Friday, April 10, 2015

On the Occasion of Daniel McAteer's Birthday

Today is my friend Daniel McAteer’s thirty seventh birthday.


This is a picture of Daniel looking very cool.



When I first met Daniel, I thought, although I knew, that I could have given birth to this man.  My eldest son Nicholas Jordan Ettinger Ravel is six years younger than Daniel McAteer.

Daniel & I met during my most recent sojourn in the offshore industry. Actually, I heard about him several weeks before we met in person.

A clerk working for my company’s client sent me an email, telling me that Daniel needs this information in this format, blah, blah, blah.

I went to my supervisor & asked her who the hell is this Daniel & why do I need to send him information?

My boss told me she knew nothing about a Daniel & perhaps I should send the clerk a note, with my title & ask who the hell is this Daniel character.

Whatever I wrote, whomever my boss spoke to about Daniel, his boss, Graham Copperwaithe, asked me to a meeting in the shipyard in Sabine Pass or Orange, Texas – some shipyard town on the Gulf Coast, to meet with Daniel & coordinate an information exchange.  I have been trying since the beginning of this project to get Daniel onboard, Graham told me, but he was on another project & Daniel does not leave until the job is done.

I loved Graham Copperwaithe.  I loved the silly, funny nicknames he called his wife.  I loved his honesty when we spoke of what it is like to work your life in the offshore industry.  I loved that he never told anyone anything more about the Saturday he & were the only people at the Songa Offshore USA offices when he saw me deposit goodies bags for Mother’s Day on my co-workers desks than:  There was a lot of activity that day.

There was a lot of activity that Saturday before Mother’s Day – I instinctively checked my email & the fax machine.  There was a fax for Graham.  The last page was the first page I saw:

Fuck you, Graham.

So I met Daniel in a trailer conference room (those who have never been to a shipyard probably cannot envision a conference room in a trailer but there are double & triple wide trailers in the oil business.)

Of course, since he called it, Daniel conducted the meeting.  He needed something from each one at the table, everyone needed something from everyone else & we all needed something from Daniel.

At the end of the meeting, every person of the table left believing that they got everything they came for – including myself.

And Daniel got everything on his list from everyone at the tale.

I remember watching Daniel as he gathered his things from the table & thinking, grasshopper, you just wove us all into the tapestry you wanted.  I write that now, but I think at the time I thought, Fuckin’ well done, Daniel.

It was masterful.

In my memory, I think that Daniel knew that I understood exactly what, that he was leaving the conference table victorious & that everyone else at the table felt the same victory.   

I clearly remember, looking at him & thinking, this man just read my mind.

Daniel is a man who called me dearest with affection; a man who loves his wife, Kelly, & his mother, & his sister & his sister’s children.  A man who wears a kilt with pride.  A man who got married on a mountain top with a helicopter instead of a limo as the get way transportation.

A man whose voice I still hear when he posts on Facebook – although in the past his accent, so deeply imbedded with his soul in Scotland, more than once baffled me after too many sips of Scotch.

Daniel McAteer turned 37 today.  I could have given birth to him.  Instead, I have been given the privilege of knowing him.

Daniel & his wife Kelly, who I believe is his soul mate, have plans for when they leave their current gig in Singapore. 

Daniel & Kelly are taking a year & then some to travel the world.  A grand adventure all their followers hope to share in pictures & blurbs from across the globe.

As do I.  Although I am hoping that one of them, or each of them, or together – I am hoping for a journal.  A chronicle to answer the question:  Where in the world are Dan & Kelly McAteer?

So, on this day, Daniel McAteer’s 37th Birthday, on the eve of the next great exploration in his life, I sayWell done, my friendHold tight to Kelly & keep the adventure alive.

And if you & Kelly find yourselves in Texas during the next year, find me.  And remember to call me dearest.  Happy Birthday, Daniel.




Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Thoughts on Good Friday, Scintillating Moments & Code Blue in Room 236


Day thirty-seven at Kindred Hospital.  Good Friday, 2015.

During this soiree, and our week at Methodist Hospital in Sugar Land, Jean & I have experienced both scintillating & stormy days.  Some days are diamonds, some are stone.

Today did not begin as a sparkling day – even the sun hides behind the clouds &the air hangs muggy with just enough humidity to suck the energy out of your body & soul.

Jean’s primary care physician of many years returned after a brief trip out of town.  As always, he asked Jean how she was feeling.  On each of our prior days in captivity, Jean’s reply has never varied.

Until this morning.

This morning, instead of her standard I am good or I am well, or I am fine, Jean told Dr. Patel:

I am mad.

I looked at Jean & Dr. Patel looked at me before asking her Why are you mad?

Because they poked & prodded & pricked me & it hurt.

Dr. Patel asked Jean if the nurses drew blood & when she said yes, I got up & looked at her arm.

Blood is drawn from Jean’s picc line every few days to monitor the level of antibiotic her body is absorbing.  If the level falls, the pharmacist increases the dosage.

