For Olivia

 To Liv:

I have this small tiger near my desk in the loft of my home where I do most of my writing. He’s a small Bengal tiger with a green short-sleeved shirt that has red writing across the front. I keep it near me because this little guy means a lot more to me than just a little stuffed animal.
I know it sounds crazy . . . me being a grown man with a stuffed animal and all, but you’ll let me, I can explain why this little tiger has been with me for a very long time.

His name is Tuffy. I never gave him that name.
Tuffy came wearing a shirt that says, “I’m a little Tuffy.”
See, back when I was somewhere around the age of eight or so, I was a very sick little boy. There were always problems with my stomach, and sometimes those problems were pretty bad. I never knew what the problem was because I was too young to understand. All I  knew was I threw up a lot.

At one point, I was in the hospital for a few weeks.  I couldn’t eat anything. My arms hurt from the I.V. needles and the doctors kept on giving me shots after shots.
I was tired but I couldn’t sleep. And when I did sleep, one of the nurses would come in my room and wake me up by taking my temperature or checking my pulse and doing whatever it is the nurses do.

My room had a window with a view. The hospital was very tall and I could see the park nearby. I could see down to the golf course but I couldn’t go outside or do anything. I had no friends to have fun with or games to play. All I had was doctors, nurses, and orderlies coming in and out of my room. I could never be alone for more than five minutes. No matter how I tried, I could never find a spot that was comfortable. All I knew is that I wanted to go home—but I couldn’t.

What I remember most about this is my Mom. No matter what happened, my mother never left the hospital. She stayed right by my bedside all day and every day.
Whenever I was scared, my Mom was there to tell me there was nothing to be afraid of. When I cried because I felt sick, my Mom was there to help me feel better. When I complained about the pain—you guessed it, my Mom was there to make the pain go away.

One day, the doctor had someone take me on a gurney to run a few tests. I was scared. I was scared of the needles they poked me with. I was scared for the test I was about to take, which they said wouldn’t hurt, but of course it did hurt.

When I came back, Tuffy was sitting on the pillow of my hospital my bed. Apparently, Mom went down to the gift shop to buy me something that would hopefully cheer me up
And you know what?
It did cheer me up.

This stuffed animal is all I have from my childhood. All of my toys from back then have all gone to wherever little kids toys go after no one plays with them anymore. And my Mom, well—unfortunately, she’s gone too. That’s why I still have Tuffy.

I still have Tuffy because Tuffy was there for the toughest times. Tuffy was there when I was sick and he was there when I was scared. Tuffy has traveled with me through different homes and different apartments. So to put it plainly, Tuffy is very important and special to me.

No matter how old we are, I guess sometimes we just need something to hug, squeeze, or hold on to. I guess sometimes we just need a little reminder that everything will be all right and there’s nothing to be afraid of.

So why am I telling you this?
I’m telling you this because you’re a little Tuffy.
I’m telling you this because I was there and I know what it’s like to be sick. I’m telling you this because your Mom and Dad and all of us are right here for you whenever you need.

I guess the main reason why I’m telling you about this is because Tuffy helped me when I needed it.
So—
I’m sharing him with you with just in case you ever need something to help you feel better. Goodnight Baby girl

See you soon

Love,
Uncle Benny

LIV STRONG!

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