Updated: Jun 27
| This is the 341th story of Our Life Logs |
“Memories comes alive when
The earth moves the other way
Away from the twirling pain
That rummages through the body;
Memory comes alive when
Happiness walks into the park
Blackened by darkness
And bereft of ideas.”
I don’t know why, but my pen found a notepad this bright summer afternoon. I had taken a long nap and had woken up abruptly from a sleep that can never be referred to as beauty sleep. It was filled with a dream as dark as a starless night. I relived a life that I thought had been buried when the harsh walls of bitterness collapsed. I thought I had come alive again and walked away from the past that haunts me. But you see, that past, it fastens itself to me. It prevents me from moving an inch away from sorrow.
I grew up in Vancouver, Canada, in the early 1980s. Life at the beginning was a bit boring. There was hardly any action. We owned a ranch, but there was virtually nothing fun. We’d watch the horses galloping in the fence, the cows mooing as they got milked and the sheep staring at us with sullen faces. We had no places to visit in the countryside except for the sprawling rivers that would have a boat or two in them with a grumpy old man trying to catch a fish.
My father tried his best to bring a little bit of color into our life. He would take me and my younger sister Mary for long drives until we came into the heart of the city. I always saw him glance through the rear-view mirror to catch our faces whenever he drove somewhere totally different to see our reactions. While Mary greeted this welcomed surprise with shouts of glee, I would often yelp like a wounded lion—that was my way of showing excitement.
Those were the only times we had fun. Still, no day passed by without me wishing from the bottom of my heart that something would come around to bring a little more fire into my life.
I needed someone to play with besides my sister. At night, I would prop up on my bed and stare at the twinkling sheet of stars above, making wishes each time one shot out of position. One night, as a big shooting star dashed across the sky like a fox whose tail was on fire, I closed my eyes and made a wish deep in my heart. If the legends and fairytales I’d heard were true, my wish would come alive in a very magical way.
So, I woke up that morning as a 13-year-old boy, with an intense feeling that there would be a miracle that day.
If I had thought that a toy wrapped in a gift bag would come into my room that morning, I was wrong. When the silent knock sounded thrice and the doorknob twisted, I pushed myself up and opened my sleepy eyes. My mother stood at the foot of my bed with her arms akimbo and a smile at the corner of her lips. She looked at me like she was seeing me for the first time before she made a gesticulation with her hand.
“Come on, there is someone downstairs waiting to meet you.”
I stood up grumpily from the bed. I wasn’t yet fully awake, but the smile on Mother’s face and the light that glowed in her eyes told me whatever that had brought her into my room was something significant. I followed her down the stairs and into the living room. I could smell an excellent breakfast of ham and eggs with toasted bread. My stomach rumbled like a quiet earthquake.
As I made the turn that led to the dining table, I became rooted immediately. At the table sat a girl with a pair of round, gold-rimmed glasses, blond hair twisted in pairs of cornrows, and a smile with braces aligning the teeth. I threw a curious glance at my mother and then at my father, but they only smiled in return.
I walked up to the breakfast table and took my place in front of my plate. I didn’t even know what to say to the newest person sitting at the table with us. I glanced at her at intervals. Each time our eyes met, she would give me her “braceful” smile. I was still wondering who she was when Mother’s voice cut through my thoughts.
“This is Natasha…”
I had heard that name a couple of times. There were days that Mother and Father would hide in the confines of their room and argue about Natasha all day long. The last time I eavesdropped, Father was saying that he wanted her to come live with us and that she had as much right to the house and ranch as his other kids. I didn’t really understand then, but now looking at Natasha at the table, it became clear. Natasha must be my half-sister! None of us had managed to have Father’s blonde hair, though.
It turned out Natasha was the result of a drunken one-night stand Father had about 10 years ago. Her mother had died at childbirth and she had been with her maternal grandparents all this time.
I didn’t care about the tension that Natasha’s presence created between my parents. Here was someone both beautiful and comely with a great sense of humor and adventure. The fire to my life I’d been hoping for! We bonded immediately after breakfast as I helped Mother show her to her room. Guess which of the rooms? Mine! A bunk bed was brought in that same day. I chose the lower bunk while Natasha picked the upper one.
