She married him when I was only 9 years old. I was not happy, my sister who had bought me everything I wanted and taken me everywhere with her was suddenly going off to live with this perfect stranger (they eloped after a very whirlwind romance) and what about me? NOT FAIR!
A few years passed and she had kids and I kinda decided he wasn’t so terrible and then a few more years and he was actually kind of funny, a few more and yeah, I kinda like the guy.
Many years later, he had become a man who had done his best to take care of my sister, given her 6 kids, and a fairly decent life. He also could manage to make me laugh pretty much every time I saw him.
18 months ago, she told me he had lung cancer. He would not quit smoking, no matter how many times he ended up in the hospital, or how many treatments he endured. All the oxygen tanks in the world, and the tube sneaking from the bedroom into his nose didn’t stop him from lighting yet another – although he did have sense enough to remove the canule from his nose before lighting up.
And still he smiled when ever I saw him – which wasn’t often, living 350 miles away makes daily visits difficult. Phone calls suffice – a weekly routine for the past few years. Often the calls are a few minutes – “what’s new?” “nothing much.” “Okay, love you.” “love you too.” to the sister who’s always been the one I could count on since the first breath I took.
So when she called me on Tuesday, when our regular day is Thursday – and we don’t mess with routine, by the way – I knew something was wrong.
“He’s gone,” she said.
I spent the week in a haze of emotions, memories and tears, laundry – throwing clothes from the dryer directly into a suitcase – trying to find a place to stay, canceling classes, Bear getting off work to take care of Maverick.
I drove to NY in horrible weather, the sky was crying harder than I was. My family has been described as tempermental – 90% temper and 10% mental (sorry, Kristi). This is a very apt description. We can hold a grudge til it begs for mercy, and we never forget a slight, no matter how long ago it happened. Several family members would be at the funeral who at best don’t like me, and at worst, actively hate me. So I was walking into the lion’s den, fully prepared for the flaming swords to be aimed in my direction, for my sister. It would have taken several natural disaters to keep me away.
To my surprise, no one tried to stab me. The one I thought surely would came to me with open arms and sobbed while I held her close. (Her daughter looked on in astonishment. We told her that while there are times when we don’t like each other, family is family and when it counts, we’re there for each other.)
And then I had dinner with a dear friend, who made me feel better about many things, and drove home on Saturday, to a Maverick who almost turned himself inside out in excitement, and a big pot of chicken corn soup cooked by the Bear for my dinner.
Sadness and tears, laughter and smiles. A life remembered. A man who will be missed.