I always wondered if my two younger sisters were a blessing or a curse. The middle child always seemed to be destined to become my nemesis. Whether in “blame Kimmy for it” or “Kimmy won’t mind if I…” mode, she never failed to traumatize me and/or get me in some sort of trouble. Then the middle one and the little one joined forces and I was glad to be of an age where I could get away from home without them. It was a constant battle for supremacy and I played the age card every chance I got having 6 years on one and 8 years on the other. Then in true sibling fashion, we grew up and became each others’ great defenders against the parents and the world. It’s funny how it took my leaving for college for that part of the relationship to develop. Despite being out of my comfort zone and missing my peers, I always seemed to find that I missed my sisters the most.
December 2003 made me truly realize just what I was taking for granted. Finals are over, happens to be my birthday as well, off to the bars we go….
Mom calls during a round of tequila shots. Since I can’t hear over the noise inside, I head to the deck outside to hear what she has to say. I figure she’s checking on me, making sure I’m not drinking myself into oblivion. Then she asks me if I’ve already packed to come home. Extremely odd, since I wasn’t due to fly home for another week. In a very uncomfortable, sobering wave of anxiety I realize something is terribly wrong. She tells me that the little one has been admitted to hospital, Dad has already arranged with her to have my flight changed to the next morning so I can come home. She’s not been well for a few years with ups and downs. Not her first hospital stay, but the first time I’ve been summoned home as a result of one. I never stayed to cut my cake that night.
After a few flight delays and a massive hunger headache, I greet my mom at the airport and see the worry in her eyes before she even says “hello”. It was a quiet ride and I opted to go straight to the hospital instead of home. Outside of the birth of my son and his difficulties, nothing in life moved me more than the sight of my baby sister in that hospital bed. At about 11pm, I’m starving and exhausted. I hug her good night and she whispers in my ear “please stay with me” – there was no way I could leave her alone. Told her I’d be back in a few minutes, just needed to get some dinner. So I sped home for food, a quick shower and change of clothes and then spent the night chatting and laughing in the most uncomfortable chair ever. She didn’t want to go to sleep. Little did I know it was because she was afraid she wouldn’t wake up. Two weeks later, she didn’t.
Near seven years later, her birthday is two weeks away. She would have been 22 this birthday. For her 21st birthday, middle little sister and I went out to the lighthouse at sunrise and sat on the beach and wished her Happy Birthday with her first (legal) beer. Set her bottle on a rock and watched the tide come in and take it away. Only a few months before we’d made that same trip with our Dad and scattered her ashes in the ocean at daybreak. Fitting since I remember being there when she was a baby, Daddy dipping her toes in the ocean for the first time. That 21st birthday ‘celebration’ will be with me forever as I sat there watching the sunrise rubbing my pregnant belly realizing that my son will never meet his amazing aunt. Yet, there she was in the surf, in the sand, in that morning sunlight. I hope that through pictures and stories he will come to feel as though he truly knows our own personal guardian angel. I remember her everyday when I look in the mirror – the woman she’ll never be, but the angel she has become.
For better or worse, the experience brought our family together in a way that I had seen in other families, but never in my own. My sister and I bear ink in her memory and honour. I’m proud my son has our name.
I’ve never been closer to my sisters. My sisters by blood and my sisters by choice. Some have been there my whole life, some have been there on and off throughout the years, others are permanent fixtures. They have been there in my greatest triumphs and all through my darkest nights. I will never be able to truly thank them, I only hope I will be able to be there for them as they have been for me.
I find around this time every year, little upsets feel so much worse. It’s been a rough couple of days, but I know it gets better. My emotional scars are like my stretch marks – I can cover them up, but they’re still there.
“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.”
This too shall pass…