I started feeling weird yesterday afternoon, for no apparent reason. It seemed as though my world had changed somehow. The Child had 3 friends for an overnight, so there was plenty of chaos to distract me from this odd feeling. When I went to bed I couldn't read the way I normally do. I just sat there thinking, planning to read but never getting to it, and then finally drifting off.
I was awakened by the phone call, the one I never wanted. My sister has passed away.
It's funny how you're still expected to function. You still have to take the dog out, even though the world you're taking him out in has suddenly transformed. You still have to be the adult in charge of 4 early adolescent boys, even though you're in shock. You still have to drive to Tim Horton's for the promised donuts, even though you no longer have a sister.
A block from my house on the way to Tim Horton's, it started to hit me just how much things had changed. I remembered that one of my sister's first jobs was waitressing at Dunkin' Donuts. I sobbed, unable to see the road I was driving on, as I recalled how much she liked coffee, and how she was such a popular waitress because of her winning personality. I realized that everything I do now is going to remind me of my sister in some way. The very act of driving my car set off the memory of the bond we shared in disliking driving. (She had taken the bold step of quitting driving years ago, which is possible in a city like Boston.)
Why is it that I thought she'd live forever despite the cancer that took her over?
During the last months of her life, we had become closer than we'd ever been before. Even after she became bedridden, I wrote her emails daily which were printed out for her to read.
My last visit to Boston to see her was last month. It was a chaotic visit in which I had to do a lot of busywork like installing software on her computer and scanning old photos for her and tracking down oxicodone from Dana Farber Cancer Hospital. I didn't have any time to just sit there and talk, with her responding by writing since her voice was taken by the cancer. The night before I left, we did the unthinkable: she got herself all dolled up and I took her to a concert. (She hadn't been leaving her apartment at all.) I was scared to death that she was going to fall or faint or something traumatic. But she loved it.
When I left Boston the next morning, she came to her door and stood there, watching me leave. That bothered me a lot, because it wasn't her style, especially in her weakened state. I was afraid that she thought it was the last time she was ever going to see me.
I was told that she asked, by mouthing the words, if I was there shortly before she died. I wish I had been.