Sometime on the night of Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning, my sister died.
Eulogies are supposed to be about the deceased, but I think they’re always about us. I’ll try to talk about my sister.
She was born December 17th, 1976. She refused to have more than a finger length’s of her hair cut off because she’d promised our paternal grandfather she wouldn’t. She showed the door to a boyfriend who demanded she have dinner on the table by the time he got home from work. She inherited (or learned) the quick, cold temper that my mother, her sister, their mother and I imagine her mother all had. She was one quarter Canadian (naturalized). Our parents called her Toad. I have no idea why.
She liked frogs, though. Her cell phone made some kind of jungle frog chirp when it rang. It made gift giving easy, frog = success. She didn’t get hangovers, but one day she called me to ask about my previously mentioning I was starting to get mild headaches after a night of drinking. Getting old sucks.
I turned her onto Bushmills Irish Whisky and she claimed she drank nothing else. Brotherly duty fulfilled.
My dad was supposed to pick her up for presents at our stepsister’s house. She (sister, not stepsister) had a seizure about four months ago and thus couldn’t drive. He called me when she didn’t answer the door to see if I had a key. I didn’t, and neither did my mother, who he’d already called. Mom called some time later to say Dad called 911 and the police were going to break in. It “didn’t look good.”
He didn’t go into her apartment. The police told him he shouldn’t, but they said she looked like she was just sleeping. People always say that and maybe sometimes it’s true. The one freshly dead body I’ve ever seen sure looked dead.
We were in a friend’s borrowed car, the GF was driving and she went all Dukes of Hazzard to get to my mom’s house. Except the jumps, we didn’t jump anything. Upon arrival I asked her to stay in the car for a few minutes while I went inside. Mom knew. Of course she knew. She, wailed is the only word for it, while I held her upright. The GF said she could hear it from the street and came in before the “few minutes” were up. She’s better at people than I am.
Mom went outside for some fresh air and I had to call her sister, my aunt. I went with Mom to tell the neighbors, who fortunately can be relied upon to keep tabs on her. Aunt arrived with some well-meaning platitudes. Our fortuitous possession of a friend’s car was taken for divine intervention. Mom’s getting fatalistic in her old age to think God sent a couple from University Park to Utah to make killing my sister more convenient for the family. Me, I think we’re a giant TV and God’s munching popcorn and laughing. I knew it wasn’t the time to mention that.
Mom didn’t want to go to my sister’s apartment (I try to stay out of Vancouver myself) and Dad left before the body was removed. It was taken to the closest funeral home the Vancouver police had on their list. When we can arrange it we’ll take her ashes to a little town in northeast Oregon called Athena. I remembered at some point she always wanted to be buried there.
Can I talk about me now? Thanks.
I’m okay. Okay doesn’t mean great. I get waves of sadness but they pass quickly. Kid Me resented her for being the favorite. I didn’t realize that at the time, I just thought my parents should have quit while they were ahead with just me. As I got older I equally subconciously realized it wasn’t her fault. I can’t say I liked my sister. Like every other person I share DNA with I probably wouldn’t have associated with her voluntarily. She was okay, though. I kinda wish I’d gotten drunk with her at least once, but that was always unlikely and the feeling will probably pass.
Will it hit me? Maybe. Maybe this is the benefit to being a realist (I won’t be offended if you spell that “pessimist”). My dad broke down a little when he told me she’d died, but I had no immediate physical reaction. Once I accepted the GF was going to speed all the way from Jantzen Beach to Lents to tell Mom my mind was in neutral. Defense mechanism? Clock cycle conservation? I don’t know. I’ve been thinking it, I’ve even said it out loud a few times.
My sister is dead.
I don’t have a sister any more.
I’m an only child now.
My sister is dead.
It hasn’t hit me yet.
Tomorrow we’ll make arrangements. Decisions about last paychecks and cremations and property and hopefully I can get into her apartment before my parents find anything embarrassing in there. Maybe I’ll go to pieces when I see the bed she died in. I doubt it, but it’s possible.
She was 37. She smoked menthols. She chewed with her mouth open. She’ll never go to Scotland, but maybe in July when Athena has its Caledonian Games the bagpipes and the yips of the sheepdog trials will carry to the old cemetary in the brown hills where our grandparents are also buried.