Some people talk behind other people’s backs. I merely write behind their backs… I would prefer to write only about me, but my life is inextricably linked to other people who simply must protrude in my writings. If I could write anonymously, I would. I would even change the names of those involved to protect the innocent — or the preferably private.
Such as my sister.
Lest any of you reading this who know me think my title is suicidal, it isn’t. Yes, my oldest sister is dead. She is, I believe, in my future home, heaven. But I have no immediate plans to join her. The sister to whom I alluded in the title is not Cyndi. It is Trish, who is very much alive: living, moving and breathing.
It’s the moving part that is causing me loss.
On a Monday night just a few weeks ago, Trish called to tell me she was moving to Massachusetts. From Florida.
“You realize people move from Massachusetts to move to Florida at this time of their lives,” I told her.
“I’ve always enjoyed the cold,” she said, “not that I’ve ever lived in it before, just vacationed.”
I liked visiting Dallas one July when the dry heat outside seemed a welcome reprieve from the icy conference rooms I inhabited for too many hours in a row. I didn’t choose to move there. I liked swimming in the predawn in an inside/outside pool in Colorado on cold October days because it was on the roof of a tall building in downtown Denver and so, so absolutely amazing. I didn’t choose to move there either.
But I can’t fault my sister for doing what is right. Her dear husband, who is closer than a brother to me, has spent his entire adult life with Trish’s side of the family, which includes some colorful people, high humidity, and a lawn business that could drive a man to his grave.
This move meant Jeff could live close to his family, which also includes some colorful people, but cold and cool temperatures rather than Florida’s humid heat, plus a job that would allow him to release the lawn business before it drove him to his grave.
A logical response
So I listened to her phone conversation, employing the same logic in hearing as she did in telling me her news. I sniffled a time or two, worried about our annual sisters weekend attending a football game and shopping, and lamented the too few times I took advantage of her presence a mere three hours or less from my house.
(I hate driving. I hate traveling. I love my sister, and I’m certain gas expenditures would not be an accurate measure of the love I have for her.)
“Huh,” Trish said. “I’m sitting here with a box of tissues and a glass of wine. I thought this would go differently.”
I guess the logic side of my brain doesn’t prevail often.
“Well, I hate that you’re moving,” I said, still composed, “but you’re doing the right thing. I’m proud of you.”
We hung up and then I burst into tears, surprising my husband who had been annoyed that I’d been talking on the telephone instead of cuddling with him in front of the TV.
“I thought that was just a social call,” he said.
“Trish is moving to Massachusetts,” I wailed, then whined my way through the details.
“Massachusetts is expensive,” he said. He isn’t all logic all the time, but he is when it matters.
I went down to the kitchen to send my sister a text:
“Hi. Just boohooed with Steve. Sigh. I am happy for you but feel I am losing ‘home.’ It’s hard to put in words, but I think you are my roots, my home of my childhood. More than a place, home is a person. You. So I guess you’ll just be in a different location, but it feels like a much greater loss than that. I love you dearly and will miss the thought of you just 3 hours away, even though I didn’t take advantage of that often enough.”
“That’s more what I expected! And knew it was coming. I was so nervous to tell you.”
A flurry of texts followed in which we declared our mutual love and determination to strengthen the sister bond despite the miles.
A selfish response
A couple of days later, I met my youngest son during my lunch hour and told him the bad news. He’d been my sidekick for many of the trips I did make to see my family, and I knew this news would hit him like it hit me.
“Wow,” he said. “It’s like they’re tearing out the root of the family.”
“Exactly!” I said.
“I mean, what will their kids do without them?”
“Kids? They’re all adults,” I was incredulous that he had missed the point. “I was talking about me. Mememememe. I’m losing my sister!”
Then we lamented together. We were all losing.
This past weekend, my sister, her husband and her two sons, along to help drive and do the heavy lifting, shared our home and a couple of meals on their caravan to Massachusetts that lasted nearly twice as long as anticipated (and included a police escort at one point). (I’m pretty sure Trish should be writing a blog, don’t you think?)
A guilty response
After they left, my oldest son, who had been stuck in his own northern hell (my interpretation of any place not within an hour’s drive), sent me a text to see how I was handling the loss.
In my response to him, I tried to put my thoughts of losing “home” into words — but felt a trifle guilty that I, his mother, apparently felt more for my childhood home than his childhood home.
Because that’s not how I feel. I didn’t really have a place I’d call my childhood home.
Growing up, I lived the longest stretch of my life in the home where I was born. Six years. When we moved to Florida, we lived in a motel for a month, then an apartment for a year, and then house after house after house.
We moved so often that I attended five different elementary schools. Though I attended one junior high school and one high school, it was only because the school district was large enough to include all the locations in which my family lived for short periods of time.
The summer before I left for college, we lived in a pop-up trailer while my parents built a house. Clearly, “home” never meant a place. (My parents finally settled in one place after all the kids emptied their nest.)
Contrast my childhood “home” with my current home, where I have lived for more than 23 years while raising children and loving my husband. When I travel, I look forward to returning there — because, as Dorothy so aptly said, “There’s no place like home.”
A reasonable response
So losing “home” because my sister is moving is, well, weird. I think I’m losing my reason. (No, not my reasoning skills, thank you very much.) Shortly after I married and became a mother of multiple children, I stopped taking my troops to my parents’ house and, instead, stayed with my sister and her family.
Built-in toys, in-ground swimming pool, children of similar ages, snacks that appealed to children of these similar ages… it was the logical choice. (Plus Trish’s husband is an amazing cook.) Oh, and my sister was there.
When the kids grew up and away, I still stayed with my sister and her husband. Often I went for some purpose — a family get together, a funeral, a visit to see or to help my mother. But we always snuck in some sister time — a meal, a glass (or two) of wine, a pedicure or some shopping, and always loads and loads of talking.
“You and I have always been the little girls, sisters, looking out for each other,” Trish told me. “…we get each other, can be real with each other. No judging!”
I love spending time with my sister. She makes even the difficult fun. The day I drove down to see my oldest sister as she lay dying, Trish invited me and my sidekick youngest son to her house for lunch. Her husband, daughter and grandson were there — and we basked in love and laughter instead of the tragedy that was capturing our older sister.
When Trish and I went through my mother’s entire house — deciding what to save, give and toss — we cherished what we learned about our parents, treasured shared memories while making more together.
When we got the emergency call that my grandmother had fallen and been taken to the emergency room, we raced there together.
As our kids grew up and it as just me visiting, we always reserved sister time no matter the “reason” for the visit — such as moving my mother to a memory care facility or attending a funeral.
Trish was the reason I returned. I have my mother and brothers, I have friends, I have memories and reunions and, likely, difficult events to make me return. I even happen to like what I consider my “home” town. But my sister, my “home,” is no longer there.
“Change is always tough,” my oldest son advised me last weekend via text, “but now you have a new place to visit and explore together.”
And, he added, “you can find very inexpensive flights up there to see her.”
I, the leery and reluctant traveler, will do just that. Soon, actually.
Because now vacation is where my sister is. So. There’s that.