Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Blessed, Stressed, a Little Bit Depressed

February is not my favorite month. For a couple of reasons.

 First, there is Valentine's Day (or "Galentine's" for the defiantly lonely) which I don't hate for itself but for all the whining that comes with it. For a few days, I have to listen to ungrateful lovers (he or she isn't this or that), singles who just don't appreciate enough else about life (I'm taking the day off work so I don't have to see all the flowers and gifts), and the greedy people who use the day to guilt their S/Os into spending money on them. What about spending a little extra time instead of money? What about just being thankful that you woke up knowing that someone loves you more than they love anyone else in the world? I'm simpatico with a comedian who joked that the best thing about Valentine's Day is all the candy that goes on sale right after. Last year, up until November, I still had a stash of those red heart-shaped boxes of Almond Roca from Walmart.

The real reason I don't like February is that, in 2015, I lost my big sister.

When you lose your parents, it hurts. When you lose any family member, it hurts. Losing your big sister - your only sister - hurts in ways you can't even explain. My sister was my best friend. She's probably the only one in this world who knew almost everything - good, bad, and embarrassing - about me.

For over 2 weeks, I sat with my sister, "Mike", in her hospital room, not thinking I was going to lose her. She'd been so sick for so long that hospital stays were normal. We had spent a lot of time she and I, getting to know nurses, doctors, and lab techs. There was one sweet little woman who had worked janitorial duty on two of Mike's hospital stays. She would come by on her break just to chat with us and offer to pray for Mike. Up until that last stay, Mike and I would make a game of trying to guess which staff member was which among a crew: the funniest, crankiest, newest, most outgoing, etcetera. We made up nicknames for the staff. There was one doctor that tended to a patient across the hall from Mike and we called him "Chief". He was young and energetic and had a long ponytail. He was an indigenous Alaskan and he proudly wore a necklace made of leather and ivory. I had a little crush on him so, of course, I always looked the other way if he paid me the slightest attention. Mike thought that was hilarious and threatened to rat me out to the hot doc. Of course, she was having severe problems keeping a clear head so she forgot the threat about 5 minutes after she made it.

Mike seemed about to get better. She was still not doing well cognitively, but the doctors had figured out why and they were going to fix it. She had to have another couple of procedures - one surgical - and then would be able to go home. I was already planning to treat her to a Starbucks coffee.

Life is better enjoyed than planned. I'm so glad that Mike and I enjoyed most of those last days. I'm so thankful that she came out of her brain fog every now and then to talk about something good - her kids, our nieces and nephews, and things we were going to do once the weather got better.

What still amazes me is that I knew but didn't know. That Mike wasn't coming home that time. That she was never going to sit in the passenger seat and critique my nervous driving. That we were never going to buy both wafer Nutter Butters and crunchy Nutter Butters so that we could split and each have some of both kind. That I was never going to call up from the kitchen to say I was making coffee and did she want a cup. That we were never going to trade that secret sister-glance because someone said something weird. That I was never going to be able to call her when I felt like I just needed to hear my sister's voice.

I knew enough that I didn't leave her except for one night during that last hospital stay. I knew but I didn't know. I knew enough that I prayed every time I got a quiet moment. I knew but I didn't know.

Mike came out of that last surgery well enough, but something happened during recovery. She never did wake up and after a couple of days in ICU, she died.

I have this one photo of Mike. It was taken right after we had said a prayer and right before she went into that last surgery. I don't often look at this photo but I keep it for her kids and grandkids.

She ALWAYS had a smile on her face

I hate February so much. I don't even like to look at the calendar during the month. I don't have to. My heart knows that I lost my sister on the 28th.  I miss her so much that today I feel like I can't take a deep breath. I am sad and lonely and depressed to the point of curling into a ball on the sofa. I miss my sister,

Still, I am blessed. I am blessed that I had such a sister. I am so very blessed.