The sun is going down and I am remembering the same sun going down two years ago today on a fall afternoon, when we said goodbye to my sister Beth for the final time.
Our complex, funny, frustrating, and ultimately loving relationship is very much the reason I wanted a sibling for Henry. They shape you, right? Additionally, you get a partner in rolling your eyes at your parents. I want to equip my children well for such things.
So, today brings a lot of nice things for me: a wide-eyed baby scarfing buttery waffle chunks, and a small boy in tiny spider pajamas sitting rapt on the couch, listening closely to identify the animals in “Peter and the Wolf” for the very first time.
Still, a renewed sense of confusion and loss when I consider that it’s not just me who can be happy and sad at the same time, it’s all of the adults. Who isn’t sad or confused about something serious? Cancer, a drowned house, a relationship that’s run its course. My memories of this time two years ago are sad but they have an admittedly little warm rug of memories underlaying them. It’s like the thing I always forget to buy for the rug. The rug pad. The rug pad of memories is so functional. The rug pad of memories is better than a magic carpet.
The reason getting older is supposed to be easier is that you learn to embrace things all at the same time. Is this an advantage, or it is numbness? It’s like food — lots of things make you gag when you are a child: they are impossible to swallow, just as a lot of things emotionally flatten you. Then as you get older, you can handle more sadnesses with aplomb, and you stop picking the interesting flecks out of your food. Is maturing the same as deadening? Is it giving up?
Now I seek a bit of bitter in my food, and when it’s there, I appreciate it more. And while I don’t look for bitter in my life—or I like to think that I don’t—I do realize that it is part and parcel and that all experiences can furnish a bit of enrichment and enlightenment. I want to distill these things from whatever is offered to me. Sadness is part of living a whole life. It’s just true.
I’m still mad, though.
I love you, as ever, my sister.