We left my 13 year-old sister Jan back in July of 1969 on the brink of taking care of me, her three month-old baby sister, for weeks on end all by herself – – even with her older sister and her father in the house. Our mother had been whisked off to the hospital to have some kind of bladder surgery that apparently took something like five weeks of in-hospital recovery time.
On Sunday, July 6th she had told her diary she supposed she would just have to “suffer and make the best of things.”
“July 7, 1969. Monday.
Boy, I never thought last night would ever come to an end. Boy, am I ever tired. Things seem kinda strange around with no baby. And I had that same old feeling all day today. I don’t know what kind it was. I know that I miss Jean and when I see her everything seems all better in a way.”
This entry is perplexing and sweet. What happened during the night of July 6? Did I cry and cry and cry and no one got any sleep? Did they have to foist me off on someone else at dawn? Who? Clearly I was not there that day, but Jan missed me!
“July 8, 1969. Tuesday.
Well, now, all things are back to normal. Mom came home this afternoon and we went to get the baby and all her stuff around 7 o’clock.
What a life. I tell you this weather sure doesn’t help a guy. Now that everything’s back to normal I’m going to get back to normal – – that is, back on my diet.”
Well, that settles the “I had to take care of you all by myself for weeks while Mom was in the hospital” story. Busted again.
Today, December 13th, is Jan’s birthday. She would have turned 60 years old today. Perhaps I should end this blog post with her December 13, 1969 diary entry:
“December 13, 1969. Saturday.
I was exactly correct about my statement I made yesterday about no one cares. No one does care – – in this house anyway. The only greeting I got was in catechism. At home here not a soul even mentioned the fact. No money, no present, no nothing. Boy, can that ever make a guy feel rejected.”
This is the mood that pervaded her life, that would catch her smiling sometimes and settle at the corners of her mouth and pull them back into place. That would see bubbles of joy rising on occasion and jump up to pop them before too many could escape. That would follow her everywhere, always, whispering: you’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, you’re not pretty enough, you’re not thin enough, you’re not enough.
I am glad you are at peace now, free from all that tormented you in life. In reality, me and the bedroom were probably the least of your troubles. I don’t plan on seeing you again for a long time, but maybe you could work on getting a bedroom ready for me? What do you say? Truce?