Fifty Nine Days

The last few weeks’ gamut of emotions have been prone to chopping and changing. About three weeks ago I realized I was absolutely furious with my sister for dying and leaving me her life. It started because it suddenly occurred to me that although my friends were reaching out to me to support me, I was focusing more time on my sister’s friends. Her friends are lovely, but something about it sparked a rage inside me that everything was so unfair that I’d been handed responsibilities and obligations that weren’t mine, and honestly I’ve been prone to being a bit tetchy at.. well.. everything ever since. Tetchy in that terribly British way where you quash the boiling lava of rage deep down inside you and wait for stomach ulcers.

Obviously after a short interlude (two days) I calmed down, took a step back in my diamond shoes, and looked at the bigger picture. Tragic death of sister aside, I am lucky. My situation is good, surrounded by caring people, everyone being very nice to me, and clear, well laid out plans being put in motion. I am very lucky, and I chose my situation. Some days it feels like I didn’t but I did, and I would choose it again.

Did that rational insight stop me from getting mega pissy with the Water and Power company who told me they have to put a 40ft pole in the corner of my sister’s garden? No. No it did fucking not. And 4 hours later I got furious again, not so much about the pole this time, but about the memory of the man-child (could have been any age with the mask and the hard hat, but had the social skills of a 13 year old boy) who patronizingly told me, “Well the neighbours have had a pole in their yard for years, now it’s your turn.” Fuck you child engineering prodigy, the neighbours bought their house with a pole in the yard, my sister did not. Are you compensating for the house value depreciation? No, I thought not. “We sent a letter yesterday.” Yeah you did Doogie Howser, and do you know what it didn’t mention? That you were going to dig a hole in the garden and put a fucking forty foot pole in there. It said COCK ALL ABOUT THAT.

So yaaars, that was me taking a step back and being rational.

Being angry, grumpy and just a bit fucked off in general, has been pretty par for the course. I just used a golfing term. I hate golf. I only like the version with tiny windmills and beer.

One of the things that got to me was a conversation when someone asked me a question about my sister’s finances. It is one in a long line of similar conversations with a variety of people. I find these chats disconcerting and they leave me feeling irked because I don’t think it’s okay to ask about someone else’s finances that don’t affect you. In my closest of close circle of friends, I have asked maybe two or three times in my life if someone is doing okay for money, I preface it with ‘Don’t feel obliged to answer this,” and I don’t ask how much they earn. They can tell me if they want, but it’s not my right to know, and if you can’t maintain a respectful friendship without knowing how much someone does or doesn’t earn then it’s not a genuine friendship.

Anyway, I have circumnavigated, evaded, danced around, and politely given vague half answers umpteen times because I have assumed these questions were coming from a place of concern, and I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable by saying bugger off and mind your own business. It’s also very natural for people to ask because when they inquire what I’ve been up to, it’s all post-death admin, I haven’t got anything new to tell them unless they’d like to hear about the things I’ve been streaming late at night, admittedly a riveting topic with the right audience. But actually, after a conversation where my interrogator got huffy with me when they didn’t get the answer they wanted, I don’t think it is coming from a place of concern, I think it’s just curiosity, plain simple nosiness.

So I’ve had enough of that, all future inquiries will receive short blunt answers and the gift of knowing that you have overstepped the mark.

In amongst all this ire and pissiness, I’ve had a fresh moment of horrific clarity. For nearly two months I’ve been getting hit sideways with grief when I think of something that my sister is missing out on. Which is ridiculous, because she is dead and doesn’t give a monkey’s that she not getting to use the high speed internet, or see the trees in bloom, or watch Hamilton on Disney Plus. Then there are the moments when I think of all the stuff that my niece will go through without her mother, those are excruciating. My heart breaks for my mum, she’s at the time of her life when she should be reaping the benefits of being a sweet old lady, daughters dropping in for cups of tea, grandkids rifling through the cupboards for cake. Instead she’s mostly confined to her home by the pandemic, sitting with the awful grief of watching her first born die, and remembering everyone else she’s loved that are now dead.

So, my moment of horrific clarity. Five days ago I had a vivid memory of something very normal: me and my sister watching a murder show on TV, glasses of wine, catching up on the daily gossip. It was like stepping barefoot on a nail. I’ve been thinking all this time that my big sister died, my sister’s sister died, my mother’s daughter died, my niece’s mother died, my nephews’ aunt died. It’s taken me 7 weeks to realize that I just lost a best friend.

I don’t understand why it took so long. What’s really bizarre is that from day one I’ve been thinking of how much pain my middle sister is enduring losing not just her big sister, but a best friend, her first friend, and I know without any doubt that she’s been feeling the same for me. I wish she were here instead of across the ocean. Stupid pandemic. Stupid moronic president and cowardly administration, placing an election above people’s lives. Ugh.

There are no big occasions left in my life for my big sister to miss out on, I’m not getting married, I’m not having a baby, I’m not winning a Pulitzer.. but I never get to have another night of having a second and third glass of wine with her while we analyze whatever crappy show is on the TV. There are no more weekend mornings of hanging out in the kitchen whilst she drinks coffee at a table like a grown up and I sit on the floor eating cereal, talking about our family and our friends, exes, work, school, fashion, books, all the small shit that is so indescribably precious. Instead it’s just me in the kitchen, not able to breathe, and gripping onto the sink waiting for the moment to be over.


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