This is Jean’s third picc line in thirty seven days.  The first stopped working, its replacement caused an infection.  For how long, no one can say.  But early after its insertion, nurses were unable to draw blood from the picc line & began poking & prodding & pricking to feed the vampires I am certain are sequestered in the hospital lab.

Shifts came & went, & every time blood was drawn, Jean was pricked & poked & prodded several times before the blood gave itself up to feed the ravenous lab dwellers.

Jean’s veins are tricky.  Deceptive in appearance, they disappear at the approach of a needle.  More often than not, if an IV is successfully inserted, the vein blows in defiance of the invasion.

Jean’s tricky, elusive veins are selective about whom to entrust with the life product they carry – no phlebotomist fails to draw blood with one prick of the needle.  Nurses & doctors seldom experience success the first or second or third attempt.

Her second picc line developed an infection & had to be removed for a vacation of several days.  But when multiple attempts to insert an IV into her arms failed, her doc ordered a third line.

After a week of watching the nurses at Methodist Hospital in Sugar Land struggle to draw blood & replace IV lines – & watching Jean’s eyes brim with silent tears of anger at the invasion, tears of frustration at what she perceived as a lack of nursing skill, holding her breath & wincing in pain – I wanted a prick & poke & prod & pain free six weeks for her at Kindred.

Why the nurse assigned to Room 229 last night decided to draw blood from Jean’s arm instead of the picc line, I still do not know.  Uncharacteristically, I slept through the incident.

I obsess about why the nurse was unable to draw blood from the line – is the line functioning?  Is there another leak?  Did the nurse have a brain freeze & not use the line? I embark on a vain search for a supervisor.  Dr. Patel assures me he will find out why the nurse took blood out of Jean’s arm.

I gather my tote bag of empty plastic bags & an empty pitcher brought with us from Methodist (it took two weeks to get a pitcher of less quality & durability from Kindred) & head to the first floor, to procure ice for the morning.

Sometimes I drive to the nearest convenience store & pay almost $3 for a ten pound bag of ice – past visits to Kindred have left me gun shy about asking a CNA to bring me ice from the only source of ice on the second floor – a machine behind locked doors.

But this morning, I do not want to play nice.  I don’t care about trying to live my life as a kinder & gentler Jaki Jean.  I am angry at the nurse who hurt Jean, I am angry at myself for sleeping through the incident; I am angry because the supervisor’s office is dark & empty of human form.  I am angry at every infraction, every slight, every error, every real & perceived neglect & mismanagement in my mother’s care during our stay at Kindred.

As I near my destination on the first floor, compiling & editing & no doubt embellishing my list of grievances, a voice comes over the hospital’s loud speaker:

Urgent Assistance needed in Room 236.

The voice repeats the call several times until the required assistance is more than urgent:

Code Blue in Room 236.  Code Blue in Room 236.  Code Blue in Room 236.

The door to the Conference Room flings open, white coats flying as the bodies inside them run to the elevators.

My heart falters, my list of grievances turns to dust & I realize that I don’t know who is in Room 236, which is across the hall from our space in 229.  Room 236 was empty for weeks & I was oblivious to the arrival of a new resident.

I say a prayer, wishing I were Catholic so I could cross myself.  I remember that it is Good Friday & I shudder at what a loss during a holiday weekend might mean for the survivors.

As I gather ice, I think about the only other Code Blue I have heard during our weeks at Kindred Hospital – Code Blue in ICU #5.   I wonder about the outcome of that call & realize that I have immunized myself against the call to ICU #5 – ICU is on the first floor & out of my sight.

But the door to Room 236 is in my sight, visible from my spot in Room 229 unless I draw the curtain to block the outside world without shutting our door.  I say another prayer for a family I do not & will never know & walk slowly back to the elevators.

On the second floor, I round the corner to our wing.  Our part of the wing is spacious, with three large windows at the end of a wide, uncluttered corridor.
 
The space is empty of human forms, the crash cart usually stored against a wall outside our room is gone.  The door to Room 236 is closed.

As I unpack my stash of ice, I see that the valve used to connect Jean’s nebulizer to Oxygen is gone, the nebulizer flung on the chest of drawers next to Jean’s bed.  I hear a voice cry out over & over again.

No.  No.  No.  No.  Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

The grief & pain are palatable.  I can feel the loss in that cry fill the empty space, feel it cross the corridor, breaching my body & my soul. Calling forth memories of other cries, other losses.

My mother holding my father’s lifeless body, asking Jack, don’t leave me.  I remember how cold his skin felt when I touched him face & hands.  I feel & remember my mother’s reaction to the news of her own father’s death.  My father Jack rushing to Jean’s side to gather her up in his arms as she fell against a wall.

The door to our room is open.   A housekeeper is cleaning.  I gather myself, watching Jean, who cannot yet hear the cries from the hall.

A voice cries out Mama & this time Jean can hear it.  I don’t want her to feel it, to feel the grief & recall other times of grieving so I move to close the door.

