Today was slow. I had bad nightmares last night, and still remembered them when I awoke. I hate when that happens. The dreams involved family members who have passed away. Only they were still alive in my nightmares and were rejecting me as a sibling/daughter. I analyzed it, and have decided it means I feel betrayed by my family members who have died. It’s proof that I’m still experiencing grief in my subconscious. The only death that I experienced externally was that of my brother Steve. When my Mom, sister, and Dad died, I didn’t react in a way I can identify. Certainly not in the way I responded to losing Steve. I fell apart completely when he died. My entire life came to an abrupt halt, and I cried or was on the verge of tears for a whole year.
I remember wanting to hunt down the surgeon at the Mayo Clinic and kick his ass for letting my brother die. When my Mom died, I felt numb for a long time. When Heather died, I felt angry. When my Dad died, I felt alone. But I didn’t express those feelings. They all died over a period of five years. I still have other siblings, but my relationship with most of them is good but distant. Most of them were grown up by the time I came along. I was very close to Steve and Heather when growing up, and after becoming adults. When I left for basic training, Heather was the only one still living at home. She moved out on the day she graduated. She was fed up with racism and didn’t want to spend another day putting up with it. Her experience was different than mine in that regard, even though we were only a year apart.
Most of the racism we experienced was subtle. This meant it went right over my head for the most part. When we were the only ones not invited to a birthday party, or when we exchanged gifts at school, and Heather got a wrapped, empty box, it didn’t occur to me that it was because we were black. In high school, a few black families moved to town, and Heather dumped all her white friends and hung out with the new black kids exclusively. I remember feeling like she was mean and racist to do such a thing, but she vehemently disagreed. She entered her first abusive relationship while in high school. Her boyfriend was the first and last person I ever fought with the intention of killing. He punched her, and she had hearing loss and TMJ as a result. I saw red when she told me. It was the angriest I had ever been in my life. I took a baseball bat and went to his house. I walked right in without knocking and proceeded to beat him with it. I told him if he ever hit my sister again, I would kill him, and meant it. It scared me how angry and violent I became.
When I was in the Army, stationed in Germany, Heather called me and told me her boyfriend beat her with his belt. It took every ounce of discipline I possessed to refrain from getting on a plane, going there, and killing him for it. It made me feel like I was going insane because I couldn’t protect my little sister. As I was pacing and raging, it hit me. Heather knew I couldn’t come there and protect her when she told me. She told me because she needed to know I loved her enough to want to murder the fucker who beat her. When I realized this, I was able to calm down. I begged her not to let that fucker into her home ever again. When she realized I was weeping, I think it registered with her that she was hurting me too by allowing psychopaths in her life who did nothing but rob and beat her. It all felt very twisted, and beyond my ability to fully grasp at the time. In hindsight, I don’t really understand it any better. But I do remember the murderous rage I felt when someone hurt her. I don’t ever want to feel that way again.
I began calling her more regularly and checking in on her. When she would tell me about some cute guy, I would ask her if he had a job. When she said no, I’d advise her not to bother with them. It was a turning point in our relationship. I was finally the big sister, and she valued my advice. When she had a job that she didn’t like, she asked me if she should quit. I asked her if they spelled her name wrong on her paycheck. She said no, then we both laughed. I told her that a job is a means of earning money, and nothing more. Just do what you need to do to the best of your ability, and don’t expect it to be fulfilling. I told her if she wanted a career instead of a job, she’d have to get more schooling. So she started going to university part-time, and eventually got a degree and a position she loved. She kept a journal that was given to me after she died. In it, she talked about how she looked up to me. I treasure it now. Whenever I feel like I’m failing at life, I read it.
I miss the times when she’d visit, and we’d laugh until our faces hurt. I miss being able to pick up the phone, dial her number, and say something like, “remember the dent?” Then hang up, knowing she would be on the floor laughing from just those 3 words. I miss her picking out my clothes and making me look a lot cooler than I actually am. I even miss her teasing me by telling me that I’m the whitest black person she knows. I would give her a lecture on how culture and skin color don’t correlate, and why her statement was ridiculous, and she’d listen for a while and then burst out laughing. I’d eventually laugh with her, and realize I was just as silly by taking it seriously. I miss my Heather.