Son & Sister

Sharing a Password to Grief

– Daddy, it was a big tarugo.
I smiled. These days, only my son would use such a word in that context. For him, it conveys puzzlement and wonder. But way back when, within the walls of my parents’ home, it’d serve to simulate an intimacy which was otherwise all but forever lost.
I heard it uttered for the first time half a century ago by my baby sister, who disappeared and still dodges all efforts to locate her. In the Romance language of our childhood, the word would sound like turtle, creatures as mysterious as that bathroom business may have seemed to her too.
I smiled because the word doesn’t really mean turtle; it only resembles it in the tongue I often think he will never learn from me. I also found it funny because, of all the words in that language that he understands but refuses to speak, tarugo is the one that he does.
When she vanished, sore and resentful towards my parents, I was turned into their enforcer. Late night calls would be always followed by an unbearable heartache.
I’d get to their place and she’d be branding a knife against them. They’d be cowered on a corner, two frail and disoriented seniors, threatened by a past failure, now bigger and stronger and always addled by who knows what, besides alcohol.
When she took off, leaving a trail of profoundly dysfunctional kids in her wake, my parents stepped in and cared for them. My sister took with her the conviction that I was one of them and it’s likely that I’d never get a chance to explain myself.
I also smiled because suddenly I was thrown back to our childhood, the two of us harmonizing pop songs on the roof of our house. The games we played to survive those times, though, still haunt me to tears.
Her voice, now a faint, gentle lullaby that soothes me through turbulent nights, was like a safety code; side by side, we were partners Continue reading