Saturday, May 27, 2006

I remember feeling like an outsider in my own kitchen...

I think I am 6 or 7. There is company over at our house, and we are all in the kitchen around the table, chairs pushed back for leg room. My little sister runs into the room and climbs on my mother's lap, pushing herself in for a serious snuggle.

Mom says proudly, "This is my cuddly girl!"

I'm sitting at the table watching this. I think to myself, "I like cuddles. I'm a cuddly girl. What about me?" I think that my little sister is obnoxious, stealing cuddles before they are offered. I would never do that. It seems rude to me. I think hugs and snuggles should be a gift given to me, not a right demanded by me. I try and remember the last time I ever jumped into Mom's lap like that....I can't think of one instance.

The company all respond with loving comments about how sweet she is. I sit and watch, an outsider, a middle child.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I remember hearing that my sister had been killed in a car accident...

I was 18, it was 1984, and I was working in Banff all summer as a chambermaid and evening desk clerk. One morning as we were getting ready for work (all us chambermaids lived in the same house), my boss, Ralph, came to the door. This was highly unusual; he NEVER came over to the house, especially not in the morning. One of my roommates came and said, "Ralph wants to talk to you, Paula". I think we all thought that I was going to get fired, though I couldn't for the life of me think of what I had done to deserve being fired.

Ralph looked so uncomfortable, I knew something terrible had happened. "Paula, your father called the hotel this morning. Your sister and her husband were killed in a car accident." He chose his words so carefully...

I started crying immediately, uncontrollably. "Which sister?"

Ralph looked like he was going to be sick. "I'm sorry, I don't know. Your father is coming to pick you up so you can be with your family. Your job is safe here, don't worry about us at all."

I stumbled to my room and grabbed my photo album and began looking at the pictures of my older sisters. Kathy and Jim or Carol and Bill? Kathy or Carol? Which sister was dead? I sat there crying for hours. It takes a long time to drive from Vauxhall to Banff, it takes hours and hours. As my dad drove to get me, I sat there crying over my photo album, not daring to pick which sister I'd rather live without. I had never felt so alone in all my life.

When Dad arrived, he smothered me in a tearful hug before I could say anything. I pulled away. "Dad, Ralph didn't know...which sister of mine is dead?"

"It was Carol. Carol and Bill."

It felt a little better to know who I was grieving for. Those three or four hours where I knew I had experienced a loss but didn't know who was gone were very strange. Very strange. I wouldn't wish that on anybody.

If anyone chooses to comment, you don't have to tell me how sorry you are or anything. Carol was 28 when she died...she would have been 50 on May 20th. I miss her still, but life goes on, doesn't it? I passed the 28 year mark, and I almost felt guilty for outliving Carol. It felt like uncharted territory, being older than my oldest sister. I realize that these are illogical thing to feel, but when emotions are involved, logic often takes a coffee break. Grieving is a strange, strange cloak, and once you've been given it to wear, it is always a part of your wardrobe, and on some days, you take it out and try it on just to see if it still usually does. It's the one piece of clothing I don't think you ever outgrow.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I remember hitting a woman in the head with a golf ball...

We lived in the country beside the little church my Dad pastored. One of Abe's most passionate hobbies was golfing, and one spring Dad turned our huge backyard into a pitch and putt golf course. He filled gopher holes along the fairways, dug nine holes and put a tin can in each one to catch the golf balls. He mowed the grass nice and close along the greens, and made a flag we could move from hole to hole so we could see where to aim. It was awesome!! My sister and I each had our own putter and a driver, and we'd golf all afternoon on a Saturday. I even got a hole-in-one on the longest hole one day! This was no easy feat...I'm not talking Miniature Golf here, but a true Par 3 Pitch 'n Putt. Like I said, it was a huge back yard.

One day, I was at the back of the yard, lining up for a good long shot towards the hole nearest the church. I hollered "Fore!!!" and gave the ball a mighty whack...just as a woman walked out of the side door of the church. My ball headed straight for her, hitting her in the temple; she crumpled like a limp towel to the ground. It happened so fast, there was nothing I could have done. I felt so guilty!! Apparently it took her a long time to recover from that injury. My line drive caused her head-aches for years afterwards. Oops.

Now that I think of it, I haven't golfed much since.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I remember my dad taking me out for lunch....

When I was in grade school, once in awhile my dad would come into town, pick me up from school and take me to the Three Hills Inn Restaurant for lunch. I would always order a grilled cheese sandwich, and he would always order an open denver sandwich. We would eat our sandwiches and joke about things and drink our respective drinks, coffee for him and root beer for me. He always had me back to school in time for my next class.

These little meals together were casual, rare enough to be a treat, yet often enough to produce a feeling of "special" in my little girl heart. You see, I did not know if Dad did this with my other sisters. He never told me. As far as I knew, I was Dad's favorite daughter, the only one important enough to merit a lunch-time treat.

Years later I was talking with my mother, and I mentioned how special those dinners made me feel. Mom laughed. "I had to tell him to take you girls out now and then, he never would have thought of it. But he was always good to do it once I told him to."

The dinners weren't his idea? He took my other sisters, too? I had to change the subject, for I found that even though I was a grown-up, all of a sudden I felt like crying like a little girl.