“They won’t remember me.” I looked at them, my twin nieces playing blissfully in the corner, and something deep within me began crumbling. “I’ll just be a name--Aunt Suzanne. A person you talk about, they see in pictures.”
“You can change that, Suz.” Anna Marie leaned forward, her brown eyes wet with tears. “You’re not dead yet.”
She knew me well, perhaps even better than I knew myself. Already she saw my heart, the other one, the emotional one, beginning to shrivel even faster than my physical heart.
“How?” It wasn’t even a real question. It was just an attempt to appear like I was trying, like I would try to live while I waited to die.
But she didn’t let go so easy. She was stronger than I, this sister of mine. “You can make it something wonderful, this last bit of time. You can make it a whole lifetime, Suz.”
I didn’t understand.
“You can make memories so strong even a seven-year-old will remember it for a lifetime. You can make a difference that will last forever.”
It didn’t happen overnight, but as I got through the shock those first few weeks, that part of me so recently dead began to revive. Something more, from long ago, began to come alive in me. It was something from my childhood I had hidden away in the pages of my notebooks--the creativity that only saw the light between the covers of my pseudonym’s books.
I showed up at their house one morning, clothed in khaki with binoculars around my neck. I rang the doorbell and stood at attention. “I’ve come to see Miss Amanda and Miss Rachel, the renowned explorers. I’ve found myself in need of guides for an expedition to the jungles of Enigami.”
For a minute all three of them, the twins and Anna Marie, stared at me with open mouths and puzzled eyes. Amanda’s cleared first. “Come in and we will pack our things and go!”
We set off with great fanfare.
It was credit to my sister and her constant embrace of the imagination that when we arrived at the nearby park and I announced we’d reached the island of Enigami that the girls’ response was, “What language do they talk?”
Surveying the assortment of children playing among the jungle gym, I answered solemnly, “The Yranigami people of Enigami speak Noitanigami.” I handed Rachel the binoculars and pretended not to be alarmed when my stiff hand would not readily bend to release the strap. “You observe the native wildlife and Amanda and I will begin to learn the language.”
I tapped Amanda’s head. “Look, the girl over there doesn’t look busy.” She was sitting in a wheelchair, just out of reach of the swings, of the laughing children. Just out of reach of the life that churned around her. “Perhaps we can learn a few words from her.”
My heart was slamming hard against my ribs by the time we crossed the short way. I smiled at the girl, feeling camaraderie, wondering how short of a time it would be before I, too, was sequestered in a chair. The people around us made a wide berth of the wheels, giving sideways glances at the girl who sat with big eyes and curled-up hands.
Amanda followed me and bounced right next to the chair. “Hello! We’re explorers from America! What’s your name?”
The child broke into a huge grin, her arms waving with exuberance. She responded in deep sounds that mostly made no sense to our ears. Amanda nodded. “Noitanigami will take some time to learn. I think she said her name is Becky, though.”
Rachel rushed up behind us, squealing, “Listen! Listen! The tree is full of birds singing.”
I scanned the treetops. “Those are the rare Drib Singers. Grand find, Rachel!”
“She wants to see, too.” My niece motioned toward our new friend who was twisting to see toward the birds. “Let’s go find more!”
The child’s mother joined our exploring parade and we set off down the path, the twins dancing merrily around us, and Becky nearly falling out of her chair in her excitement.
The irregular jolting of my heart, so alarming only yesterday, became a sort of dance, joining the world around me, celebrating joy. Celebrating the lifetime still stretched before me.
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