Monday, August 27, 2012

Sister Retreat

There’s six of us. Mom and Dad had one boy and then kept having girl after girl. There’s a twelve year spread between the oldest and the youngest (that’s me). We try to get away once a year without our families. This year we chose to gather at Dad’s. Our nephew turned up as well, so it was a “dad-nephew-sister” retreat. We slept on the couch and floor and filled the bedrooms.

This retreat was mostly about visiting and eating. Okay, so all our retreats are mostly about visiting and eating. Mom is gone, but her kitchen is as familiar as ever. The cast iron frying pans still reside on the stove top or in the oven, the potatoes are under the sink, the cereal and crackers around the corner. We work together to create meals and then clean up in a jiffy. It all comes back - visiting over the same sink, stepping over each other to dry dishes, wiping off counters and carrying scraps outside to dump over the fence into Wally’s alfalfa field.

Three of us are on ranches, one in the recycling business, one in real estate and one a nurse. We’ve waited tables, counted money, doctored animals and people, nurtured children and sailed oceans. We’ve managed employees, given up on marriages, stuck with marriages, and welcomed grandchildren. We’ve all had disappointments and triumphs.

During our three day stay, and following a recent death in our extended family, we spent some time sorting and cleaning a now vacant house. One evening we thumbed through the contents of a long forgotten trunk, a heartbreaking look into the life of a girl who died at seventeen in the 1940s. Here were her school papers, her baby book, even the newspaper write up of the tragic accident that took her life. She was our dad's cousin and no one is left to tell her story. Not knowing what to do with the contents, we laid the items back and closed the lid. We stepped outside as dark descended. The yard is wild and expansive and the butter-colored primroses were opening for their one-night stand. One by one they blossomed in perfect form, shouldering aside the spent and shriveled blooms that were new only last night.  

As we sisters age and watch our parents fade, we cling to each other. I just finished reading a book, About My Sisters, by Debra Ginsberg. These siblings were very different from us, loud and argumentative, with only one child and no marriages between the four of them. But the author spoke for us when she said, “each one of us carries some part of her sisters with her. I can’t imagine my life without any one of them. Nor do I want to try.”   


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