Thursday, July 11, 2013
Four years ago tonight I was waiting for my sister to die -- how sad it was to sit on my quiet porch at nightfall, listening to the sparrows settling into the ivy, with a part of my heart lying in bed across town, slowly dying.
There is a post that circulates on Facebook about sisters being "different flowers from the same garden." How true that was of my sister and me. She was born when I was almost six years old - an age difference that separated us throughout childhood. We didn't play together or share secrets or feel any particular sisterly bond. Physically, we were opposites. I was tall, chubby, and somehow could never find a hairstyle that worked. She was shorter, slim, with long, thick hair and beautiful eyes. We liked different music, different books, and different people.
As we reached adulthood, I was naïve, hopeful, and eager to be liked. She was more worldly, wary, and cautious in her friendships. We both had strong opinions, but were usually on opposing sides of any issue. Basically, we drifted further apart, and neither of us really tried to bridge the chasm between us.
When I was 50 and she 44, our mother died. The one thing we did have in common was a deep love for our mother, and we shared the pain of losing her. And, this loss finally brought us together as sisters. We started slowly -- each a little wary of the other -- and ended up the best of friends. How I cherished this new relationship. We didn't know we would have only eight years left to enjoy our new-found sisterhood.
She gave me a beautiful journal once, with an inscription that said she regretted all the time we had wasted, and how much she treasured our new friendship. We shared both good and bad times in those eight years. We comforted each other as several much-loved family members and friends died. We celebrated the good times together. We talked and laughed. We loved our occasional lunches at The Desmond, and our day trips to Saratoga and Stockbridge. We sent Email jokes to each other to brighten boring days. We shared secrets, both of happiness and heartbreak. We sipped wine as we listened to the waves crash to the shore one lovely autumn evening in Gloucester, and talked far into the night.
But, it was too short -- in eight years, how do you possibly compensate for 44 years of remoteness? And this week, I am reliving the memory of the last weeks of her life when the pain medications and weakness made it difficult for her to speak above a whisper. Most of all, I am grieving for the words we didn't speak for so many years of our lives, and for the parts of ourselves we withheld from each other.
And I still have not returned to Stockbridge -- walking those lovely streets and having lunch at our favorite Red Lion Inn are still too painful. Each year I think, maybe this summer, but the time is not right just yet. After all, I am not just grieving for the sister I loved so much for those eight short years, I am grieving even more for the first 44 years of indifference.
Rest in peace, Little Sister, and one day we will be together again.