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A tale of two sisters

A tale of two sisters

I haven’t written about my sister since she died. (I cannot even express how hard that sentence was to write. I had to stop writing because I couldn’t catch my breath.) I don’t know why I haven’t talked about her. Writing was how I processed everything when my Mom died. But with my sister? It’s just not there. The words. The feelings are there. It’s like someone took hundreds of LiteBrite pieces and threw them on the floor. Where once there was a bright, beautiful picture of my sister and me, there’s now just a jumbled pile of faded, dull pieces of plastic that have no rhyme or reason. No light behind them. I know I have to pick up those pieces. Some people say I can make a new image with them. One where I shine for both of us. But seriously, how do you make half of a Lite Brite shine? I want to take every damn piece and hurl it across the room. It doesn’t work without both of us. Suggesting it would is ridiculous. It will never shine as it did before. Never. The whole damn Lite Brite has been shattered beyond repair.

So, how do I find a new reality? How do I find a new me without her?

I wish there were a name for someone who loses their sibling. If you lose your parents, you are an orphan. If you lose your husband, you’re a widow. If you lose your sister, you are … lost? Alone? Sisterless? She was my person.

There were times she would withdraw into herself and not return texts or phone calls, and it would piss me off. Oh, that would piss me off so much! And she heard about it. But, you see, I did that, too. And we always came back to each other and talked about things. That’s the thing. We always came back to each other.

We used to send each other quotes or songs that reminded us of each other. Sometimes they were funny. Sometimes they were meant to say “I see you and I am here.” Sometimes they were just “Hey! Get me this on Amazon.” (Not much of the latter one because we didn’t have that kind of money but it was fun. I was very close to getting that T-Rex costume I want.) It was our way of always staying connected through the good times and the bad. It was our way of reminding one another that we had each other’s backs. For life.

When we were young

I could never imagine “for life” would be cut so short.

The turning point in our relationship was when I asked her to be the maid of honor at my wedding. She was shocked. Her initial response was to ask if I wouldn’t rather have a friend or someone closer to me fill that role. When I told her that was exactly who she was and I couldn’t imagine anyone else, well, I think that was the first time in as long as I could remember that she hugged me- without trying to strangle me down in a wrestling hold. A real hug. It was the best feeling in the world. It marked the transition from dueling sisters to real friends.

Oh, and as friends, we did have fun. I am sure we were responsible for my Dad’s grey hair and the hair he lost. We tended to revert a bit to giggling kids when we got together. Once our funny bone was tapped, we were gone. Everything was going to be funny. Family get-togethers? Forget about it! We weren’t going to check how much longer something had to cook or if we had enough clean dishes for the crew. Nope. We had to leave the room to laugh at something. To express the ridiculousness of something that happened or was said. Sometimes it was just because we needed to laugh and wanted some sister time.

I still laugh about one of the times she visited me for an extended time. It was a full house. All three of my kids. Both of her boys. Me and my husband. And Chelle. Well, if you know anything about me or my family, you can well imagine we didn’t have a quiet house. (Still, one of my greatest joys when it’s a full, loud house.) There were boys peacock calling each other from one end of the house to the other. Two of the kids playing a very intense Wii game. The Dobie loving the action with an occasion bark. One kid watching TV. I’m just walking through the house trying to talk over it while I am trying to clean the kitchen or grab laundry or bark orders to one group of kids or another. Well, there Michelle sat on the couch flipping through a People magazine as calm as can be and said, “Boy is your house loud.” Never looking up (and her voice never above a normal conversational tone) and just went right on reading her magazine. It struck me at that moment it was the perfect Jenn vs Michelle moment. I’m swimming through the chaos not even noticing it was loud and chaotic while she was very aware and totally unflappable (and slightly amused) by it.

We were best friends. We had a relationship no one in this world was privy to. We had a bond that no one in this world had. We had secrets that no one in this world will ever know. She and I had something that I will never have with anyone else in this world. No one knows what we had because it was ours. No one. Because that’s what sisters do for each other. They carry each others’ secrets, share each others’ joys, and share each others’ burdens. No one can know one hundred percent about another person and I don’t claim to here. We weren’t perfect but we were pretty damn good sisters to each other.

I don’t know how to do this. I have picked up the phone more than once to call her and tell her about the latest thing I found on Amazon. Or the latest celebrity gossip. Or the calls I go to make when I need her the most. When I am hurting. When I am scared about life changes. When I need to talk to her about our kids in college and how much we miss them. Or to cry over a really hard situation we should be helping each other through but that I am now navigating all alone.

