Today is the fifth anniversary of my little sister’s sudden and unexpected death. Our parents being dead, she was my only family. She and I understood certain things about each other that no one else could ever understand. I would say we were very close, even though she lived far away, up in the mountains of Colorado, and even though for the last few years of her life I hardly ever heard from her except when she needed money.
She went through a period of needing new snow tires—a LOT of new snow tires. It made sense the first time she asked because it was winter in Colorado, and maybe it was okay the second time, although I don’t remember what the story was, but by the third time I wasn’t really buying it, and the fourth time I refused to send her any more money.
I didn’t hear from her again until there was this really great investment opportunity and she was going to triple our money, although she couldn’t quite explain how. I sent the cash, and never heard any more about that, either.
Some time later she announced she wanted to come visit me, but she couldn’t afford a plane ticket. I was so excited: She’d only come to New York once, shortly after I’d moved here, and I really wanted to show her everything I’d learned about the city and how my life was going. So I cashed in my frequent-flyer miles and got her a round-trip ticket, and I splurged on a couple of tickets to the Metropolitan Opera because I thought she’d really like that, and then the airline called me, something about how they didn’t allow people to trade in frequent-flyer-miles tickets for cash, and I said I didn’t want to, and then somehow the trip never happened. I didn’t hear from her for a while, and I had to rustle up some nice guy who didn’t really care about opera to go with me because those tickets were nonrefundable.
When Sluggo and I got married, she declined to come out for our wedding because March was the end of skiing season and she didn’t want to miss it.
While I was home during the first time I had face cancer, a letter came in the mail for her, sent to my address. It was from a lawyer, so I opened it to see what was going on. It was something about how he’d got the court date put off on account of her having to be out of town visiting her cancer-ridden sister—that would be me. I never quite got the straight story about that, but apparently she’d used my illness as an excuse to leave town and go to Mexico, although she’d told everyone she was coming here. I don’t think it ever occurred to her to actually come see me while I was sick.
Once she called and told me she’d been getting ready to have some kind of semi-medical procedure to get rid of some wrinkles, and the doctor had done a test before giving her anesthesia and had found a heart problem. The story of the heart problem went on for a while, and finally she was scheduled to go into the hospital for more extensive tests, and she asked if I could send her some money because she didn’t have any health insurance. I cleaned out my entire savings account and sent it all to her. And then, just a couple of days before she was scheduled to go in for the tests, her heart stopped beating and she died. The money, of course, was gone, but so was she.
I don’t think I even realized how I thought of her almost every moment of every day of my life, until she wasn’t here any more. I can’t say I think of her every single day now, but I can’t say that I don’t—I don’t really know. Thinking about her was so natural to me that I’m not really aware of whether I’m doing it or not. I think about her a lot around this time of year, of course, and lately I’ve been thinking about how she treated me and I’ve realized that it didn’t really matter. In my mind I hear that old Go-Go’s song: “Someone always loves a little more, and I think it’s me.”