Thursday, January 21, 2016

Siblings are the Best Link to Childhood

Be nice to your siblings;
They are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

-Baz Luhrmann
 This is a quote from a song, Everybody's Free, that came out in 1997. At the time, I had no idea who Baz Luhrmann was even though I loved his rendition of Romeo + Juliet so it's amusing to me that I found him to be the source of this quote.

I've been thinking about it a lot lately. 
Be nice to your siblings;
They are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
The third anniversary of my parents' death is coming up. Yes, parents, plural. Americans have a hard time dealing with death and grief and most of us try to ignore it. It comes through in our dreams and overwhelms us in moments when the realization hits us too hard. I've been fortunate enough to be married to someone who has made me talk through the tears instead of letting me try to hide in bed from life like I've want to do.  
The dreams I have about my parents often showcase normal daily situations in which one of my parents is standing around, talking to people and then I end up talking to them. The dream gets really awkward because I have to explain to them that they don't belong, because well, they're dead. 
My siblings have truly become the best link to my childhood. Through the years, they have always been there. Our mother was our confidant, so even when we left home, we sort of revolved around her in the way we must have as young children. Without our mother, or father, who do we call or visit to tell the little stories that happen during the week? Who do we share are troubles and inner struggles with? We still have our spouses, but its not the same. We text or call our siblings. We tell the stories of how Tula calls bows, rainbows or how Taylor has gotten snarky. We retell our childhood memories and our siblings always have an investment in our stories the way that only they can. 

My siblings are the closest people I will ever have to my parents in this world. A member of Hinds Hospice was with us the day our mother died, and she said, "The world is not the same without your mother." Never were truer words spoken. I can't even type them without tearing up. 

Let me share the short story of my parents' death. My mother, Susan had been diagnosed with lung cancer about six years earlier. She had gone through chemotherapy with my step-dad at the same time after having surgery on her offending lung. How romantic. She chose to retire from teaching and my step-dad, Jimmy, passed away in 2008. She had decided to never do chemotherapy again and chose radiation instead.
 After her adventures in Ireland, New Jersey and elsewhere, her cancer moved to the brain. She stayed strong and recovered completely between treatments. This woman was prone to worrying and she didn't want us to worry so she didn't tell us intitially. Then when we found out, she had forgotten she wanted to tell us by a certain point in time- brain cancer will do that to you. After her final radiation treatment, she was able to drive herself home and collapsed later that morning as her brain swelled. My sister in Mississippi bought her tickets, but it would take a couple days to get to California. The doctor on call told us to let her go, that she had a 2% chance of recovery. As a tender mercy from God, the decadron worked, she recovered, and we had two more weeks with her that were coherent. 
In the last week of her life, my father, Jim, had been in and out of the hospital due to complications with diabetes. He was in congestive heart failure and had been having small heart attacks over the last couple years. One of my sisters picked up my father and brought him to visit my mother. He sat next to her bed and tried to talk to her. She was doing her best, but some nonsense would slip out, but it was okay, my father couldn't really hear her anyway which had us laughing and crying at the same time. 
After my mother passed away, my father was in the hospital and my other sister and I were dreading telling him that my mother had died. We finally broke the news and he said, "I thought she died three days ago!" Dementia for the win. 

As we planned the funeral, my older siblings took care of my father. He began home hospice care. We truly though we had more time with him. He died the evening of my mother's funeral. 
The first words out of my mouth when I walked up to my siblings: Worst. Day. Ever.
In a desperate attempt to preserve one more thing from our father, my sister and I whipped up a salt dough mix and tried to get an impression of his hand. It didn't work. With no ink, we tried to use a marker to get a hand print. No dice. So I wonder if the funeral home people were shaking their heads when he came in with one black palm. He was cremated.
Sometimes when people find out that my parents died ten days apart they say, "How romantic," in kind tones and I can't help but say, "They weren't together," then I add, "There was affection between them but they were no longer married," and I laugh a little inside because I think they would have even found it funny. 

Terribly sad things will happen in your life. If you are lucky you have people with you who know how to laugh and cry at the same time. People who can tell you your family stories and add to what you remember about your childhood. My siblings are the ones that will remember my mother yelling, "I'm going to sell you to the gypsies!" and my father saying, "Yes sir!"
No one else will understand how funny it was to hear my father asking for his windmill back from my mother as he got in the car to leave her house (that he built) for the last time. This windmill had been one of three things he had wanted since the divorce (although he promised my mom she could keep them). I convinced her to give him the sleigh, but the blue stove and windmill are still on the property.

Easter 2007, You can't see it, but Jen's preggo belly has an Easter egg painted on it.
I miss my mother and father every single day and I don't think that will change. I think there will be times that I will tear up thinking about them for as long as I live.  Most of all I remember their love, unconditional love, and I know that if I can be half the mother, my mother was, I will have accomplished something great. I thank heaven for my siblings for helping me remember my parents and helping me to be better. Julie, Wade, Jennifer, we have started a new era in which we star as parents, which our families are now "the" family. We are mom and dad. I'm grateful for the challenge.
(Larry and Ellen, I can't help but feel like you already have this down.)

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