Today marks 6 years since my sister's death, from ovarian cancer. Falling on a holiday weekend, I have awakened each September 4 since in a camper, usually spending an hour or so feeling like I have a weight on my chest, before I can get up and join the rest.
This morning I awoke and decided instead, to focus on the laughter. The old stories that we told, time after time, and the secrets that shared together. I've summoned a few to share:
Go-go boots of Mud: Growing up in the 60s and 70s, as little girls we pined for go-go boots and short-shorts, and blue eye shadow and frosty white-pink lipstick. As we were 7- and 8-years old, our parents did not grant our requests for go-go clothes.
We improvised with every rainfall. At the base of our front yard, where the neighbors sunk their tires every time they pulled into their driveway, there was a mudpit. My sister and I would run out and sit on the curb, mix rainwater into the soil until it was just the right consistency, and then spread it on our legs, a la go-go boot style. Once we were covered toe-to-knee, we'd get up and dance.
For two little girls, I always look back and think that we fought more than two boys every would have. We slapped and pulled hair and tackled one another and rolled around on the floor like crazy cats one minute, but were best friends the very next minute. Teri was extremely protective of me outside of the house, and many was the time some neighborhood boy would taunt or torture me and end up running for his life when Teri stepped in. I can see her running, in my mind, with her arm behind her head, palm open, geared to slap the bully square in the middle of his back. She rarely missed her target.
Although we grew out of the catfights in our pre-teen years, we were occasionally still bratty to one another through our teen years. Mostly friends, but with mischievous moments.
She loved jumping out of dark doorways to scare the hell out of me. To this day I hate to be startled, and avoid "fun" places like haunted houses.
She teased me mercilessly about my clothes and makeup on high school date nights, knowing full well that while I looked just fine--if not beautiful--that I'd run screaming back into my room to change my clothes if she said "is that what you're wearing tonight?" or worse, "when are you going to start getting ready?"
I picked on her occasionally too, and a famous family story is about my picking on her in the back seat of our Suburban on the way to the racetrack. We were 18 and 17 years old at the time--old enough to knock it off--but still I purposefully bothered her. I can't remember what I was doing, even--something likie putting my finger next to her eye and claiming "I'm not touching you!" or tickling her with a piece of grass every time she closed her eyes. Something especially annoying, I know, and she warned me repeatedly to stop.
I did not stop, I just kept messing with her.
She finally, silently, reached behind the seat in the Suburban, grabbed a torque wrench out of an open toolbox, and smacked me in the elbow with it. There was a resounding crack of wrench against bone, and she calmly said "Now are you going to stop?" I writhed in pain and laughter as I screamed "Uncle." I remember the entire family howling with laughter--once we'd determined there was no broken bone. I deserved that.
In our adult years, raising kids and taking care of folks...we had different lives, different interests, but spent hours on the phone, hashing out trials, tribulations, joys, and laughter.
She phoned me one October and asked what I was doing that night, and I popped off with how busy I was, and I had this to do and that to do, and I really needed to just get off the phone. An hour or so later, I realized that it was her birthday, and she had been calling to see if Brian and I would like to join the family for dinner that night.
Instead of being hurt, Teri just sat back and smiled, knowing she had an ace-in-the-hole, and that I would figure out, eventually, what I had just done.
She knew I figured it out when I sent flowers to her office, with a card that said "I hate myself."
Until she passed away we shared a bit of wonder, glee, and downright perplexity at a distant family member [Bob] that adored her, but would not speak to me. Even if Teri and I were together, she would be addressed, and I couldn't even make eye contact with [Bob].
Reporting in about [Bob] became a great source of fun for us, Teri calling me to say "I ran into [Bob] and he gave me a big hug and talked my ear off!" and I then, later, would call her and say, "I just stood right behind [Bob] at Farm and Fleet, and he didn't even speak when I said hello."
Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed the stories as much as I have enjoyed revisiting them. Laughing over these memories today has been much more constructive for me than pouting and aching, and if she's reading my blog--she better be reading my blog!!!---I know she'd say, "well, it's about damned time."