Do I have to?

Almost a year and a half ago I lost my oldest sister.  I miss her dearly and reach for the phone constantly.  I miss our chats, and our fights, and our giggles. Tomorrow I am going to attempt to do a task I have been putting off for this past 18 months.

Nobody should have to go through their sister’s things and decide what to do with them. She lovingly acquired it all.  Does it get sent to Goodwill? A women’s shelter? Can I bear to let it go?  Thankfully, I will not be alone.  My wonderful middle sis will be with me.  She is coming up from states away to help me do this.  I only hope we can get through the day without to many tears.  Hopefully, we will only remember the funny stories of our youth, when the big sister orchestrated all of our fun; and told us what to do and how to do it.

She isn’t here to tell us what to do anymore.  It is upon us to make those choices and those decisions.  I hope we are moving on the way she would like us to.

I sure miss her.

One of the Guys!

Being the youngest of the family had its challenges as well as advantages.  I really do think that the birth order determines personality traits to some extent.  Having two older sisters to plow a path through our family was a definite advantage.  Mom got all her ya yas out on my older sisters.

Big sis was the guinea pig.  She truly bore the brunt of my Mom’s attempt at orchestrating our lives.  Boy were there fireworks!  Mom was a product of her generation.  She married young; right after my Dad came back from WWII, and lived in my Grandparents home until after my big sis was born.  Mom had very definite ideas about who we should be and how we should present ourselves to the outside world.  Mid sis was the pleaser.  She did all she could to make my parents happy and proud.  And she did it with style and confidence.  If truth be told, she is my Superhero, I really admire what she has done in her life.superwoman

Following my high achieving mid sis was a challenge.  I decided early that I was not going to play because I couldn’t live up to the parental expectations.  Notice I did not say overachieving.  This is because my wonderful mid sis just lived up to her potential.  How many of us actually do that?  Not me.  While I was busy being social and playing with horses and more importantly boys, she was busy building a foundation for a life time of successes.  At 4 years older than me, I started high school as she finished…Salutatorian I might add.  Don’t get me wrong, I was not a bad student, but I had better things to do than study.  I remember my English teacher, who called me by an unattractive ethnic name, asked me why I wasn’t more like my sister.  What an ass.  But I have gotten off track.

I will never forget the day she took me to walk the school.  I missed orientation because the family went to the beach for vacation.  Boy was I scared, but she made the time to introduce me to my teachers, make sure I knew where my locker was, how to get lunch; all the important things.  I felt really important walking around with her.  This wasn’t the first time she made me feel really special.

My parents went out of town one weekend.  Mid sis was a senior, or recently graduated, high school and I was the pain in the neck little sister.  Except that weekend she didn’t treat me like one.  Late Saturday evening her boyfriend wanted to go out. So I got to go with them.  I don’t remember all the detail but I do remember driving around our little town in the back of his MG as we stopped to pick up other classmates of theirs.  THEN the group, me included, went back to boyfriend’s house and made pancakes.  We didn’t get home until after one in the morning.  It is an evening I will never forget.  Instead of making me feel like an unwanted wart, she made me part of the group.  And you know, to this day, more than 40 years later, she still does that.  She is without a doubt, the nicest person in our family.

Mid sis has always been the one I turned to for really gut wrenching advice.  She can be objective and I know she is only thinking of what will be best for me or my family.  I wonder how things would have gone differently if she had stayed physically closer.  She moved away from home early in her marriage.  First to the West Coast and then down to South Florida.  It is just the two of us now.  We aren’t the same, but we will cling to each other with the fierceness of two women that have a relationship grounded in love and admiration.

mvb

Purple Cow

I had a great childhood.  I blissfully played through life for the first 10 years.  I was born in Philadelphia, Pa.  I think my entire clan got off the boat at Ellis Island and said “We gotta go to Philly!”.   My Dad got a job in Florida working in the Space Industry, so to pre-Disney Winter Park we went.  My Uncle and his family were already there.  I don’t remember much of that move, I was not yet 3, but my Mom said I wanted to go on a Pirate Ship, not a plane.  Knowing how poorly I travel, I probably threw up the entire trip.pirate ship

I thought my oldest sister was the bomb!  At eight years older than me, surely she knew all and any attention I got from her was cherished. She was the director of our fun.  With an extremely creative streak, we did all kinds of fun things.

