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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sisters

"Mommy, tell us about the time Judy made my breakfast," I begged.  "Please!"
It was a Saturday morning, and we were under the covers in Big Mare's bed.  I guess I was around eight or nine years old.  A prime age for breaking my mothers balls, no doubt.

"What?  There's nothing to tell.  You already know what happened," she said dryly, reaching for the cigarettes on the edge of her nightstand.  "Oh, dammit.  Do me a favor, Judeth.  Run downstairs and get me a book of matches, will you?"
"Okay," my sister said, kicking the blanket aside and crawling over the bottom of my leg.
"Ow!" I hollered, even though it didn't really hurt.  "She did that on purpose!" I grumbled and rubbed the wrong foot.
"Jesus, Mary.  Must you whine?" Big Mare pleaded.
"Promise you won't start without me," Judy said.
"C'mon, Mom.  Please tell us!  I'll be good," I pawed at her freckled arm.
"Make it snappy, then.  And bring me a clean ashtray."

"When you were a baby…" Mom began.
"Like how old?" I asked.
"Maybe ten months, I guess."
"That would make me almost two and a half," Judy added.

"I woke up one morning, and neither of you girls were in your cribs."
"Where were we?" I giggled.
"Are you gonna let me finish or what?" my mother scolded.
"Yes.  Keep going," I pressed her for more details.

"I heard a noise and called to your father - 'Gene!  Wake up.  The children are gone!'  I ran down the hallway.  'Oh God, where are my precious angels?' I started to pray out loud," Big Mare sounded dead serious.
"Then what?" I gasped.
"When I got to the kitchen, I couldn't believe what I saw.  There you were, sitting up in the high chair - smiling and gumming a Kaiser roll," my mother explained.  "Not a tooth in your mouth."
"How'd I get there?" I cried out.
"I wondered the same thing.  Judy just looked up at me and said, 'Mommy, the baby was hungry.  So I made her some breakfast.'"

God, I just love that story.

*******

I think about my sister all the time.  We haven't spoken in years, not since my mom died.  I check Judy's Facebook page every day, even though we are not friends.  I glance briefly at her photo, as if I'm checking this task off a private 'to-do' list.

I replay the things that went wrong in my head.  I scrutinize my behavior and hers, from this angle and that.  Sometimes I feel very angry.  I'm almost certain that she is still furious with me.  I do miss her and my heart breaks.  But as time goes on, it feels different.  She is becoming a shadow.  And that makes me very sad.

I imagine what Judy's life is like now.  I try to understand what she may be going through.  I re-examine my own feelings.  I consider the possibility that she and I may never see each other again.  Then, I put all these thoughts away and get on with my life.  Estrangement is a powerful ache.

There were times when I felt like we were close.  I could have sworn that we would last forever.  I find myself envying what other sisters have.  But we both want something that the other can't provide.  It would take a tremendous amount of courage and energy to change the situation that exists between us.  I don't think we're capable of that right now.  So instead, we have nothing.

I am under no impression that my writing will heal the relationship.  Writing is not magic, although it has brought some wondrous moments my way with each story that I share.  I always choose my words carefully.  I don't ever wish to make things any worse.

I realize that I am free to write about our time together.  I have many beautiful memories that I am eager to explore.  But for some siblings, there is no future. Only these emotional souvenirs from the past.

Judy and I will always be sisters.  It just doesn't mean what I want it to.

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