If you asked me who my family was I will give you a very different answer depending on the context. It will also change depending on which part of my life you were asking me. When I was a kid I would have told you had three sisters. Lately I am not so sure how to respond. But there is one sister who stands out above the rest, and it’s not the girl you think it is.
I met Hanna when she was still in 3rd grade. She started life, in my world at least, as the annoying girl who lived up the street. No offence Hanna but that was how I saw you when we met. She quickly became my youngest sisters best friend. From there she slowly etched her way into my own life. Before long she went from being a friend, to best friend, to girlfriend (briefly) before settling on sister, where she remains to this day.
How did this happen? How did this girl I wanted nothing to do with, who I picked on as much as I did my baby sister she clung to become so dear to my heart? Well, friends, strap yourself in because this is a bumpy ride.
Fortunately for me, and Hanna for that matter, a lot of the details of our shared story are the stuff of legend but they are the things I am not at liberty to share. There are parts of this story that I will take with me to the grave. There are parts of this story she’d put me there if I told. What I can do is craft a tale that will leave you mystified. You will walk away with a better understanding of my eccentricities. This is the last story of a love turned south I will tell, for of all the heartaches I have experienced none of them pierce my soul as deep as this one. There is not a woman alive I loved deeper than I loved this woman. That worst part is, I never told her how much I loved her.
Hanna was one of those kids that was always there in the background. She used to come over, grab Becky and the two would run off to have their grand adventures sans myself. It wasn’t until she became a teenager that I started to really move her from background character to the main cast. By the time she entered the fold I had already watched Samantha move across the country with my sister Candy in tow. I had already dropped out of high school and launched my ill-fated DJ career. But she was there before this, She was kind of always there, and I never noticed.
My mom was a Sunday school teacher and a staple in the community. It was a small town. All the neighborhood kids would give my mom hugs and claim her as their own mother. None of them did this more meaningfully than Hanna, who herself had no mother so I was happy to share mine with her. I won’t go into the why she had no mother, that’s a part of the story not my place to tell. I will tell you that of all the kids who called my mom, mother, she was the one who deserved it the most.
Hanna was almost family in another way. Her dad had been good friends with my Uncle Tim. Good enough friends she referred to him as her uncle. Again there’s some background there I won’t get into but needless to say Hanna was family right from the start and I never questioned it. Not even when we sorta dated for a brief spell.
I say sorta and I brief. I won’t go into it. Our relationship was told mostly in letters that ended with we can’t do this. It began the night my dad went into the hospital and I thought he was a goner. Riding home from the hospital she grabbed my hand and held it the whole ride home. From there she stayed by my side until he recovered. I even spent that Thanksgiving at her house with just my sisters and very little food. That’s where Hanna resided in my life. She was there for the hard times. She was there for the good times. I just wish I had noticed her sooner. Before it was too late.
I can’t go any deeper than this. We spent a lot of time together. We had a lot of intimate conversations together. We shared a lot of hugs, a lot of moments that defined who I would become. I crumbled to the ground unable to move when I got the call she rolled her pickup truck. She was in the hospital and I didn’t go see her. It’s not a regret I have. It’s a part of the story that I won’t go into because the rest I do regret. Not skipping seeing her but why I didn’t go. Why I was devastated she was hurt but why I was angry at her for being in that situation. Angry at God for not taking better care of my sister.
The last time I saw Hanna was in 2005. She came over to say goodbye before I left Idaho to move back to Salina, Kansas for whatever reason. She said her peace, gave me a hug and as she walked away I burned her memory into my soul where it will live on to this day. I went to my bedroom and I cried like you never cried before. Here was a girl I could have really loved. Here was a girl who could have really loved me. She was a friend. A sister. A soulmate. And I let her go.
Hanna and I had some intense moments. We got into some of the angriest fights you’d ever imagine two friends getting into. The way we fought you’d have sworn we were lovers. Losing her hurts more than any other loss I felt. Fortunately it was a short lived loss. Oh she fine today. Recovered from her crash. Recovered from her youth in fact. She got married, started a family and we happily check in on each other from time to time. She’s busy with being a wife and mother, I am busy chasing my dreams. I don’t regret a single moment we shared. We had our fights. We made up. We might both hold onto our own version of the past, our own twist on the story we shared. But watching her grow up was a highlight of my life.
If you are reading this I never said then, I am not afraid to say it now, Hanna I love you, I always loved you, I will always love you. You are the best sister I ever had and I will never forget you. I have one regret, and that’s I didn’t notice how much you meant to me sooner.