June 4, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Grief In Retrospect

I had been working outside on the garden for a little over an hour with no break.  I came inside, pulling off my black rain boots that I had been trudging through the mud in on this gray, overcast day.  The shoulders of my work shirt were peppered with rain drops.  I grabbed my phone off of the entryway table, where I had left it to keep it safe from the temperamental showers outside.  Four missed phone calls from my sister and a text.  With a link.

I sunk into the familiar surrounding plumpness of my couch, my fingers returning her call as I read on my computer.  Our ex-stepsister had died in the early hours of the morning in a horrific car crash.  Her body ejected onto the asphalt as her SUV kept going.  The parkway had been closed for hours.  My emotions were ping ponging all over.  My sister answered, confirming that I was not alone in my confusion.

She was the youngest daughter of our first stepmother.  The woman my father married when I was in sixth grade, my brother in fourth and my baby sister a mere second grader.  Although I was the eldest of my siblings, in the newly created family I was smack in the middle.  A much older stepbrother, and two stepsisters just a handful of years older than I.

We spent three out of every four weekends as a family.  At middle school age that was the bulk of my time away from school.  In the old farmhouse I was given a room on the second floor, with my two new stepsisters. A bathroom all our own.  Far away from the rest of the family on the other side of the house.  And for awhile it was good.  Big sisters teaching me to tease my hair sky high in the late eighties.  Listening to talk of boyfriends, crushes and late night whispered phone calls on the clear phone with bright colored wires sitting in the hall by the stairs.

Then the honeymoon period faded in the background.  It became a blur of arguments, accusations and in fighting.  Between my parents.  My mother and stepmother.  Then it came to rest squarely on the shoulders of my thirteen year old self.  A child almost the age of my eldest son.

Myself and my siblings were ejected from the household.  My room packed into black trash bags and thrown into the attic to be nibbled at by the field mice and squirrels that found their way in.  We were no longer a part of that family, despite our father still being in the center of it.

They were married for around ten years.  I look back at that time as tumultuous.  Dark.  I dismiss it as part of my history.  Gloss over it with a blanket statement.  I don’t think about it often.

Twenty four hours have passed and I have spent most of that time reflecting inward.  I have cried some.  I have had a heavy heart.  I have been through a confusing labyrinth of emotions that are difficult to fully understand.  But decades have gone by.   I have become a wife and a parent.  Both of which have brought a certain clarity to the muddle of adult decisions and consequences that mapped my formidable years.

I have come to the conclusion that I am allowing myself to grieve.  To grieve the loss of the sister relationship from a lifetime ago.  The fact that there will never be a reconciliation.

I drove out of my way after going grocery shopping this afternoon.  Past that farmhouse now owned by another family.   It is overgrown and unkempt.  In the backyard there is still the pool that we floated in for hours on huge Dole banana shaped rafts.  The remnants of the treehouse my father built us still hanging on.

I stared at the windows of the second floor.  The reality setting in that the girl who lived in the room in front, with posters of U2’s Joshua Tree on the paneled walls and the flashing stop light on her dresser, is gone.  The one with whom I shared a wall for a few years.  Deep beneath the overgrown, unkempt surface it is all still there.  Just like the farmhouse.

When I look back, I remember the dark.  But I have found light in my life now.  That, that is what I pray she had before she died.  The dark behind her.  Living in light.  Rest in peace Esther.


  1. This was such a brave post. Big hugs to you honey, and please let me know if there is anything I can do … we do need that night out soon if you want to just talk?

  2. Beautifully written post.
    Such sadness comes from hearing someone is gone too soon.

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