One night, when my parents went out, older sis created a game called “Purple Cow”.  It was great fun.  What she did was blind fold mid sis and I one at a time, put our hands into some household item she found in the kitchen and described a body part of a cow.  For example, I had to put my hand into something that she told me were eyeballs.  Turns out they were olives, but they felt like eyeballs to a 4 year old!  When it came time to do mid sis, she got really creative and put her hand into a bowl of something she told her was cow poop.  Well my mid sis screamed and flung peanut butter all over the kitchen!  We spent the rest of the night trying to clean up before mom and dad came home.

You never knew what would come out of her mouth.  She is the reason I took a maxi pad to Show and Tell in the first grade.  I found a box of them in her closet.  Not knowing what they were, I asked her about them and she told me they were blankets for Barbie Dolls.  Seemed reasonable to me, and absolutely something I had to share with my friends, so to school it went.  I don’t really remember getting punished, but I’m sure there were consequences.

Older sis taught me all the important things.  When I got older, and we moved to Virginia, she was in college.  She would come home every now and then and we would go out riding around the town.  That was when she taught me to smoke cigarettes, what sex was all about, and what music I should listen to.  She was very opinionated, and if you didn’t agree, she would make this face, turn up her nose, and make a sound that came from her throat.

The night before she died, in her drug induced state she said she wanted to get off the bus.  She was taking a trip without me, having a new adventure.  And in the morning left me behind.  I don’t like being left behind.

Love Child 🎼🎤

Like I have said, I have (had) two sisters.  I am the youngest.  The child mom was not supposed to have.  On a regular basis she reminded me that she almost died giving birth to me.   Talk about Jewish guilt (yep I am one of the tribe).   My sisters resemble each other and they resemble my mom.  Me not so much.  They are/were fair skinned, with blondish hair and very blue eyes.  Physically their facial features are the same…same nose, shape of the face etc.  again, me not so much.  I look like my dad.  I have his facial features; his straight nose, clef in my chin and my favorite feature the uni-brow.  In addition, I have dark brown hair, hazel to grey eyes and very dark skin.  I tan something fierce!

From a very young age, I was told that I was adopted.   Born in Philadelphia, we moved to Florida when I was 3, so the teasing was that I was a Seminole Indian child.   But even more disturbing is the story that I was left, in my stroller, in front of the monkey cage at the Philadelphia Zoo.   Evidently mom and the entire family forgot I was with them!   Again, another reason for my trust issues….🐒.  As a teen, my oldest sister told me I was Dad’s love child.  The Diana Ross song was popular in our house for a while.

Physical feature aside, I am just different from my siblings.  Maybe it is because I am the youngest, I don’t know.  I have different interests.  For one thing I was the athlete (what a hoot!) in the family.  I rode a bike at the age of four, ran around with the boys in my neighborhood and was constantly dirty.  I showed up so dirty one evening that my mom turned the hose on me before letting me in the house.  I was on a swim team, learned to snow ski first and aspired to be part of the “in crowd” at school.  But the biggest difference was my attraction to horses.  Where does something like that come from?   Nobody in my very clean family ever exposed me to them, took me to see them or wanted anything to do with them.  But I came out into the world craving that horsey smell…you know the sweet smell of their breath.
This is Cisco and Gina.  My resident equines.  I took me a long time to become a horse owner.  When I was in first grade my mom and grandmom picked me up from school on my birthday and said we were going to a farm.  Surely I was getting a horse!  We drove and drove and I got so excited I may have wet my pants.  When we got there, it turned out to be a dog breeder.  I got a beagle that year.  Loved her to death, but she was NOT a horse.

I did the lesson route starting at age 10.  By then we lived in Virginia where everyone rode English.  So English it was.  I took lessons off and on until high school where I discovered that I really like boys too.  I put my riding on hold, but still craved their touch and smell.  It wasn’t until after I was divorced that I went back to riding.  When I met my husband, he encouraged me to own my first.  Now he has built me a lovely paddock and barn and I have these two beauties.  My barn is my happy place, my solace.  I have spent hours in there since my sister died.  Trying to understand how life happens.  All I know is that for me, life is better with these magnificent animals in it.  I don’t think I will ever be without them again.

