It was one year ago today that I last heard my sister’s voice. Over the last few months I’ve become used to but never comfortable with the phrase “she was my sister” as it echoes in my ears. Yet those words no longer leave my body with a painful last-breath sort of gasp that they used to.
Recently while filing papers and making sure that ‘things’ for her were in order, I found a pamphlet that the grief counselors with Tufts sent us shortly after she died. It explained how, when you lose a child, you lose your future, when you lose a parent, you lose your past, but when you lose a sibling you’ve lost your past, your present and your future, and coming to terms with that loss can be much more difficult.
It is true. So painfully true. With AunT’s passing I’ve lost the only other person, the only other connection in this world with whom I could relay a story involving other people or situations in our lives without needing to convey hours of details or being distracted by all the intangibles. While my brothers and I share a common history, our childhood experiences were different enough that the close relationship like I had with my sister never developed.
Whenever AunT had an injury or concern about illness she looked to me for help with her ‘boo-boos’ and we’d joke that she was just like my then 4-year old daughter JB. And for many of the last ten years of her life she was not only my little sister, she was almost one of my children in that she sought advice and comfort on a regular basis for situations with school, interactions with other people and everyday problems or concerns with her life.
I would not be so arrogant as to say that she didn’t talk with our parents or other people about these things, but often her questions would arise during the often-long conversations with her daily ‘pop-in-for-awhile-how’s-it-going-I-missed-you-even-though-I-saw-you-yesterday’ visits. No topic, no question was ‘off limits’ and she often said that she appreciated how honest and truthful I was to her inquiries.
She regularly called me ‘SissyMama’ and I hated that name not so much for what it represented but because of the term sissy. To me, a sissy is a person who suffers from a character-debilitating flaw of weakness, and I have worked too hard pretending that I am any such thing. But to her, it was a term of endearment for a person she held close to her and whom she’d allow to see her vulnerabilities.
When she’d call me ‘SissyMama’ I’d give her ‘the stern mom look’ as she called it and mutter “OK Fine.” (This was not a one sided routine as we’d have nearly the same interaction when I’d call her Flea, my take on a French term of endearment and a name she despised.)
Even after she moved to Boston we’d talk with each other throughout the day, so much so that we’d even ‘watch’ certain TV shows together, frequently driving Charles batty because “how can you possibly maintain a conversation while watching TV?”
I’ve often thought that my memory is a curse. I can recall conversations and events with eerie detail, and I’ve found on many occasions that people do not care for such talents. But now, on this anniversary, I’m so very thankful for this ability.
I am thankful that I can remind the children of their aunt, of all the time they spent together and of all their rituals as the three musketeers as BW and JB grow and their memories fade. I am thankful that I can remember all of the dorky and silly things she’d say, and of the awkward situations she’d get herself into.
I just wish that I didn’t have to rely on memory to hear AunT say the phrase “love you SissyMama” like she did the last time I spoke with her, the eve of her passing. I wish that I had a longer past and more of a future with her in it.