Nothing To Say
They had nothing to say to each other. That much was obvious as they started to walk down the cobbled sidewalk. The trees were displaying vibrant colors of orange and red, the slight breeze was crisp and clean, and a school bus passed across the street. Autumn was Clarissa’s favorite time of year. Stealing a glance at Brent, she still couldn’t think of anything to say. There were things she wanted to say but knew it wouldn’t matter. The cancer would still take him; he couldn’t fight it any longer. Clarissa took her brother’s hand in hers, and he smiled briefly at her.
They veered off the sidewalk and entered the park. A bench under a colorful maple tree provided a welcome rest for Brent. He sighed softly as he lowered himself to the wooden seat. Clarissa sat next to him, curling her feet under as she always did. Together they observed young children playing on the swings with mothers close by.
“Remember when we used to come here?” Brent asked quietly.
Clarissa remembered. They lived just down the street, and the park was their only escape from unwanted chores. As long as they were outside playing, their mother would let them be. They used to race to the park then collapse on the grass, laughing. Clarissa knew her relationship with her brother wasn’t typical. Her friends with brothers used to tell her about the arguments they had. Clarissa and Brent never really fought. But then, being twins, she figured they just had a better connection than most other siblings.
“What am I going to do without you?” Clarissa felt her throat constrict and willed herself to stay calm. This was supposed to be their farewell before he went to the hospice and withered away in a sterile bed. She didn’t want to cry before he was even gone.
“You will be fine. You are tough and beautiful. We have something most brothers and sisters don’t.” He paused, and Clarissa smiled a little as his words echoed her thoughts. “You won’t ever be without me completely, sis.”
“I’ll visit you every day. I promise.”
“I know. You just can’t stay away from my strong physique.” Brent tugged a lock of her hair, his quip making her almost giggle.
Brent had lost weight and muscle during his struggle against cancer. He used to look sturdy and solid; now he was slim and seemed delicate, his skin lackluster and golden brown hair dull. Clarissa felt their roles had shifted months ago – no longer was he the protector.
The cancer had resisted all the treatments and therapy. It spread with a voraciousness that had doctors shaking their heads and Clarissa shaking with fear. How could Brent keep up his good humor despite his illness? She loved her brother even more for his fearlessness of death.
“I wish I didn’t have to stay in the hospice. It doesn’t make any sense. I’m going to die whether I’m there or at home. I’d rather be at home.” Brent heaved a deep breath and looked up at the gold of the maple leaves.
“I thought you wanted to be there, so you weren’t a burden on any of us,” Clarissa twisted to face her brother. She didn’t want to miss any nuance of expression.
“I did. I do. I mean, I don’t want Mom and Dad to have to carry me to the bathroom or check my pain medications. I know Mom said she doesn’t mind, that she’d take time off work to stay home with me. It just seems so ridiculous to go out as I came in, being taken care of and not doing anything for myself.”
Clarissa didn’t miss the yearning in his eyes. She knew he would be happier at home, yet she also knew he would feel guilty putting his family through the trouble of caring for him. Brent had always been the independent one. He didn’t like to rely on anyone for anything if he could help it. Brent was adventurous, too. He was always the first to jump in the cold water of the lake in spring and the last one off the ski slopes in winter. She did not know what to say to him, did not know what she could say. Either choice was hard on someone. Their family had a lot of love and would always be there for each other.
“We all go out the same way we came in, Brent,” Clarissa murmured after a few long moments. “We all go out needing someone to take care of us as if we were helpless babies again. Some of us just go out before others.” She pulled out her cell phone. “Call Mom. Tell her to expect you to be staying there. No arguments.” She was firm and knew he would do as she said. He always did when she used that particular tone with him.
After he had talked to their mother, they sat in silence for a while, breathing in the crisp air and enjoying the way the slight breeze played with the autumn leaves. Clarissa realized that he needed her to give him permission of sorts to stay home and live out his days where he was happy. He needed her more than he probably ever had and was afraid to admit it. Her brother was dying. No one could help him. All they could do was make him comfortable. She wanted more than anything to be able to help him, to cure him and make him healthy again, even if it meant taking his sickness into her.
Brent shifted on the bench beside her, breaking her despondent thoughts. “I’m feeling a little tired.”
“Okay, brother mine. Let’s go home.”
The walk back was slower than when they came to the park. They held hands, Brent leaning a little into her for support. Again, they felt words were not necessary, not enough to convey everything they were thinking and feeling. Maybe it has something to do with being twins. This was the last walk they would take together. Clarissa realized they didn’t need to talk. Everything they were and would always be was beyond mere words.