When You Remember The Terrible


It’s not that I ever really forget that my sister is dead, but sometimes I have a pressing question I want to ask her, a memory I need her to clarify, I see my old high school soccer sweatshirt on the top of shelf of my closet that she kept stealing from me, or I hear someone say ‘When Ali died…’ and I have that stomach-drops-to-the-floor-I-can’t-possibly-understand-this-reality kind of moment.

I walk down the streets and see thousands of people who are alive, doing everyday normal things like scowling at noisy toddlers in a coffee shop or tripping over a curb while looking at their smartphone, and I can’t comprehend how my sister is not a part of us.

And then my mind flips and I think about how easy it is to die — the people who die in accidents, of disease, or some undetermined reason in their sleep, and I can’t understand how anyone manages to make it to old age.

My grandmother, Nanny (that’s not her real name, but f̵i̵v̵e̵ four of her grandchildren use it exclusively), is currently 92 (or 33,706 days). Until she was 84, she adhered to the philosophy that Tylenol was just as effective as any doctor. Nanny lived in an apartment above a garage with questionable practices and terrible air quality for 70 years, and she’s still trucking.

I went to bed one night and my sister was alive, and I woke up and she was braindead. Though it’s been more than two years, in the timeline of my life it’s like no time has passed at all. My dad has been dead for almost half my life. The amount of time he’s been gone is as big and heavy as a Jersey barrier. It is a solid truth I accept and understand. I don’t like it, but I get it.

Alison has been dead for a footstool-sized amount of time. When I see her son playing with my daughter, there is an instant where I can imagine she’s still here…just off in the other room ruffling through my closet looking for something to secretly stash in her suitcase.

The amount of time is practically nothing, but it’s actually everything.

And so I find myself washing windows, scowling at noisy toddlers, or distractedly tripping over a curb and I suddenly remember my new truth. My sister is dead, but I just cannot believe it.

This piece originally appeared on Medium.


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