My family never did understand me.  My middle sis, the only remaining member of my immediate family is trying hard.  I love her dearly for trying.  In my last conversation with my mother, she asked if I had gotten tired of my horses yet, and when was I going to sell my farm; move back to the city.  She never did get it, or me for that matter.  I spent my life trying to be what she wanted, but now I just want to be me.  Dirty, with hay in my hair and horsey drool on my shoulder!

mvb

Knitting a Metaphor for Life?

Yesterday I completed the body of my first sock and started working on the heel flap!  Progress is being made.  They say (whoever they are) that knitting is very calming and therapeutic.  I have to say that I do agree.  As I was knitting and watching the first season of Madam Secretary I was focused completely on my work as the TV played on in the background.  I felt my spirits lift.

Why would my spirits need lifting you may ask.  Well like I said earlier, my sister, my oldest sister passed away.  It happened quite suddenly although had I been paying attention I probably would not have been so surprised to watch her die in a weeks time.  You see she had been battling breast cancer for over seven years.  They found cancer in one breast at first.  She had the breast removed, went through chemo  and after so many years was pronounced “CANCER FREE” Yea!  We all rejoiced, but she remained reserved.  Not long after that proclamation, they found a different cancer in the other breast.  Again, she had the breast removed, went through chemo, and again after so many years was declared “CANCER FREE”.  Again we were thrilled and hopeful.   Then they found a spot under her arm.  It was biopsied, removed, chemo, radiation etc.  Again the proclamation was “CANCER FREE”.  That was in July (2015).  Then if she was so friggin cancer free, why in the world did she die of cancer on September 4th of 2015.  It seems the cancer went to her liver and her bones.  By the time she felt bad she only had a week left to live.

It has occurred to me that knitting is much like life.  Each stitch you knit, each purl you do, each twist of the thread changes the outcome and look of what you are working on.  Sometimes good and sometimes bad, but regardless each addition has an impact on the piece.  Where knitting does not imitate life is that you do not get to undo what you have done without some lasting impact.  If you make a mistake in your sock, you can rip out the last few stitches and start over.  In life, you can start over but you are forever changed by the last few events.  

Boy would I like a do over of the past six months.  In retrospect I would make some very different choices.  I sure would have gone on that beach vacation with my sister.  But I didn’t know it would be her last.  I would have been more understanding or forgiving when she got snappy and snarky that Sister’s Weekend in the Keys in May.  I would have called more often when I didn’t hear from her instead of getting annoyed that I always had to do the calling.  In the end what difference did it matter.  She is gone and now I can’t rip the stitch out and change the outcome.  

My sister, My Oldest Sister is gone.  She is gone forever, and I am not sure that I will ever be the same.  I miss her everyday.  I reach for the phone, but she isn’t there to call.  I see her husband on a regular basis, but that to is so very painful.  When you think of death and dying, you think of older people.  Not your 65 year old sister.  So the hole in my heart where she used to be is like a dropped stitch in an otherwise finely knitted garment.  There is something missing in my life that will never be replaced.  I am no longer have two older sisters.  I have one.  One who I will cherish and hold on to with all my might.  She is the only person left on this earth that I share a common memory with.

“Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down
I don’t remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must have thought you’d always be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you’re nowhere to be found”

For a Dancer by Jackson Browne

 

Coping With Life and Death

Last week I attended a class to learn how to knit socks.  I arrived early, picked my seat and waited for the class to begin.  Five women walked into the room and sat down. Since we didn’t know each other, the instructor asked us to give our name and tell why we were there.  Obviously we were all there to learn to knit socks, right? Then why, when it came to my turn did I state my name and say “I’m learning to knit socks because my sister died”.  Well you could have heard a pin drop.  Who says such a thing when they meet a group of strangers?  Evidently I do!

And let me tell you, I am not knitting any old pair of socks, I am knitting a $100 pair of socks.  When I added up what it cost I was astounded at what I spent to avoid dealing with my sister’s death.  $40 for the class, $19 for the book, $9 for the needles, and $30 for the wool!  I am going to have the most expensive socks on the block.  They will need to by dry cleaned they are so valuable.  They better come out well.

Did you know that knitting socks require the manipulation of five needles at a time.  I am talking little, double pointed needles.  Now I am not that coordinated, but I seem to be doing ok.  After two weeks of knitting this is what I have….I like pink…not bad for a newbie.IMG_0940