Friday, August 06, 2010
A long time ago my sister mailed me a card. Crafter that she is, usually she makes her own cards, but this one was store bought. The front featured a print of a painting of two woman sitting across from each other in the outdoor seating area of a European-looking coffee shop or cafe. I really liked that card, and for a long time I had it on display on my living room shelf.
I kept thinking that someday, she and I would be those two women, solving life's problems over coffee in a really cool cafe like the one pictured on the card she sent me.
We always assume people will be always available, especially sister-types, who always are. But life got the better of me, and instead of focusing on making that coffee card scenario come true, I focused on my everyday trivias and worries associated with being a single parent of a rather demanding child, who was demanding because of my spoiling.
The other day I was going through the one last remaining stack of papers that I hadn't tackled when I recently overhauled my house. I found a notebook I had been using as a diary when The Child was a toddler. I read with interest my written rant about how upset I was that my sister had moved to Boston and our phone sessions had been pretty much cut off by her new and inevitable focus on her adult daughter whose house she had just moved into. The lack of privacy meant that even if we did talk, it wasn't like it used to be.
Ever since the child entered my life, it has been at times difficult to find people to talk to. My former (and all single, like me) friends all slipped away, one by one, as they discovered that now lacked the luxury of any time to myself. I had no family within 600 miles, but at least for a while, I did have that phone contact with my sister.
In fact, she had moved to Boston because of me. Over the phone she had told me repeatedly how unhappy she was living in our hometown, and I encouraged her to just leave. I remember how shocked I was when, after she had moved, she told me that she had done it because I had encouraged her to. I do remember giving her explicit instructions on how to make it happen. My life experience, however, has been that people never listen to what I advise. I never really expected her to listen to her much younger sister!
She lived with her daughter for a while, and I had little contact with her. Then one day her daughter called me and said that it was too much for her and her husband to have my sister there, and she was trying to figure out a way to break the news to my sister. Long story short, my sister moved into her own apartment, reluctantly. It was hard for me to talk to her there, because she only had a cell phone, and our conversations were now being cut short by dropped calls.
She had enjoyed living with her daughter, and I knew she was devastated to have to leave. Perhaps she felt rejected.
Then, about a year after the move, I received the news that she had a cancerous tumor on her tongue. Surgery was planned, then canceled, then she received chemo and radiation, and was told that the cancer was gone. Phew.
A few months later she called to say that the tumor had returned. She underwent surgery for 14 hours which included tongue reconstruction and neck lymph node removal. She had to learn to talk again, and she called my on my last birthday.
It was the last time I heard her voice. The tumor grew down her throat into her vocal chords and into her trachea. Unable to breathe, she was airlifted to a surgical hospital in Boston where she received a tracheotomy. She already had a food tube, so since then, she has been unable to talk, eat, drink, swallow, or breathe except through the tracheotomy. This has been her permanent state for months, and it is understood that her condition will never improve. She continued to receive chemo to keep the tumor at bay, but during her recent CT scan it was discovered that her tumor is now growing around the tracheotomy, making breathing ever more challenging and her future precarious.
I'm flying to Boston tomorrow before dawn to see my sister. For some reason, that card with the coffee shop picture has been on my mind today. That coffee date I had imagined for so long with my sister in a little cafe like the one on her card is never going to happen. Let that be a lesson to us all.
Posted by B.S. at Friday, August 06, 2010