I ran through the woods with my sister chasing me. I was six years old, she was seventeen. I laughed and charged wildly along the trails, dodging branches and rocks, loving the game until I was too tired to go on. Now she’s gone. My sister died three weeks ago and my heart has a huge hole in it. This is the same sister who tried to talk me into crossing a railroad bridge over the river in our hometown. Her friends were going and she was stuck babysitting for me. She called me a baby when I wouldn’t go but I got even. I got her in trouble by telling my mother on her. I conveniently didn’t bother to tell our mother about the times my sister let me go with her to the beer bars which, for her at eighteen, were legal in Wisconsin. I loved being with her and her friends. She bought me an endless supply of orange pop and potato chips and gave me dimes for the stand-up shuffleboard game, while she played the jukebox and flirted with the boys who were there on vacation from the big cities. She literally wore out “Rock Around the Clock” on the record player in her bedroom at the top of the stairs at home. It got so thin it actually broke. She took me downtown for hot fudge sundaes and made me laugh uncontrollably by putting little freckles of chocolate syrup on her face while the humorless woman who owned the ice cream parlor looked askance at us. We had wonderful snapping rubber band wars when she was forced to sit in the backseat of the car with me. She once dressed up like Billie the Brownie, a promotional elf from the Gimbels/Schuster department store in Milwaukee. I had a huge crush on him as a little kid, and she wanted me to think he was paying me a holiday visit. She knew I loved animals and once brought me a kitten she picked up on her way home from nursing school. She was terrified of birds and anything else that flew. She brought home several boyfriends, most of whom were extraordinarily tall, one of whom drove a small foreign car. Another one played croquet with me in our backyard. When our mother got cancer thirty years ago, I lived in Atlanta but went “home” often to visit. I stayed with my sister all those times and we became very close. For the past few years we weren’t able to see one another because of Covid, but we talked on the phone a lot. We laughed about silly things from the past and about family dynamics. Sometimes we talked about death. We pondered spiritual issues like reincarnation and the availability of grace. She’d had health challenges for several years and was prepared to die. I wasn’t prepared to lose her.
My deepest sympathy on the death of your sister. Reading your post brings my favorite sister to mind. She was also older than me and stuck looking after me. She drove us in her car to the local hot spot The Bun drive in and bought me a burger and a milkshake while she went up on the roof to dance to the rock and roll broadcadt live, and out driving the downtown strip or to the beach to swim. We also grew closer, especially in 2019 which turned out to be the last year of her life. I still miss her deeply.
May your sister’s spirit rise in joy and rest in peace. Sending you huge hugs,