I haven’t written about my sister since she died. (I cannot even express how hard that sentence was to write. I had to stop writing because I couldn’t catch my breath.) I don’t know why I haven’t talked about her. Writing was how I processed everything when my Mom died. But with my sister? It’s just not there. The words. The feelings are there. It’s like someone took hundreds of LiteBrite pieces and threw them on the floor. Where once there was a bright, beautiful picture of my sister and me, there’s now just a jumbled pile of faded, dull pieces of plastic that have no rhyme or reason. No light behind them. I know I have to pick up those pieces. Some people say I can make a new image with them. One where I shine for both of us. But seriously, how do you make half of a Lite Brite shine? I want to take every damn piece and hurl it across the room. It doesn’t work without both of us. Suggesting it would is ridiculous. It will never shine as it did before. Never. The whole damn Lite Brite has been shattered beyond repair.
So, how do I find a new reality? How do I find a new me without her?
I wish there were a name for someone who loses their sibling. If you lose your parents, you are an orphan. If you lose your husband, you’re a widow. If you lose your sister, you are … lost? Alone? Sisterless? She was my person.
There were times she would withdraw into herself and not return texts or phone calls, and it would piss me off. Oh, that would piss me off so much! And she heard about it. But, you see, I did that, too. And we always came back to each other and talked about things. That’s the thing. We always came back to each other.
We used to send each other quotes or songs that reminded us of each other. Sometimes they were funny. Sometimes they were meant to say “I see you and I am here.” Sometimes they were just “Hey! Get me this on Amazon.” (Not much of the latter one because we didn’t have that kind of money but it was fun. I was very close to getting that T-Rex costume I want.) It was our way of always staying connected through the good times and the bad. It was our way of reminding one another that we had each other’s backs. For life.
I could never imagine “for life” would be cut so short.
The turning point in our relationship was when I asked her to be the maid of honor at my wedding. She was shocked. Her initial response was to ask if I wouldn’t rather have a friend or someone closer to me fill that role. When I told her that was exactly who she was and I couldn’t imagine anyone else, well, I think that was the first time in as long as I could remember that she hugged me- without trying to strangle me down in a wrestling hold. A real hug. It was the best feeling in the world. It marked the transition from dueling sisters to real friends.
Oh, and as friends, we did have fun. I am sure we were responsible for my Dad’s grey hair and the hair he lost. We tended to revert a bit to giggling kids when we got together. Once our funny bone was tapped, we were gone. Everything was going to be funny. Family get-togethers? Forget about it! We weren’t going to check how much longer something had to cook or if we had enough clean dishes for the crew. Nope. We had to leave the room to laugh at something. To express the ridiculousness of something that happened or was said. Sometimes it was just because we needed to laugh and wanted some sister time.
I still laugh about one of the times she visited me for an extended time. It was a full house. All three of my kids. Both of her boys. Me and my husband. And Chelle. Well, if you know anything about me or my family, you can well imagine we didn’t have a quiet house. (Still, one of my greatest joys when it’s a full, loud house.) There were boys peacock calling each other from one end of the house to the other. Two of the kids playing a very intense Wii game. The Dobie loving the action with an occasion bark. One kid watching TV. I’m just walking through the house trying to talk over it while I am trying to clean the kitchen or grab laundry or bark orders to one group of kids or another. Well, there Michelle sat on the couch flipping through a People magazine as calm as can be and said, “Boy is your house loud.” Never looking up (and her voice never above a normal conversational tone) and just went right on reading her magazine. It struck me at that moment it was the perfect Jenn vs Michelle moment. I’m swimming through the chaos not even noticing it was loud and chaotic while she was very aware and totally unflappable (and slightly amused) by it.
We were best friends. We had a relationship no one in this world was privy to. We had a bond that no one in this world had. We had secrets that no one in this world will ever know. She and I had something that I will never have with anyone else in this world. No one knows what we had because it was ours. No one. Because that’s what sisters do for each other. They carry each others’ secrets, share each others’ joys, and share each others’ burdens. No one can know one hundred percent about another person and I don’t claim to here. We weren’t perfect but we were pretty damn good sisters to each other.
I don’t know how to do this. I have picked up the phone more than once to call her and tell her about the latest thing I found on Amazon. Or the latest celebrity gossip. Or the calls I go to make when I need her the most. When I am hurting. When I am scared about life changes. When I need to talk to her about our kids in college and how much we miss them. Or to cry over a really hard situation we should be helping each other through but that I am now navigating all alone.
And the phone call that is the worst of the worst, when the only person I want to talk to and the only person who knows me the way she did, the person who could help me through my pain is the one phone call I want to make to make the most. I want to talk about how much it hurts that my sister died. And how hard it is. And how fucking hard it is to breathe sometimes because I cannot imagine this world without her. She was my person. She would know what to say. If she didn’t, she would at least talk to me and help me through it. She would be with me. And now? She is the only person who can never help me through this and it sucks. It is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with in my life.
This hurts. Oh, my sweet lord, this hurts. Unlike anything. And I know I will never be the person I was before she died. There is “before Jenn” and “after Jenn” and my job is to make sure that I find a way to make “after Jenn” have a life that means something. For her. For me. For all of us that were left behind.
But for now? I’m going to have to try to figure out what that picture looks like. I don’t know how. But I will. In time.