And the phone call that is the worst of the worst, when the only person I want to talk to and the only person who knows me the way she did, the person who could help me through my pain is the one phone call I want to make to make the most. I want to talk about how much it hurts that my sister died. And how hard it is. And how fucking hard it is to breathe sometimes because I cannot imagine this world without her. She was my person. She would know what to say. If she didn’t, she would at least talk to me and help me through it. She would be with me. And now? She is the only person who can never help me through this and it sucks. It is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with in my life.

This hurts. Oh, my sweet lord, this hurts. Unlike anything. And I know I will never be the person I was before she died. There is “before Jenn” and “after Jenn” and my job is to make sure that I find a way to make “after Jenn” have a life that means something. For her. For me. For all of us that were left behind.

But for now? I’m going to have to try to figure out what that picture looks like. I don’t know how. But I will. In time.

Twenty-Nine Years

Twenty-Nine Years

Happy 29th Anniversary to my best friend and amazing husband, Clint. (Damn. We’re getting up there in age, babe!) I can’t imagine anyone I’d want to go on this journey with other than you.

Our post ceremony kiss

I remember when our biggest issues were who was making the bed, or stop squeezing the toothpaste from the middle (sorry!), and the right and wrong way to fold the towels (not even bringing up fitted sheets), and of course forgetting an “important” day.

When life threw some pretty hard curve balls at us like losing our baby boy and then losing parents, we had to figure out how to adjust to how we worked together as a couple in a new, harsher world. We struggled but never lost sight of the “we” part of the equation. We grew closer in spite of the pain life caused us and even the pain we caused each other. We’ve always found our way back to one another.

No matter what, we can count on each other. We’ve seen more loss, more death, more pain, more suffering, and more tragedy in our lives together than either of us could ever have ever imagined. Things that could tear a marriage apart. But when one of us was nearing a breaking point, the other always stood strong for both of us until the undertow’s pull let up and we both stood up strong again.

We’ve raised three amazing and unique kids who have grown up to be amazing and unique adults. (And, yes. Yes, bless the weird and wonderful in them!) From those first few months of crying with that colicky little pain in the ass (we survived!) to truancy court (totally their fault!) to going toe to toe with administration over a dance (closed minded asses!), we survived with a lot more humor and good memories than outsiders could ever understand. And now? We’re sending the baby off to college. Where did the time go? (I know… My face and your beard.)

But here’s where it gets tricky. Twenty-nine years ago I made a promise to you. I promised when the kids were grown, it would be a time of celebration for us. A time to look back on all that we have been through and the family we created together and raised to be the strong, confident adults they’ve become and celebrate a job well done as we look towards our next chapter together. I promised, though there’d be tears, there would never be regret. Only excitement for what is to come. Wherever that may take us and whatever way we’d get there.

Here is to our next 29 years and the 29 after that! May we never stop laughing, never stop dancing, and never, ever stop reaching for each other’s hand.

This is why my teen can’t have nice things

This is why my teen can’t have nice things

I went up to the high school tonight with the teen to pay booster fees for the VetMed competition team. While we were there I realized I hadn’t been charged for some personalized yeti type mugs. The two payments effected each other.

So I was passing money back and forth from the booster chair to the teacher. (I’m in a room with two teachers and some PTA-ish mom’s iykwim) Finally, I said and did the motion: “I’m making it rain, baby!” One laugh (props non-Stepford) and a few polite giggles.

Then the two teachers were in another room and came back out and double checked to make sure it was split up correctly. (You know how sometimes I intentionally turn off my filter but sometimes it happens and I’m just as shocked as everyone else? Yeah…)

So, I look from one to the other and at the booster chair, bust a laugh and say, “If I’m handing out any more money, I need to be tucking it into somebody’s g-string.”

I went to the car to listen to music and wait for the teen after that.

Mom. Of. The. Forking. Year!!!

(Cross-poated on IG)

Missing my Mom and hoping she would be proud of me

Missing my Mom and hoping she would be proud of me

Not a day goes by when I don’t think of and miss my Mom. Sometimes the grief still sneaks up on me in an overwhelming way and comes pouring out of my eyes. Take today for example. Gabby and I were talking about a movie sequel/ prequel and I casually said, ” But I don’t want her mom to die.” Boom! Before I knew it, the tears were streaming down my cheeks.

It still doesn’t make sense to my heart how I can live in a world where my Mom doesn’t exist. It just doesn’t work right. I still need her. I will always need her.

January 6th is the anniversary of her passing.

Passing. That sounds so easy. She passed. No. Just no. She was ripped from this world and left a void that can never be filled. Longing for her words or hugs never to receive them. Advice I need but will never get. Adventures we were supposed to share that never happened. Grandkids that are pretty damn awesome that will never know for themselves how amazing and hilarious their grandma was. She didn’t pass. She was brutally ripped away by a disease that is cruel and terrifying and one that is considered the “sister” to mine. In some ways that has helped me understand her in ways I couldn’t when she was alive. How’s that for a ironically sick twist?

