I’m finally on (somewhat) solid footing again after my sister’s visit here to Boise. She sent a box of bagels and whitefish salad and cream cheeses and smoked salmon from Zabar’s, so I’ve been CARB-O-LOADING every day for breakfast for a week. I haven’t worked out all week either or written or played music. As often happens when I’ve got a vacation or a visit, a lot of the regular stuff went out the window (and a lot of carbs came in). No meditation, too much wine, but all the I-squish-you-against-me-until-one-of-us-coughs love.
My sister is a magical being who is an absolute joy to be around. We sang harmonies together like we've done since I was a child and it filled a place in my heart I didn't know needed filling. Having someone near who has loved and known you since you were born can bring into higher relief the contrast of not having a lot of that energetic “I see you” physically near you day-to-day. And so I thirstily soaked it up (and the bagels) like the sand absorbs the sea.
My sister was visiting during her wedding anniversary. My brother-in-law passed away in September, so I was touched she would visit me across the country during this time. And that even during grief being around her felt like true home. The day of their anniversary I took her to lunch and shopping, and while at Ruby Lou’s boutique James Taylor’s “Gone to Carolina” came on. My sister was outside on the phone. My sister and brother-in-law had bought a house in South Carolina that they loved so much and my brother-in-law worked with James. So the second I heard the song I burst into tears. My sister gasped when I told her it had played.
That night we had a wine tasting and paella dinner at The Basque Market. The gentleman working — as bubbly as the txakoli itself — lovingly explained as he poured the wine how the whoosh of bubbles when you first decant this effervescent white represents the fog on the water in Basque Country, and when the bubbles settle it represents the fog clearing.
“So, you could have just ordered a glass of wine,” he said, “but isn’t this better?”
“Yes!” I exclaimed. “If I had just chosen off the menu I wouldn’t have shed a tear! Thank you.” And we all smiled, misty as the Basque shoreline.
And then the next afternoon she left.
“The house is so quiet,” my husband said.
We moved to Boise almost three years ago, but haven’t made many friends. And as a childless couple, our closest people here are super busy with their children, so it’s been an adjustment. At times a lonely one. So, the second my sister left, my husband and I kind of broke down like a jalopy in the desert dunes for a couple days.
After gnashing around and crying (and vowing to eat a vegetable at some point) we both found ourselves in bed, sad, really early.
“I miss him too,” I wept. “I wanted to make sure she was OK and had everything she needed and that I was there for her and so I followed her lead. I didn’t really give myself the space for that dislodged pocket of grief until now. I knew him my whole life — they got married when I was five — so I miss him, too.”
And now I’ve got to resource the shit out of myself by writing about it, moving my body (I’ll get there), eating something other than bagels (I finished the last of the whitefish salad, scallion cream cheese and smoked salmon yesterday morning), getting really good rest, taking it easy on the wine (but that txakoli!) until the fog clears. We enjoy each other as much as we can and then we miss the shit out of each other. This being human / human being business — it can take a lot out of you. Where we connect is stronger, I need to believe, I do believe, than the despair of disconnection and the heft of grief. The fog rolls in, the fog rolls out.
My sister playing one of the wonderful singing bowls we got at Eyes of the World. I have been playing the ones I purchased every morning since she left. If you have additional ideas on how to resource oneself, let me know in the comments! Do you know anyone who, even in grief, can turn the world on with her smile (besides Mary Tyler Moore and my sister Mary Beth)?
9/24/2019 09:51:25 pm
It seems like you guys had a great time at the Basque market! Well, you deserve to be happy and have that fantastic dinner all together because you planned for it and you deserve it. I am glad that you chose to make your sister be happy on that day. It was so special for her, and it was so sweet of you to do such gesture. You are so thoughtful and everyone would dream to have you as their sister. I am lucky enough to have a sister who's equally acting as well.
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It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
• More details about my writing here.