October 12 was the 3rd anniversary of my sister’s death. I still miss my sister after three years. But she wasn’t just a sister to me. She was 15 years old when I was born. And she was like a second mother to me. When I was young I even went on dates with her. Mainly because at 2, I had perfected the quivering lip. I would cry in the doorway, with my quivering lips and she would hesitate until her date would tell her to go get me.
I don’t really remember that. What I do remember is her reading to me. She had a strong, penetrating voice. And she enunciated each word clearly. There was no need to ever ask her to repeat herself, she was crystal clear the first time. She was also a card-carrying member of the Grammar Police, while I slid by with misdemeanors. (She let me, I was her favorite.)
From her, I learned to love reading. Mysteries and suspense were a shared passion. Better to ask us who we hadn’t read than to ask who we had. We devoured books by author. Once we found an author we liked, we read all the books. And I mean all. We would read what was written under that particular author’s name and then we’d go and find whether they wrote under another name and read them all. Barbara Mertz/Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters. Jean Plaidy/Victoria Holt/Philippa Carr. The list goes on.
We’d also read every series that a beloved author put out. Charlotte MacLeod had the Kellings/Bittersohns and Professor Shandy. Anne Perry with her Monk and Pitt series. First, we would read the books and then we would discuss the characters and their motivation. To us, these characters were a part of our lives, we needed to talk about them to understand them even more and to speculate on what would happen next. Especially if the book was a series. Like the Harry Potter series (we LOVED Harry Potter!)
But our discussions weren’t just about books. Sometimes we devoured TV shows. We were those people. The kind who would watch a TV show together. Yes, the kind of people who would talk on the phone together while watching a TV show. The one that sticks out was the original Twin Peaks. That show had enough weirdness packed into each episode to keep discussions going all week long.
We talked on the phone at least once a week apart from talking while watching TV shows together. Sometimes we talked for 15 minutes. Other times we talked for an hour or more. I would call her when I was driving home from work. That was the hardest adjustment after she died. Not having her to talk to on my drive. More than once, I caught myself starting to dial her number.
Every time I learn something new that I think she’d like, I want to call her. Like the time I learned a new word for an occupation that would have been perfect for her. I couldn’t call her. So I ended up writing a journal entry to her.
My God, Joni. I miss you, especially today when I just learned a new word that you would love. I’m sure you already know the word, but it’s the first time I ever came across it. Bibliotherapist. A therapist who gives reading prescriptions. What a perfect job for you. There’s also an Ecotherapist who recommends different natural settings to people.
I want to combine them and be a BiblioEcoTherapist. I will recommend specific books to be read in specific places. Feeling downtrodden by Corporations? Then read Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest or Central Park or any National Park. Feeling neglected and lonely? Read The Secret Garden in Great Maytham Hall or the Royal Botanic Gardens…or any lush garden.
There is no one to riff this with that would “get” our quirky love of books. When I cry, it’s this that I cry for. This connection we had that is now gone.
Reading was the last thing that I did for my sister. As she lay dying, hooked to a breathing tube, I read from one of our favorite authors. This, more than anything else, helped me to navigate that transition. I hope it helped her as well.
Thank you for indulging me. I know it’s not my usual blog post, but it was something that I needed to write.