Thursday, August 20, 2009

She would be 38

Today is my sister's birthday. Some years, this day goes by like any other, coming as it does so close to the hustle and bustle of the beginning of the school year. Many years ago, I wrote about my sister in a post that captures most of what I remember about her. I'm so glad I wrote that stuff down. Those memories seem to fade with every passing year.

One thing I didn't write about is how much her death changed who I am, in some good ways and in some bad ways. Right after she died, I keenly felt how short life really was and how important people were in that life. I cherished my friendships more, then, and made more time for them. In part, I'm sure, I needed to not feel alone. In part, I saw that each person in my life was there for a fleeting moment. I also threw myself into my work, finding a source of creativity and for good or for ill, a rich topic for my poetry. I felt confident in my work, took charge of my future, and felt ready to face the world after college.

But once I got past college, some of that confidence and those humanitarian feelings began to fade. People, it turns out, are not always magnanimous spirits and can be hurtful and rude. I had difficulty explaining why I didn't have any siblings. So, I started saying I didn't. Which felt very wrong. One thing about siblings is they often tell it like it is, but they also just listen--at least my sister did--and so you knew you always had someone to turn to and complain about life to. I no longer had that. And, to this day, I haven't quite found someone who could replace that. Sometimes you need someone to talk to about your parents, your husband, your job. And though I have some people I can talk to about these things, it's never felt complete.

I miss her at the oddest times. Holidays, to be sure, but also the kids' birthdays and on visits to my parents. I'm about to go on vacation to the beach we went to as kids, where it was always just the two of us, having adventures, entertaining each other. I always think of her then.

It seems odd to think she'd be middle-aged by now. Would she be married, have kids? Would we live close together, far apart? Would we spend holidays at each other's houses? I will never know, and it's often that thought that makes me most sad, that I lost someone, sure, but that she lost a whole potentially happy life.