Friday, May 2, 2008

The Dump

Yesterday I got an email from one of my sisters, warning all of her siblings not to call her today, because she would be busy--today and all week-end, as a matter of fact. She was cutting us off at the pass, so to speak, aware that her answering machine was bound to be plugged up with messages from us that she'd be obligated to return. You see, today's her birthday, and she knows the tradition. She won't open an overflowing mailbox to our cards and presents, but we do lavish each other with conversation.

So, because I can't talk to her--I'm nothing if not obedient, after all--I thought I'd talk about her today, on her 49th birthday. My earliest memory has her in it. It's of sitting in the grass all dressed up, next to a baby in a basket. Within two years, by the time I was four, that 'baby' was already taller than me, and ever after people thought I was the younger sister. She was taller, 'huskier' (we laugh at all the ways there were to talk about weight in those days--that was her favorite!), while I was a sickly child, who looked a little like a concentration camp victim at times. And the external difference was only part of it. She's the smartest person I know. Literally the very smartest person I have ever known, and that's saying a lot, because I know a whole lot of very smart people. When we were in high school, I started calling her the Dump, because she was so smart she was dumb. Then Dumb became the Dump (our mom hated it because she thought I was being offensive--which was an added bonus). And though she had great friends in school, she wasn't what one might call social by any means. Not like me, anyway. The social interactions of typical teenagers didn't appeal to her--they seemed ridiculous then, and ridiculous now that she has teenaged sons of her own (who are also brilliant and cut from her very fine cloth, I'm glad to see). We shared a room our entire lives--from the day she was born until the day she got married (she eloped, a story of itself, but not for today). And many--many--nights, she'd have to lie in bed and listen to me talk about the vicissitudes of my life. Half the time she'd fade out while I was mid-paragraph, and I'd say, 'you're not asleep, are you?' (actually good practice for me being married to a man who falls asleep the second his head hits the pillow, and thinks he has insomnia if he's still awake five minutes later). Her ability to talk in her sleep was all I needed to carry on the conversation in those days. Too bad she couldn't teach the Beve the knack--it might have saved him some grief over the years from a petulant wife.

The Dump was a collector. Still is, come to think of it. In the days of our shared room, she collected angel figurines, stuffed animals, and (wait for it)... old shoe laces, raisin boxes, coconut bags, and a myriad other strange items. For the life of me, I can't deconstruct her purpose. She wasn't a girly-girl, by any stretch of the imagination, but for some unknown reason, my dad's female relatives tended to buy her feminine-type gifts: jewelry, purses, stuffed animals (one giant dog that got stick in the corner of our room and was never seen again!). Those purses had particular interest for me, because she kept all of them on her closet shelf--clutch purses, straw purses, long-chained floral purses, and in each of them she kept money. And I 'borrowed' money out of those purses on more than one occasion--a dollar here, a five there, maybe a twenty once or twice. I shouldn't admit this, probably. Doesn't do me much credit. But I was who I was and she never said a word about it. This practice continued all through high school and into my first year of college. Then she left for college at Cal Tech (I told you she was brilliant), and a few weeks later, when I needed a few bucks, I reached up into her closet, and pulled down a purse. I can't remember now what I expected. But what I found was a 100$ bill and a note. "Dear C--, I won't be here to replenish this supply, so I hope this helps while I'm gone. Love, L--" I sat on her bed and cried.

There are still very large differences between us. She doesn't believe in Christ, and sometimes I can hardly stand it that that's true. She could, I think. She almost does, really... but she doesn't, and I want it so much I can taste it. In some ways, when I think of how much I want the world to know Jesus, I can wrap it up in how much I want her to. Think of the person you most love who doesn't know Him. That's exactly the desire you should bring to prayer for the world. And yet, I cannot love her more. Does that make sense? My love for my sister is not predicated on whether she knows and loves Jesus. I love her because she is her. And that too, is how I must love those around me. Not based on whether or not they're in or out. I will be glad--I will dance from our rooftop--on the day she tells me she's said yes to Him. And I know, I know that day will come. I prayed for such a day for my dad for twenty years, and that day came. Come to think of it, when that day came, first Dad and I both cried. Then I danced. Yes, that day will come. And all of heaven will dance as well, as heaven always does.

1 comment:

Samnhoj said...

Whoa. How to pray for the world. Yes. That's it. And I love the $100 in the purse story. One of the most evocative I've heard. What is it? Being loved and cared for by someone in a way that that is totally self-less? Hmm. What does that remind me of?