I’ve been thinking about my big sister a lot lately. About her waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. About how she couldn’t find her way back to her bed because there was a tumor compromising her brain. About how that fucking tumor would take her away from us all in four short months. About how she smiled and laughed all the way to the end, her dimples shining like they had from the moment she entered this world. About how we’d lost our mom the year before.
About how Carrie and I used to perform Paul Simon’s “Loves Me Like a Rock”—complete with choreographed dance moves—for Mom’s entertainment when we were young. About how Carrie always got to wear Mom’s wedding dress when we played “wedding.” About how all the pictures of us showed me red-faced and crying… always the bridesmaid, never the bride. “I’m the oldest, Trina,” Carrie would say. “It makes sense for me to be the bride.” It didn’t make sense to me then. Her death at 58 doesn’t make sense to me now.
We weren’t close by any means. In fact, we were about as distant as two sisters could be. We had different thought patterns, different goals in life, different belief systems, different outlooks. But we had a shared history, stitched together with love and memories and our adoring, gorgeous Mom. Now that they’re both gone, I’m left to sift through those memories; to try to and patch together our past; to try and reconcile a future without them.
Shortly after my sister died of glioblastoma, I was fired from my job. It was unexpected and brutal and in my eyes, incredibly unfair. I can’t say much about it because I signed things that said I wouldn’t, but it still haunts me. The inhumanity of it. The shock. What happened behind my back. “Everyone loves working with you,” I was told. But there I was, grieving, unemployed, without an income, without insurance, without my family of origin. I could barely navigate a steady life, let alone one in which I felt I’d just been shoved off a very high cliff. But that’s Corporate America, isn’t it? Employment “at will.”
I have dreams about Carrie. I have dreams about my mom. I have dreams about the job I lost. None of it makes sense, and I think my subconscious is trying to find some rhyme and reason where there is none. I feel like I have to retrain my brain, to force my synapses to fire in different directions so I can pull myself out of the ongoing, unrelenting grief.
Today, I begin with gratitude.
For wiggly dog butts every time I come home.
For lots of fresh guacamole.
For unconditional love.
For being held, comforted, and carried by a human I don’t deserve.
For a beautiful tiny home that keeps me warm and safe and ready for adventure.
For a shot in my spine yesterday that may actually be making a difference.
For a standing Saturday date with mimosas and Carmen’s beautiful singing voice.
For new friends in an unexpected place.
For fresh blackberries, waiting to be picked.
For my beautiful extended family.
For strong, fiery humans who stand up to oppression, homophobia, misogyny, and hate.
For coffee in the morning.
For wine in the evening.
For the ability and the desire to write.
For amazing, grown kids who call to update me on their lives.
For the beautiful memories of my mom and sister.
For ice water on brutally hot Florida days.
For a special relationship with my sister’s best friend, a light in our shared darkness.
For time with my kind and gentle stepdad, even though his memories are fading.
For a best friend who has stood beside me since our Laura Ashley days.
For ridiculously bad reality TV.
For this beautiful, painful, brutal, magical, unexpected, undeserved life.
I am grateful.
That’s a good place to start.