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A Life Goes By


1978. Mom and Dad on vacation. Sister in college. Grandma baby sitting. She taught me how to play Gin Rummy in the living room. I smudge the finish on the wood table every time I put my hand on it. We play cards for hours.

1983. Grandma is over to baby sit. Sister comes home. "Why isn’t dinner ready, Grandma?" "I didn’t know how to turn on the oven."

She was a sly old fox, my sister said. She knew how to turn on an oven. Got out of having to make dinner. The chicken kiev was a half hour late.

1986. Spring. Friday, 4:55 p.m. Mom and Dad and Sister dressed for dinner. Dad is waiting for Mom at the door. They still had to pick up Grandma before they drove to Mike Moy’s Restaurant. Mom is checking her eye make-up in the bedroom mirror.

I stand in the doorway to her room. Are you sure you don’t want to go with us?", she asks. I’d rather stay in the house by myself, play loud music. I was a rebellious youth. I say no. "Tell Grandma I said hi."

1988. Sister calls. "Grandma is moving to Arizona," she says. "She’s going to live with Aunt Rose." She’s leaving in five days.

3 days later. I call her. I tell her I will try to visit her next summer. I tell her I will miss her. I already do miss her. She says she loves me.

I hang up, thinking that she usually doesn’t say that she loves people. She isn’t usually affectionate. I start to cry.

3 days later. I visit family. Father hugs me. He hiccups while crying.

She died this morning, they explain to me. But don’t worry about that now, we’re late for the Christmas party.

I’m in a car. Sister is driving to the family party. We are quiet. She finally speaks. "Are you okay?", and I tell her that I will be fine. What she doesn’t realize is that I don’t say that I am fine. I look at her face. She turns her head from the road to look at me. I notice now that we really do look alike.

Something in Sister is dead. She is hiding the pain, and it is killing a piece of her. I think a part of me is dying, too.

At the party. Everyone is laughing. Brothers, sisters, nephews, a niece, an uncle. A sister-in-law says to me as she says hello, "I’m sorry." I try to get drunk on punch.

Sister pulls out a pile of presents for the family. They are from Grandma. Jesus Christ. She died this morning. Somebody say something.

She bought me a pair of earrings.


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