“Truth”

I live in the mountains of northern California.  In early 2018, my sister, Kathy, moved one hour south of me at at a lower elevation.  Prior to moving, Kathy had fought cancer for several years.  She followed her own instincts in treating it.  In January, 2018, she opted for chemotherapy.

Following is an excerpt from my journal at this time.

Angels meet and greet.  Glances exchanged, hearts engaged, hands touch–sisters–when the end is near, the truth becomes clearer.  I couldn’t drive her to her first chemo appointment.  It was yesterday.  It was rescheduled from last week.  Last week, I had a good excuse–a big snowstorm.  My sister, lymphedema in her right arm–swollen beyond recognition.  A warrioress with literal wounds.  A bandage is swathed under her arm and across her chest.  This wound that hasn’t healed–the bandages need to be changed daily.

My word today is truth.  Her word is courage.

I told her that I couldn’t drive her because I couldn’t sit there beside her in the hospital as she underwent this intravenous process.  I wouldn’t have been the best support.  She thanked me for telling her my truth.  If we can’t be straight with one another now, when?

She got her hair cut short.  She asked me to knit her a hat, which I began working on immediately.  I painted her a picture of a woman surrounded by butterflies.  I think that she’s going to make it.  We need optimism.  Truth is, I don’t know very much.  The mystery is here, is in us, is around us, is us.  Nature helps.  I send her daily photos of the nature where I live to calm and center her.  To support her with beauty.

Truth is, some days I think that she’s doing better than me.  Truth is, love is a strange animal–she is always showing up at odd times, giving us opportunities.

Like that night I sat on a log beside my driveway, stargazing.  It was so peaceful, I shut my eyes.  A visiting cat sat beside me.  Out of the shrubbery beside me, a rustle. Opening my eyes, I see a creature emerging.  I can’t name it immediately.  And then,
Skunk.  A few feet apart, we stare at one another.  Neither of us felt threatened.  I watched him waddle away.  Truth is, it felt like love.  Does recognition equal love?

Truth as an expression of love.  I love you enough to tell you the truth.  Is there something that stands in the way of truth?  At least, I can try telling it to myself.  When my parents were in their declining years and the family was in chaos, I began a poem with this line:

“Truth lies in a shallow grave
while perspectives hang out everywhere…”

transformation.

 

Reminisce

Six days before she died, my sister Kathy requested that our niece from San Francisco bring Lucca Raviolis, the best sourdough in the world and a bottle of Sangiovese wine.

Five days before she died, Kathy told me in detail how this particular sourdough recipe was crafted–that is, for excellent bread, the absolute best starter is essential. And this chef, a man, has devoted his time, energy and curiosity to creating the best sourdough starter.

Two days before she died, she said “We need a buzzword.”
I replied “Do you mean a word that when I hear it, I’ll think of you.”
“Yes,” she said.
After a few lame words, we decided on the phrase “Life is but a dream.”

And then, she lapsed into the strangeness of this whole experience of preparing to die.  The questioning as she turned towards what is unfamiliar, not talked about much and unknown.  She and I tossed our questions into that void called Mystery.

Earlier, she had asked if I could find her a couple of cotton nightshirts.  With a neckline that was high enough to hide the scars on her chest.  I went to Penney’s and bought something button-up that didn’t seem quite right, but a possibility.  Returnable.  At Macy’s, I found some too-fancy-ones, with lower necklines and Christmas reindeer and the other one with stars.  I took photos and texted them to her on the smartphone.  No, the neckline was too much of a scoop.

I found a sale rack…all of the cotton/polyester nightshirts had Christmas images or words that didn’t suit the solemnity of this occasion.  “Au Revoir” felt painful to my heart.  I finally settled on “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and blah.”  Which she loved as…there are no words really to express what is profound.

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Ours was a “divide and conquer” household with father’s rules and moods taking precedent.  Yet, sisters leave an indelible mark on your heart and being.  There is something sacred with sisters that is separate from the father’s code.  It’s in the bones, this understanding.  That even if we part and go our separate ways, we always know that there is a holding place, a heart haven where, when we meet again, we enter easily and laugh, cry, get angry and share deeply without pretense.  It’s just that way.

And there is always food involved.  Kathy’s perfectly formed, perfectly packaged and always yummy cookies.  Or something, anything Italian…can we claim garlic bread on the finest sourdough as part of Italian cuisine?  Mom’s spaghetti and meatballs or Kathy’s frittata.  And cheesecake with chocolate curls all around.  Or her recipe for San Antonio Stew.

This is not a complete romance, or maybe it is for don’t even the best-matched lovers have their quarrels.  There were times when Kathy seemed to separate from the family and her friends became more important.  We learned to accept that.  Yet, we came together again and again.  I have 8 mm movie film of her coming to the Easter or Christmas dinners in my home…her long dark cascading curls bouncing as she ran indoors from the spring or winter rain.