I might be going along with my day, having a good one for a change. I might be washing dishes, or folding laundry, and I’m thinking, “…I should take something out for dinner or I should leave early and grab the mail or I think the dogs are almost out of food” and then, just like that, I think, “My sister is dead.”
And I shake my head and distract my thoughts, and perhaps pick up a crochet project and attempt to focus my brain on the written pattern.
Often, I screw up and find myself tearing the work back out.
Yarn can be a lot like life.
I’ve been caught while listening to the stereo when a Sugarland song comes on, or Bret Michaels, or Kid Rock begins to blare from the speakers and just like that, my pretty-well-held-together self is a crumpled heap of uselessness on the living room floor. And I know I need to get it together, for crying out loud, I have to keep going, I have to tend to four children and two dogs and a husband who is working at a job he detests because I can’t seem to pull myself together enough to get myself into a position to earn any money.
Knowing this doesn’t stop the salty oceans of tears from streaking down my face, falling onto my shirt, my jeans, my – depending on my position – filthy floor. It doesn’t stop the anguish, the sickening knotting in my gut, the wind that rushes through my head when I remember my sister is dead.
Logic has no place in my soul when I am so exhausted I simply MUST go curl up in my bed immediately, right that second, unable to summon the ability to keep my eyes open another fraction of a millisecond, and logic has no place in my soul when I am so exhausted I simply CANNOT close my eyes or rest my racing brain for even a quick breath of time.
And I lie there and stare at the ceiling or stare at the underside of my comforter (it’s purple striped) or stare at the distressing mountain of tangled-but-clean laundry on my side of the bedroom and I try to force my eyelids to close, I squish my lids against my eyeballs so hard I see shots of color, fireworks of pain… and just like that, the phrase repeats inside my head, “My sister is dead. My sister is dead. My sister is dead.”
Over and over. And over. Over and over. And over.
Just like that. And I wonder if I will ever get away from that voice, that phrase, that hateful stalker, that insidious whisper of truth and remembrance and pain.
But I get up everyday. I get up and ready my children for the new school year and try to focus my dysfunctional brain on something: on writing, on a project, on my own schoolwork, on my resume, on job possibilities.
And I pick up my kids from school and talk about their new teachers and jammed Junior High lockers and terrible lunch food and I nod and laugh and attempt to help with homework and I sign the necessary forms that always come home at the beginning of each school year and when I get to the place for “Emergency Contact” I start to write my sister’s name, just as I always have, every fall for the last 12 years I have had a child in school.
I have to pause, and my throat gets thick and sticky as if it’s filled with slimy cobwebs and the ink pen quivers above the forms and just like that I think, “My sister is dead.” For a moment or five I just sit there, unable to process what I need to do next.
I put my mother’s name on the top line, and nothing on the second line. The school will just have to make do with that.
I try to place my mind elsewhere, try to take deep breaths and rub the gritty sand from my eyes and think of something, anything else. The problem is that if I think ahead, I cannot formulate what a future without my sister in it looks like, and so the vision appears as some odd, grim fairy tale where bits and chunks of the world are missing, like a forest missing a clump of trees and part of the grass or half the sun is erased or the Gingerbread House is absent the candy posts that hold it up.
And if I try to force my mind backward, I simply see a slideshow of our past together, snipped bits of moments when we laughed or got angry or talked too much or didn’t talk at all.
Yesterday, something really exciting happened for me. Something I’d been working toward since high school (with a few breaks here and there for raising babies and potty training), and I was so pumped. I stopped at the post office and picked up the mail and there it was, FINALLY, there it was! A copy of the magazine my first ever article was published in, an article with my name and picture at the top, and for a fleeting moment I was so filled with joy and happiness and pride I nearly shook.
…. and just like that, the wind whooshed through my head and sand filled my eyes and I remembered.
I can’t show my dad. My dad is dead.
I can’t show my sister. My sister is dead.
I scrolled through my phone to look at the last text she sent me, because I wanted in the worst way to share this accomplishment with her, and I just wanted some kind of connection.
The last text she ever sent me just said, “ya”. I had sent her a picture of my daughter in the dress we’d bought for her Senior pictures, and that was what she texted back. She was so weak by then, just typing those two little letters and then pressing “send” probably wore her out.
My sister is dead.
I stare at that text and wonder if I will ever get away from that voice, that phrase, that hateful stalker, that insidious whisper of truth and remembrance and pain.
I wonder how much longer I am going to be this fucked up.