There are five of us.
I say there are, because everyone knows someday our status will change. And, then there’ll be four.
No one’s ever ready for that.
I carry one vivid picture in my head. It never fades away, even after all these years;
My oldest sister, Barbara, is getting married. I am what? 11? 12? and bawling my head off as she walks down the aisle with dad.
My little-sister-heart is breaking. Into a million pieces.
I remember the utter feeling of devastation. She’s a vision of beauty. In fact, I have never seen someone as beautiful as my sister.
She’s waltzing toward her future, which just happens to be the man, waiting restlessly at the alter. He can’t take his eyes off of her, either.
His name is Bruce, and he’s intent on taking her away from the nest of our home. From me.
He’s in the Air Force and that means they’ll be traveling the world on his tour of duty. That’s what Barbara tells me one night, sitting quietly on the edge of my bed.
I sob loudly and she hugs me close. ” Why can’t you stay here while he’s gone? We’ll take good care of you!”
She calmly explains that she’s going to be a wife now, and that she wants to travel by his side, she loves him.
Of course, I am a royal brat. I tell her I don’t care. I don’t want her to leave me.
She’s such a good sister, though. She smiles and wipes my tears away, rubbing my back till I stop crying. It takes awhile.
” I’m getting married, honey. I want you to be happy for me.”
Now, it’s D-Day. And I won’t be able to laugh, play or fight with her again.At least, not every time I’d like to. I won’t feel her big-sister-arms around me either, when I’m scared, or sad, or worried about something.
I cry the entire day.Every single image shows my red eyes and sullen pout. My cousins try really hard to get me to dance, but I’m not having it.
I’m not mad, I feel hopeless. I’m crushed. How on earth am I ever going to move through my every day circle of living, without her in it?
But, of course I do. I grow up and get married. I watch my other sisters get married. We all have kids, ten total. And we share the same ups and downs of motherhood, over the phone and in lengthy letters, which we post as often as possible.
I follow Barbara and Bruce all around the country. I jump in my car,and visit them in Maine, and in Mass, I lay my head down on pillows in Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Any chance I get, I visit. It’s not often, but it’ll do. It’s definitely better than nothing for me and this sister.
Of course we have tiffs, differences of opinion, arguments. Honestly? Some of them are pretty bad. But, the love is always there. Not just because we share a sister bond,but because we’re friends as well. And even in the midst of our blowouts and misunderstandings, we want the very best for each other.
My sister has been smoking for as long as I can remember. And, in her defense, there have been periods of time when she’s tried to quit, but it just never happens.
I always wish it would happen. She’s in her 60’s, which is really young. I want her to stick around for another 30 years.
And, I’ve never smoked, so it’s hard to understand the pull, the addiction these cancer sticks have on people.
I should not be surprised that it’s caught up with her. Of course it has. Last year she went on oxygen 24/7. A little, portable machine, so she can still get around. Her hours are a struggle to breath. She has to give up so much of what she loves to do.
Then…. Yesterday dawns and I get the message. She needs a lung transplant. A friggin’ transplant. I can only imagine what she’s thinking and feeling right now.
My own head is reeling. My main question Is this. ” Is she even well enough to be put on a list?”
” Will she choose to be put on a list? “
” What will happen if there’s no transplant for her in time? “
Crap, I guess I have more than one question.
Emotions? I have all of them. Anger, fright, sadness,hopelessness, everything you can imagine. All rolled into one.
None of them do me any good though. And they absolutely offer no help to my sister or her husband.
I want to call Bruce. I feel this all-consuming need to call and beg him to take my big sister away again, to a healthy place, before she picked up her first cigarette.
The adult in me knows that I can’t. He’s just a man. And, even though he has loved my sister since day one, he’s no hero when it comes to this shit-storm.
The little sister in me looks at both of them. They have weathered so much in their forty-plus years of marriage. They will do their damnest to weather this, too.
Right now, Goddamn it, there are five of us.