Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I'm the big sister

A couple of years ago, my sisters and I planned a President's Day weekend get-together in San Francisco.  We picked that spot for a couple of reasons.  First: well, duh! it's San Francisco.  Second, there's a vacation property there we have 'points' for.  Third, it's somewhat between where the SoCal middle sister lives, and us Washingtonians.  And because we come from the same genetic pool, were raised by the same parents, have been accused by more than one spouse of over-planning everything, we had our plane tickets bought before Christmas that year.

But in January, our older younger brother (meaning the older of our two little brothers), died.  Many families, I've learned before and since, have a sibling like this brother, who was a troubled little boy, a troubled teen, and a troubled man, before he walked out of our family's collective life a decade before his death.  But, no matter what the issues, when he died, we flew down to Southern California (where he'd made his living and his homeless life) to find out what we could about him.  It was a long hard week together, that my siblings and I had, laying our brother to rest.  I remember the moment the Friday of that week when, via some things we found in his few belongings, the realization hit that our brother had been gay.  Andrew was gay.  Of course!  Of course he was. It was like a whole lot of pieces of a puzzle fell into place with that one piece of information.  And a sweeping sadness hit that he hadn't felt he could tell us that.  I know why he couldn't tell me.  I know what I was like in my early twenties--all judgment and certainty, and not, I'm ashamed to say, very full of grace toward the least of these.

Anyway, it was a hard week.  There was a whole lot of anger to face from those our brother had worked with all those years.  People he'd told about his family.  They wondered why we'd rejected him, wondered why we didn't help him when he was homeless.  They didn't have the whole story any more than we did.  That was our brother--a life so full of secrets we'll never never them all.  By the end of that week, after putting on the memorial service, my sisters and I lay in our beds in a hotel near the airport, and collectively said, "No offense, but I don't want to see you again in two weeks!"  We'd had enough of each other.  More than enough.  We'd snarled at each other--more than once--and needed to retreat to our own lives, breathe the air of our own lives in order to clear our heads from the garbage (I'm sorry to admit this) that was my brother's.

So now, two years later, we are going to San Francisco.  The tickets bought, the plans made...my middle sister, the Dump, emailed today to remind us to bring our tee-shirts.  Oh yes, our tee-shirts.  See, several years ago, we bought these tee-shirts in order to surprise Mom when we took her to the beach for her birthday.  Here we are, wearing them at our cabin on Whidbey Island.  I'm in the sunglasses, and my shirt says says, "I'm the big sister," and has a picture of a girl shopping.  The Dump's says, "I'm the middle sister" and hers has a girl sunbathing, which is the most farfetched thing imaginable for her!  And RE's says, "I'm the little sister," and has a picture of a little girl in a stroller.  Anyway, the Dump always wants us to take our tee-shirts when we go anywhere together, because, as she puts it, it's so 'nerdy and dorky,' two things she delights in being, whereas I try to avoid.

So Friday we're off to San Francisco.  I haven't been there since J was a baby, and E was a little girl on my Dad's shoulders.  My dad had a sabbatical in Palo Alto that year, so we flew down for Christmas.  My parents put J's portable crib in their gigantic walk-in closet so Beve and I could sleep and my mom could get her baby-fix in the morning.  I was happy to let her!  And my Dad didn't put E down that the whole trip, I think. But I'm hoping I won't be seeing his ghost around every corner.

I'm looking forward to it, looking forward to time with my sisters, to being in the city, to seeing the show 'Wicked', to all sorts of things I don't even know yet.  But I have to tell you, I'm NOT looking forward to wearing that dang tee-shirt! But because I'm the big sister, I'll set a good example and DO it!

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