It goes without saying that I am still sorting through my mind after the death of my grandmother two weeks ago.
My utter fear in going back to the place of my birth was all consuming. I stopped sleeping from the moment I knew I was going to have to go back. Of course, I could have chosen to not go, and I would be lying if I said that I did not seriously consider fleeing into those options. In the best scenerio, I would face this with my brother at my side. He and I could walk through that gauntlet again - not unlike the same way we had done as children. Dawn and Donnie. I did not want my husband. And I did not want my daughter anywhere near the Ohio valley. I wanted my brother.
Life, however, does not exist to conform to my mental scenarios. My brother is a brand new father of a baby boy who looks shockingly like him. He is learning about the making of a family with his wife - and that this making of a family involves hard, exhausting work FAR past the labor and delivery episode. In fact, I told Donnie that I might kill him if he left his breastfeeding wife for five days.
My next choice was my sister. My sister - Jessie. Nearly 14 years younger than me, it has only been in the last year that I have considered her. That sounds as awful, I think, as it should. At first I blamed the age gap. I went to college when she went to kindergarten. Later, I fell victim to my mothers ability to infuriate me with my sisters status as the only child left at home. I would get incredibly angry at what I inferred was special and different treatment of my sister. Trips to Europe? Ski Lessons? What the fuck?
My Achilles heel was my idea that I should be the most special, most beloved, most cherished. Me. If I didn't get it - whatever I perceived to be favoritism or special treatment, than I was going to be dammed if she was going to get it. I am not proud of this character trait of mine, and am still unraveling the tendrils of this poisonous vine. What I allowed this to do was to completely separate me from my sister. My assistant in this was my mother, who would fan the flames by telling me things that she knew would anger me - pushing me further back into my corner. I would never hear anything directly from my sister...but from my mother, interpreting Jessie's actions and experiences through her filter to me. When Jessie turned down a full scholarship to Bard nine years ago to live at home and attend the local state college, I was livid. Livid from afar. "Push her out!" I practically screamed from New Hampshire. "Why are you allowing this? Why do you baby her?"
What I didn't know was the price my sister would pay for staying. The price she HAD been paying for being the only female rival in the house.
It was this only past August that I finally got a clue as to that price. My sisters breakdown was fairly complete with the requisite accidental on purpose suicide attempt. Which my mother attempted to keep from me - by not calling to tell me it had happened. Although I was only 5 hours away from her...and My mother was 11 hours away. And when I did track my mother down...she tried to pretend it hadn't happened. Then she blamed my aunt for calling me. When I asked what the plan was going to be for Jessie's aftercare, she was vague. "You girls - you're both so willful. I think Jessie is going to go back to work today...She is upstairs sleeping right now...."
I decided to drive down. I wanted to try to convince my sister to come back to Montreal with me. To heal. To be quiet. To be away from everything. I did not trust my mother to be a parent to my sister. I told my mother that Jessie was NOT going to go into work that day - that I was coming to her house. That I was on my way.
I think we all know that this trip went down in flames, as it was clearly destined to from the beginning.
Driving back from that shit storm, I weighed everything I knew about my mother. Everything I knew about my sister. My final words had been with my sister at the front door.
"Please", I pleaded..."Come with me. It isn't good for you here. Come stay with me..."
But she wouldn't. Mom would be infuriated if she went with me, and she couldn't take the punishment that would be meted out after the fact. I knew the punishment, and while 38 year old Me could say that Mom really couldn't do anything....to my 25 year old sister, it felt very different.
I've tried to stay connected with Jessie. I call and leave messages on her phone. She never returns my calls. I tell her on the voice messages that I love her. That I blame myself for not being more involved. For allowing myself to be manipulated by my mother. For leaving her defenseless for the past 20 years.
I finally heard from her the day my grandmother died. We made tentative plans to travel to the funeral together. I offerred to arrange the car - or flight - or however we got there. She said she would call me after she got out of class to finalize plans. Then she didn't call back. Ever.
Was I angry? No, not really. Profoundly frightened at having to face all this alone, but not angry. Disappointed that my awkward and inept attempts to build a rickety bridge over 20 years of quicksand that is my relationship with my sister were going nowhere, Yes. But not angry.
I booked the tickets that night. I was going alone.