracks of the concrete to make you laugh. I think you were 9.

Remember the Christmas Mom let Dad come back for the night? He slept on the floor in my room Christmas Eve. I couldn’t sleep because I knew after breakfast he would have to go again.
You held my hand and rubbed my head. You were 11.

Breakfast in a rush, oatmeal again.
I can’t find matching socks. My jeans don’t stink so they are still good for a day or two. You jumped on my case to remember to lock the top lock and to not answer the door. You drilled into me that as soon as the Flintstones were over that I was to walk directly to school. .. No detours this time. Go straight there. You will know if I don’t do what I am told. You have secret spies that work for you, there is no reason to lie. I think you were 12.

You started dating what’s his face and he was terrible to you. You were trapped because Mom moved him in.  You made me promise not to take that crap from anyone … that I was special and worth treasuring. That I had a safe place in you. I think you were 14.

You got a car. Four wheels of freedom. You worked and studied and worked some more.  Our lives went sideways. I used to hide in your room after school while you were at work. It smelled like your shampoo and I knew I wouldn’t be found in there. I think you were 16.

I remember the night the phone got ripped out of the wall. The thunder of voices and then silence. I was worried that you would give up and leave. I wanted you to have a safe space but was terrified if we were apart.  Where was I to hide without you here? I felt guilty and selfish to wish this for you. I think you were 17.

You wrote me a note the day you had to leave. I still have it. I pull it out sometimes when I start feeling overwhelmed. You tell me that I am worth so much more. You tell me I am loved beyond measure.  You tell me you see me… that I am worthy… That I don’t have to apologize for breathing. That I am somebody and that it kills you to leave. You were 17.

You got married at the park in the sunshine. Still basically a baby but full of hope and promise. You let me sit with you while you bathed beforehand. You took time to connect with me and make me feel included even on your day. You were 19.

You told me that pregnancy can cause women to pee themselves and the whole pooping on the delivery table thing. Hormones make your boobs hurt and above all else pee after sex. There are zero sexy things about a bladder infection… exactly zero things. Cuddle later, get your ass out of bed and pee. Your bladder will thank you later.
I think you were 20.

Toddlers can actually make you insane. You better be kind and rewind because Blue is not going find his clues by himself. Grocery shop with a buddy. One person to hold the flailing 2 year old and rock the baby and the other to find the right coupon for the bananas.  You told me that parents don’t know anything and that you cry sometimes just from sheer exhaustion. You told me that yelling is cathartic but doesn’t solve anything…  But diet coke and naps do. You taught me how to throw a birthday party for 35 Mexicans and that sometimes make up isn’t possible. Showering has to be enough when it is all you’ve got. I think you were 22.

I hit 18 and moved in with you to watch the girls. You painted the basement for me and gave me a home of my own. You taught me how to open a checking account and how to balance it. You made me go get a pelvic and put me on birth control.  You taught me how to hang up on telemarketers with style and that drinking will induce the desire to redecorate your house but should be resisted. You helped me become an adult. You were 24.

You answered my frantic phone call when I found out he cheated on me after I miscarried. I was drowning and you pulled me back up for air. You held me while I sobbed and then helped me make a plan. You didn’t placate my pain. You didn’t tell me everything happens for a reason. You were my harbor in the storm. You stroked my hair and told me that my self-worth was not sum of his decisions. You loved me even though I stayed. You were 26.

You held my first born before I did, your eyes shining with pride, loving him as I loved him. You told me I was a great mom, that I had the power to shape my own story. You taught me the wonders of putting tucks pads in the freezer post-partum. You were 29.


You bought me the bunk bed my tiny human and I slept on when I had enough of the infidelity. You listened to me, told me the things that were hard to hear but I needed to. You paid the deposit for my first apartment as a single Mom. You celebrated me and my baby boy’s adventure towards authenticity and self-reliance. You talked me down when I couldn’t keep up with school and work and motherhood. You babysat so I could sleep. You were 31.

Not a day goes by that I don’t reach for the phone to see how you are doing.  You are raw and real. You are vulnerable and allow me the honor of access to the dark bits of you… the parts that feel ragged and tired… and not enough. I see you get knocked off course and pull yourself back again. I see you push through the things that scare you.  I see you loving people that are difficult to love.

Thithie, I see you, the real you.
The world has been a better place because you are in it. You are a human of epic proportion.  You are not just a work of art. You, my dear sister, are a masterpiece.

God knew I needed you.
Thank you for my life.
Without you, I wouldn’t have made it this far.

You are my love song to the universe
a prayer whispered for the forsaken who made it despite the odds.

Love isn’t enough but it is what I have to give

Love always and forever,
your little sister

PS. It was me who took your NKOTB tape. You were right about Jordan being the hottest one.  I accidentally broke the tape and was too ashamed to tell you. Sorry.
Oh, the person who took your “get in shape girl” head band was me, too. I don’t regret that one.  That shit was cool.



Jerusha Gray

Jerusha Gray is insatiably curious. This curiosity, coupled with a brain that never shuts up, drives her to paint and draw, read prodigiously, make music, write, and sing in grocery stores.


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