My dad called me 15 years ago on the 2nd of March. He was upset. My sister was on a helicopter to Reno. It came on suddenly: she didn’t feel very good one day. the next day, she called Dad because she hurt all over and she was frightened. She was married, but she called my dad. 40 years of a love-hate relationship and the first person she turned to was her father.
And he felt helpless. He didn’t know what was wrong with her. This wasn’t her usual hypochondria. This was worse than her bout with Hepatitis C. She’d gone to the hospital in the afternoon one day, and the next day she was in a coma, on the way to Reno’s best hospital.
Six of one/half a dozen of another: when people are flown out of Ely, Nevada, on LifeFlight, they head to Reno or Salt Lake City. Funny that after all these years, I don’t know of anyone who has been flown to Las Vegas. It’s all the same distance: Reno/Salt Lake/Vegas.
I called my prayer chain. I emailed my homeschool support group. I prayed.
March 3, 2000. My sister, my little sister, my baby sister who made my life both frustrating and richer – the sibling I shared a bedroom with for the first 13 years of her life, was gone.
I had not been able to attend her wedding the previous October. She was so excited to finally be getting married to the man she was living with. He was her second husband, but what number he was in the long line of boyfriends was beyond me. For the first time since her divorce from her first husband, her last name was changing legally.
Sometimes, I stretch to remember her. Her laugh. Her black eyes. Her short brow. Her quick smile.
She was slow on the uptake in a family that thrived on one-upping each other. We took turns being the butt of family jokes. She was an extrovert. She walked in her sleep, stole blankets, and bit me. I dropped a glass light fixture on her. She broke my porcelain cat. She had boy friends and I thought all boys had cooties.
I don’t think you ever get over the loss of a sibling.
Somehow, her death always hurts more than the death of our parents. I don’t know if it is because I was close to our parents and my sister was something of an enigma to me, or if it is because my sister and I shared secrets that noone else could share, simply by virtue of being sisters.
She gave up a child for adoption in 1977, the year she graduated from high school. Somewhere, buried in a box, are the letters we exchanged during that painful period of her life. She wanted to keep the baby. The baby’s father wanted her to wait for him to graduate from college, and then they could get married and have a real family (but she would have to be a single mother until then). Our parents wanted her to give the baby up for adoption.
Did I mention she wanted to keep the baby? She was barely 18. No job skills. Dependent on our parents and the boyfriend who wanted her to wait (but he would send support money).
Don’t disparage the boyfriend: my father told me that that boyfriend called once after my sister died. He was hoping to find her, to talk about the past. I think he truly cared, but he was bound by his family’s dreams for him, too, and those dreams did not include the crazy girl who got pregnant.
He was born in October of 1977 at William B. Ririe hospital. My sister mourned him every October, and after my mother passed, so did my father.
I pass these anniversaries. Some hit me harder than others. Today, I was at work, feeling suddenly depressed. What is wrong? I thought.
Oh. March 3. Fifteen years.
This was posted on my youngest niece’s wall on Facebook tonight. It could be my sister. It isn’t; it is her youngest daughter.
She left behind a legacy of broken family and children struggling for identity. Strong children with her bullish will for survival. Children who hardly remember her. Children who will never know her in her bra-less bandana mini-top over wide bell-bottoms or jeans tucked into hip-high boots. Children who will never remember her with her teeth in. Or out. Children who will never remember her as the beauty she was at the age of 17.
I regret every temper tantrum I threw in my high school years because she: dressed like me, messed up our shared bedroom, wanted to talk all night, tried to draw like me, and – GOD FORBID – wore the same clothes on the same day that I did! I regret every time I teased her.
I treasure every gift she gave me, especially the living ones like Buddy the cat, and my nieces and nephews.
I forgive her for breaking my ceramic cat.
I hope her son who was born in 1977 knows he was loved by both of his parents.
Mary Denise Wilcox – SAM!!! – I miss you. I feel you watching me. I miss you so very much. Oh, hey – guess what!? Jessi wants me to paint a picture of her!!
I’ll do my best, Sam. I promise.
*unedited. I can’t reread this. 15 years is hitting me hard.