I thought a lot about Deni today. There were so many kind replies to yesterday’s post!
She was a little sister, a brat, a nemesis, a clone, a best friend, and a sister.
I hated her in high school when she copied whatever I wore to school. “MOM! She’s wearing the SAME thing I am!” I would wail.
There were so many funny moments.
Driving down Highway 50 from Lages Station to Ely. Four of us in the cab of the GMC pick-up (no seatbelts). Dad lit a cigarette for my mom and handed it to me to pass to Deni to pass to mom. He lit another one and handed it to me to pass on down (I didn’t smoke).
Deni: “Um, Dad, why did you light another cigarette? You just lit Mom’s.”
Dad. “You smoke, don’t you?”
Deni: caught red handed, no way out. “Uhhhhhhhhhhhh. Thanks.”
Deni comes back from the bathroom, shaking a bottle of Pepto-Bismal. “The lid is loose.”
The rest of us, “You just have to jiggle the toilet handle, not move the lid.”
Deni (as Mom takes the bottle from her and proceeds to shake it harder and pink stuff goes everywhere): “I meant the Pepto-Bismal…”
Cousin Reisa: “Let’s pretend we’re vampires and now that the sun is setting we’re going to attack Deni.”
Jaci and Reisa proceed to turn into vampires.
Deni faints dead away. Reisa: “OHMYGOD! What did we do?”
Deni: “He’s hanging by half a limb.”
“A quart short of a three quart tank.”
“Did you get your driver’s license off a Kellogg’s box?!”
“One brick short of a wall.”
Family reunion, Deni calls Dad. She’s stranded on the side of the road between Ruth and Ely (five miles). No one will stop to help her. She’s 38 years old and crying.
Terry and me: “Why won’t anyone stop to help her?!”
Dad, “If you didn’t know your sister and you saw her hitch-hiking on the side of the road, would you stop?”
(Terry went to the rescue)
My parents call and ask what to do about the dog Deni wants to bring home from the private school in Wasatch, Zeke. He’s half-coyote. I told them they should allow Deni to bring Zeke home. He’d follow her, anyway. I met Zeke. He was a one-person dog.
She had a lot of dogs, but Zeke and Lincoln were the most loyal.
Me, upon receiving a strange letter from my sister on official stationery. “Uh, Don. I think she’s in Idaho State Prison…”
(She was. She was extradited to Nevada, was the State’s witness, and put her boyfriend in prison for a long time. this was after SWAT busted them in Idaho Falls. Terry later told me that he should have picked up on it, too, but the ticker tape said “Mary Cracraft” and we didn’t know her by that name. She was Deni Wilcox to us.)
That was a hard time period for her: the transition from addict to citizen. But she did it.
I saw her just prior to this and her eyes were the reflection of death. To see her a few years later and see life in those eyes was the greatest gift I have ever received (next to her children).
You didn’t want to play “Slug Bug” with her. She hit. Hard. And she played to win.
Portland Coliseum, after the Lippizaner show. We hailed a taxi, but a large woman cut in front of us and moved to take her seat in the back. She sat on Deni who protested loudly. We got the cab. No idea how Deni slipped into that cab so quickly!!
She was a fish. Her second nature was water. Looked up one day and she was out in the breakers off the Oregon Coast in Seaside. Out where the rip tide runs. Happy as a razor clam in the Oregon sand.
I spent a weekend with her at the private school they sent her to. Met all her friends and Zeke, the dog. Laughed. She “borrowed” a hymnal and gave it to me. I still have the hymnal.
We cried together when she gave her firstborn up for adoption.
She was in jail when I got married.
I know a lot of people have a dysfunctional family member, maybe even one as lost as my little sister was. She was Good People. She loved fiercely. She defended her young. She was – in the words of mutual friends – “kind and gentle.” She loved kittens, puppies, strays, horses, and people. She abhorred cruelty.
What pain caused her to turn to self medicate? I have some theories. None of them have to do with a weak person and all of them have to do with victimization. If I could only find the perpetrators… But I would have to forgive them. She forgave.
My last memory of her was braiding her hair. Dad’s 70th birthday. We surprised him with a visit. I stood behind her and braided her hair into two pigtails as I explained to her that I got headaches from the single braid and maybe she would do better with pigtails. She had that lovely whiskey tenor voice, her voice box ravaged by drugs and alcohol. That’s why they call it a “whiskey tenor”. Her lovely, long fingers.
She had beautiful children. They’re all nearly grown up now. Smart kids.
Proof that you do not have to be “successful” to “touch” a lot of people. She was not successful, but she touched a lot of lives. Her inner beauty was more important that corporate success. Take that “motivational” speakers: Deni touched a lot of lives and she was “just” a parolee with problems. She was well-loved and admired.
I am her big sister. And I still look up to her. Love you so much, Sam-bo!
P.S. I am still really, really, really sorry about that damn duck!!
(We went to the fair together when she was 15. One of our last “good” sister nights together. We had a blast. And I spent $1.80 in dimes to win the damn duck. Live duckling. We took him home in an empty soda cup. He impressed on my sister and she named him Sam before we got home.
And Dad made her give the damn duck up. Couldn’t let her just keep it, clip its wings and whatever. NO. It had to go to a rancher he knew, someone who would take care of it and let it be a duck, not a pet.
I never quite forgave my dad for that and I know she never got over the damn duck. All.My.Fault.
Sam did live a happy life (the duck).)