Baggage Handling

I haven’t seen my sister in a little over two years. It’s not that we aren’t close (although, I’m not sure if we are close anymore – or indeed if we ever really have been properly, at least not without something else being in the way: oh, it’s complicated…) it’s more the case that we are geographically far apart and neither of us is blessed with limitless funds or a love of public transport. Guilt and love (ah, family…) made me more certain than ever that we should meet up this year and so I scrabbled together the airfare and have packed my case: getting the baggage right is very important, I find.

The last time we met up was a year after we had furtively scattered my mother’s ashes around Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens . (We had conscientiously researched which plants might not mind a scattering of ash and bone, although to be honest it would have been entirely in keeping with my mother’s character if her mortal remains had killed off a plant or two – she had a mistrust of greenery and a toxic relationship with most, if not all,  houseplants) After having gone through the relentless cruelty of her illness- cancer of the pancreas with which she was diagnosed on Christmas Eve 2001, the year she retired from work- and the debilitating numbness of grief after she died, we weren’t very sociable and spent much of our time in each other’s company piecing together the fragments and fractures of our family history.
Much of it was hysterical (-her father was a getaway driver who disappeared mysteriously – rumour has it after grassing when a bank-job went wrong; our grandfather and his brother “Dock Magicians” – small-time East-End gangsters who could make anything appear on your doorstep for a price; my grandmother the daughter of a suffragette- who once took an axe to her errant husband only to drop it on her own foot, thus losing a toe, but never missing a beat in her berating of him) much of it dark (-my mother’s post-natal depression that made my sister my carer at the age of ten until she was seventeen and couldn’t take any more and so moved out; my father’s cruel, calculating abuse of my sister, degrading and demeaning -and what would now be termed “grooming”- her [and later me, to a lesser extent] as a power trip with sinister sexual overtones; my mother’s abject denial to intervene even when she was pleaded with to face my father; my mother’s many bouts with depression in later life, her anguished suicide attempts and the long hours my sister and I both spent at our respective universities, pleading with her to get help while we were self-medicating with drink and drugs and pretending that everything was fine…). All of it was necessary in order to heal.

So, two years later we are both in different jobs, in different places in our lives and, although we speak to each other on the phone, send emails, texts and still have that easy shorthand of communication that exists in families, we are almost different people. Almost, but not quite. I hope that this time when we meet up we can focus on the present and the good, put the pain of the past aside for a while and that we can actually be close, either again or for the first time, depending on how you see it – with no secrets, hidden half-truths and guilty embarrassments. I’ve missed my sister. I’ve missed having a sister for years really. I’d better re-check my case: it’s the only baggage I want to take with me.

2 comments:

Anne said...

Sure wish I could do that (dispense with the baggage). Although I guess I tote it around freely enough. I guess I wish I knew how to dispense with it.

c'lam said...

i hope it went well.