The usual cliché is “comparing apples to oranges,” but in this case (and since there now seem to be endless varieties of apples available), let’s compare fruit from the same tree.
My sister Jennie died two days ago. My sister Mary died six years ago. I can’t tell you how I hate writing those two sentences.
First of all, my address book is filled with names of people I love that are gone yet I refuse to eliminate their information. I have no delusion about contacting anyone, although I do talk to them sometimes. Usually, it’s “Damn it, I miss you!”
Secondly, like most of the world embracing tech, I don’t actually talk to many people anymore. I can count the calls I looked forward to answering. I used to talk to my friend Lynn fairly often and my brother and I still talk once or twice a month. Lynn and I talked about family stuff. Jay and I talk (and laugh) about politics and some family updates.
Jennie and I talked at least twice a week. Sometimes her number went to voicemail (she never set up her mailbox, so I couldn’t leave a message). She always called me back, usually in the next minute. (Her phone was just out of reach.)
Jennie and I talked about all kinds of things; her most recent dental appointment, the school play she attended featuring one of her grandchildren, the weather (too cold/too hot), and maybe a recent outing sitting by the pool and watching the kids splash about. And we almost always talked about books! She was an avid reader and we exchanged favorite authors’ names. Jennie was a fan of Alexander McCall Smith’s series in Africa as well as Elizabeth Peters, who wrote numerous books set in Egypt.) When our brother Jay toured Egypt a few months ago, Jennie was thrilled to learn of places he’d traveled and compared his itinerary to the book she was reading.
A few years ago I had breakfast with my nephew David and he said, “You and my mom are so much alike!” I almost choked on my orange juice. “David, other than having white hair and sharing the same parents, I don’t see it.” He replied, “Well, you’re both kind, compassionate people.” Wow, I thought, that’s cool to hear.
On the surface our lives took much different paths. Jennie married and had six children (and now a bunch of terrific grandchildren). She loved the church and never failed to ask me what I believed in over the years. (My answer was always the same, but it didn’t stop her from nudging me -unsuccessfully.) She had a quick wit, but also a quick temper which always took me aback, even after a lifetime.
Remembering past events was challenging. We didn’t always have compatible memories, but that’s to be expected after decades pass. Jennie loved to share memories of her and Mary’s first day of elementary school, our old house in Ben Avon, high school classmates she still followed on Facebook, even family gatherings over the years, including recipes our mother (and father) made for the holidays. (I’m sure if she were to read this My 3 Cents, she would offer additions and corrections.)
Jennie’s legacy lives on in her children and grandchildren, the many people who valued her friendship, and a sister who will miss our twice weekly phone calls.