Nature and Nicky

After writing this morning about my frustrations, I got off my duff and went on a hike. (The power of words, am I right?!) I only managed to get 1.56 miles under my boots; but I’ll take it, considering that I haven’t been out in a while and it was ninety degrees outside. (God, I hate Tucson in the summer. It’s not even hot yet… when it does get hot, it’s like living in the third ring of hell for months at a time.)

I would have pushed myself further, but Nicky intervened. I heard his voice — clear as I always do — whisper, “Hey, Big Sis. Have you noticed that you are no longer sweating? You know that isn’t a good sign. All that matters is that you got some distance in. Pack it up before you go face down in the dirt, Dummy.” So I did; because in matters of physical fitness, Nicky was always smarter than me.

I often hear Nicky’s voice in my head when I’m out on the trail. Whether it’s a memory, or a connection to his spirit, I care not. Still being able to hear him, in the absence of his true voice, is all that matters to me.

I hold strong to the memories of all the positive encouragement my younger brother gave to me while he was alive, and how every time he saw me, he said, “Hey Big Sis, have you lost weight?” And I’d say, “Yup, thanks for noticing.” (Note: Often times it was clear to anyone with eyes in their head that I had not lost weight — a fact that my baby brother, Rigel, never failed to point out… because he has always been about hard truths and empirical facts. LOL!)

And no, Nicky wasn’t perfect (though imperfections tend to soften in memories riddled with grief). He had moments that just made you want to throttle the holy living hell out of him; but despite that, he was our little family’s biggest cheerleader. He truly believed that if you could dream it, you could make it be.

It’s sometimes hard to grasp that kind of light in the midst of dark thoughts. If I’m feeling down, and a bit despondent, I forget that when I hit the trail (and remember to soak in the stark beauty of the desert) my younger brother — who loved the outdoors — somehow still manages to be by my side. I’ve even been known to laugh out loud at the conversations taking place between him and I — even though I know they’re only in my head.

When I’m attempting to push a new mileage boundary, or just don’t want to tackle the looming hill in front of me, Nicky is there. His words… his voice, echoes in my mind, “Come on, Big Sis. You can do this. Shoulders back. Tighten that core. Go!” (I used to hate when he’d give me advice on my form, especially that core crap… but now, it gives me strength.)

Sometimes, I can almost see him standing fifty meters ahead of me, taunting me to just make it that much further… at which point, he would — and still does — move another fifty meters ahead.

I know that Nicky would be proud of the woman I am becoming; and I am deeply saddened by the thought that he never got to meet her. I wasn’t even six-months sober when he died; but I hope that he believed I was moving in the right direction… and that it gave him some semblance of peace.

And that too, I must remember: To keep moving in the right direction, one footstep at a time.

I must also try to recognize that if Mitchell decides not to move his feet, then he is choosing to be left behind. It would break my heart to get so far ahead that I can no longer see my husband when I turn around. If that should happen, there will be guilt, and there will be tears… but I can’t stay in one place for very long; and Mitchell has always known that. And Nicky? Nicky will be with me no matter where I end up.

Maybe that’s enough.

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