Oh God I miss my Mom. My heart just does not understand. Time doesn’t make it easier. It just changes things. But the pain stays. The longing that I have no idea how to put into words but tugs at me in a relentless and unyielding way stays. Some days it rips my heart out through my tear ducts before I even realize it’s happening.

Damn. I just wish she was here to see my kids and to see who her baby girl has become. I hope she’d be proud of me as a mother. That’s my heart. I wish she knew me now.

I love you, Mom.

It’s just a peacock call. Relax.

It’s just a peacock call. Relax.

When my boys were young- and I mean really, really young–  they found a very unique way of calling each other when they wanted to talk to or find the other. In fact, I don’t remember a time when they didn’t do this. It was startling at first. You see, one would let out the bellow of a peacock call and from somewhere in the depths of the back of the house you could hear the sound of the other one returning the call. Sometimes it would stop then. Other times if it was really important like an online game or a funny video, the calls would go back and forth until they were  in the same room. At the young age that it started, I don’t know how they picked it up. I have heard that it is deafening at cons like Quakecon but the boys had never been to something like that when they started their traditional tribal like call. Even my daughter picked it up rather young.

It became normal in the house. It was, however, hilarious when we had guests. We were used to it. Company? Not so much. Once when my sister had been visiting, two days into her trip she look up from her magazine and sighed looking at me in defeat saying, “Your house is really loud.” I did what any frat house mom would do and burst out laughing. She’s right. And I love the noise.

One would think that would be something for the home only. But no. They find each other in public that way, too. In fact, to be honest, we all do.  A few years ago when we were at Disney in line for Space Mountain, they wanted to test the whole herd mentality business and started calling each other- while standing beside each other. Of course Gabby started in. Then their cousins. It wasn’t long before other people in the line started. Before we knew it, most of the people shoved in like sardines in line in a very echoing echo hell, were all doing the peacock call. I was doubled over laughing uncontrollably, legs crossed, trying not to pee my pants. My sister looked slightly horrified. My kids looked cocky with pride.  Gosh I adore my kids. They are pretty awesome. And always entertaining.

So if you are out and about and hear a peacock call, just return it. Chances are pretty good it’s one of my family. Or me. Find us and say howdy!

Singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was forbiddden and the rebel who broke the rule. But don’t tell.

Singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was forbiddden and the rebel who broke the rule. But don’t tell.

Growing up the youngest of three kids, I had my fair share of being picked on but I gave my share of bratty back so it evened out. My sister is almost four years older than I am and though it appears that I could take her down in hand to hand combat, you would be so very wrong to think that. She may be tiny but she is scrappy and tough as hell. So, between looking up to her as an older sister and being afraid knowing she could take me down if she wanted to, I pretty much did whatever she told me to do. Except when I didn’t.

There were several “rules” she made that I had to obey whether she was around to enforce them or not. And believe you me, I followed those rules no matter what because, honey, that girl could be pretty freaking scary when she wanted to be. I knew better than to mess with her. (I still do.) Respect, yo. But…(you knew that was coming, right?) there was one rule I just couldn’t obey. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t do it. I suppose you (or Gloria Estefan) could say “the rhythm was going to get me” eventually.

One of our all time favorite songs was “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” so of course we (and by we I mean she) got it on a 45 to play on our (and by our I mean her) awesomely cool blue record player. There was one rule. I was never ever ever ever never ever EVER never even if there is a fire and you have to call our for help with the song never ever sing ANY part of the song EVER except the background (Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh,Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh,etc). She was not kidding. That rule was law. In fact, it was the biggest rule of my childhood as laid down by my older sister.

2014-03-25 00.00.14But sometimes my sister would leave the house for sleepovers. Oh, those glorious sleepovers! I would sneak into her room, get out her radically cool record player, and her hip blue 45 record case. (Did you have one of those? We still have it.) I would carefully count each record until I came to The Lion Sleeps Tonight to ensure I could return it to the exact same spot. I was careful not to be caught. I’d close her door and play that record over and over and over and over. And you can darn well believe I sang every single lyric of that song. I sang on the top of my lungs. I sang as if the room was sound proof. (As a parent I can only imagine my own parents giggling at my act of rebellion that brought me such joy.) I sang until my voice was cracking and my throat was dry. (Or my brother came in and threatened me.)

I carefully replaced everything exactly as I found it, left the room with the biggest smile on my face and felt as if I had gotten away with something HUGE. To this day, I still hesitate to sing the lyrics. It’s not as if she is going to pop out from the back of my van and attack me. But still. It is THE rule I cannot ever ever break!

I was brought back to this when my former boss for years and good friend Elisa posted this awesome video on Facebook. And guess what? I sang the entire song. Shhhhh….don’t tell my sister. Seriously. She can still kick my hiney if she wanted to.