The first night Natasha spent in the house remains stuck to my memory. Mary, my younger sister who was just 8, had snuck into our room after lights out. Natasha and I were talking about everything and nothing when Mary came in. It was a long night for the three of us. Natasha taught us lots of games which we played all through the night. In the morning when Mother came looking for us for breakfast, she found Mary sharing the upper bunk with Natasha while I slept in the lower bunk with my mouth wide open in exhaustion.
Our adventure didn’t end there. There was a vast ranch to explore with a new person. It was a place I took very little interest in until Natasha’s arrival. We would drift into the forest and Natasha would tell us stories of wizards and warlocks, of fairies and pixy dust, of dragons and ogres. Her shrill voice as she described each scene transported me into a world of vivid imaginations. I would find myself painting her words in my mind and living her descriptions.
But there was something about Natasha that I didn’t really understand then. Some nights, she would shiver atop her bed. Whenever I tried to find out what was wrong, she would smile and tell me it was nothing. I talked to Father, but with a big smile, he told me that Natasha was fine. I caught something in his eyes though, pain, a suppressed one. I didn’t ask Mother because I already knew her smile would be wider and brighter than Father’s.
One fateful day, right in the forest, Natasha stood on the stump of a tree, describing the epic battle between the Goblins and Ogres of Neverland when it happened. Her eyeballs suddenly went up, exposing the white part while she swayed, staggered, and fell from where she was perched. My scream and Mary’s had brought Father running in our direction. In a moment, Natasha was inside an air ambulance and being flown to the hospital. She just had an attack all over again.
That was the last time I saw her bright smile. I later got to learn she had a blockage in the pons stem of her brain which caused her to have seizures often.
As I looked at her lying still in the coffin with her eyes closed to this world and arms folded on her chest, I felt a sudden emptiness in my heart. I learned enough from her in just a few days to last me a lifetime. It was a friendship that had been struck right from the dining table. I didn’t cry. I couldn’t shed a tear. I only bottled the pains within me and put tape on the memories we had created in so short a time.
The tape didn’t really help me in any way, but it made it easier to bear the pain of Natasha’s demise. Even with the short time she spent in my life, Natasha brought a change to me that stayed. I began to spend more time in the ranch and in the forest. I could think up things and would even tell stories to Mary. I learned magic—the magic of stringing words together. Life stopped becoming a triangle to me. I started to see life in a variety of colors and greeted each day with vigor and joy.
The ranch stopped being boring as everything that Natasha had told a story with suddenly became alive. It was a field of endless possibilities, and involving myself in a little bit of menial work after school each day became something I looked forward to. I became a different person entirely. I started to laugh a lot in school and was open to anyone who wanted to become friends. I learned to place value on the little things of life. No matter how insignificant they seem, they play a very huge role in our lives. I grew up believing this and found happiness I’d never known before Natasha.
Over the next 15 years, even though it hurt sometimes, I did my best to move on with my life. I continued to let Natasha’s colorful spirit bleed into how I lived as an adult. To further honor her memory, I attended medical school and became a neurologist. I wanted to save as many people as I could since I could not save Natasha.
I had promised myself to forget about everything because it was too painful. But the summer sun I woke up to this morning took me back. It took me back to the time when nothing mattered to me until someone came into my life. It had been a magical time. It was like a shooting star darting across the dark sky. 10-year-old Natasha was my own shooting star, and I can still see her burning tail as she dashes across my dark sky. Above all, her loss taught me how much a person can touch your life and how much you can touch the lives of others. One moment can impact someone forever, and I hope that I become a Natasha to someone else in my lifetime.
This is the story of Robert Owens
Robert currently resides in Vancouver. As a boy, Robert felt his life was boring until he learned he had a younger half-sister when he was 13. Her presence brought wonder and imagination into his life, but only temporarily for she passed away not long after she came to live with his family. In losing her, he learned to be thankful for the little things in life and to be thankful for all experiences, even if they’re sometimes brief. It took a lot of visits with a child therapist to convince him to continue living. Natasha has been a constant source of inspiration to him to this day and reminds him to dream and imagine. Besides writing, Robert loves to cook, read, and watch movies in his spare time. One of his favorites movies is The Avengers and he loves all books written by Robert T. Kiyosaki.
This story first touched our hearts on March 13, 2019.
| Writer: Robert Owens | Editor: Kristen Petronio |