A case worker is holding a stricken daughter, holding her tightly, absorbing every cry & every sob.  The case worker’s eyes meet mine & I begin to weep for a woman & a daughter & a family I do not & will never know.

I close the door quietly, desperately wanting to give this woman a semblance of privacy in which to absorb & mourn her mother’s death.

As I try to compose myself so that Jean does not absorb my inexplicable empathy with the woman in the open space outside our room, the housekeeper watches me, her face stoic, eyes curious.  She does not stop sweeping a dry mop across the floor.

Because she is watching me, because I cannot compose myself & want to openly weep, I do what I always do when I cannot compose myself.  I speak, attempting to explain my reaction.

It is hard, it is just so hard.
Without missing a stroke of the mop, the housekeeper shrugs & says:
We’re used to it.  We see it all the time.

Her words cut the cord connecting me to the woman still weeping in the hallway.

I wonder about this young woman cleaning our room.  Who, what is she?  What kind of a being is so hard at so young an age that any, every death does not diminish a piece of her own soul?

Eventually it is quiet outside our door.  I need to go to the store to get chocolate pudding for Jean – she does not care for the vanilla pudding offered her as a set-up to mix with the probiotic granules she takes three times a day to combat an onslaught of C-Diff.

Opening our door, I see the family of the woman in Room 236 has begun to gather.  Room 236’s door is open & I hear muffled cries.   As I walk away to set about on my errand, I can distinguish exclamations of anger & disbelief mingled with words of comfort & strength – all the components of sorrow & loss are present.

Later, when Jean’s lunch arrives, the space in our corridor is populated with family members.  There are no chairs in the open space – people settle on the floor, against walls, against one another.  Room 236 is not as large as our room – we have one of the rooms that used to hold two patients. 

I know the death has been reported, because I saw the Sugar Land police leaving the facility when I returned from my errand. I wonder why no one has come for the body.

It is new to me, this gathering of family & friends to visit the body at the hospital.  I have never experienced it.  But I have learned from my friend Jermaine, who works in the cafeteria downstairs, that it is not unusual for a body to remain for hours before being removed to a funeral home.

Jermaine tells me that the deceased woman & her daughter were recent arrivals to Kindred.  But not new to the facility – they had spent their own soirees together at Kindred.  He told me :  Her daughter is like you.  She stays with her mother all the time.

Jean’s favorite pastor from Sugar Creek Baptist Church, Jay Myers, arrives for a visit & I tell him about the recent death.  Jay asks me if there is a Chaplin on staff at Kindred. 

I tell him that I have never seen one & what was once the chapel here has been converted to an office.  I have seen a priest from time to time – I noticed him because he is so tall that he has to duck when he enters the elevator.

As Jay visits with Jean, I think about the first time Jean & I were at Kindred for the pressure wound.  We were in this same corridor, a few doors down in Room 232. 

We had a CNA (I no longer remember her name) who prayed with Jean every time she came to the room.  I learned her story over our weeks that October in 2012.  She was a transplant from Louisiana, one of the victims of Hurricane Katrina who decided to plant new roots in Texas.  She was recently married – a good man -  she met at a Bible Study she conducted among her fellow refugees at the apartment complex in which they both lived during the first months after leaving their temporary home in the Astrodome.

I know very little of the story of the women who resided in Room 236.   I know one was a mother, one a daughter who cared for her mother & who, according to my friend Jermaine in the cafeteria downstairs, always had a smile & a cheerful greeting.   And I know that a community of family & friends is diminished by her death.

Later in the afternoon, the corridor of our wing is empty, the crash cart returned to its storage spot outside our room.  A nurse is tending to it, rearranging supplies.  Patrick from respiratory arrives & I tell him that the Oxygen connection he uses for Jean’s breathing treatments is missing.  I found the nebulizer on the chest next to Jean’s bed.

It was needed across the hall.  I will get another.

I look out the window & the sun has made an appearance.  Sunlight filters through the window in our room.  I look out our door & sun rays fill the now empty space.

Scintillating, a scintillating moment.

Room 236 is being cleaned.  The family & the body are gone & with the sunlight, I remember that it is Good Friday.

A day when others are attending Good Friday services, watching & participating in re-enactments of the Stations of the Cross, remembering the Cross & the Sacrifice of our Lord.  Revering the enormity brought about by Christ’s death.   A day of praise & thanksgiving.

At last I think about that Friday thousands of years ago, when Christ called out & gave up his spirit.  The earth shook,  rocks split, tombs opened & the veil in the Temple separating man from the place where God dwells was torn in two. (Matthew 27: 51-52, NIV – Jean’s preferred translation.)

Mankind restored to Grace, restored to God.

This Friday a woman occupying Room 236 of Kindred Hospital gave up her spirit.  The world she exited shook, hearts broke, a stone rolled away & her restored spirit went home.


And I whispered another prayer, humbled by this day & that Friday afternoon before a long-ago Sabbath.   Grateful for scintillating moments ofSelah.  


Monday, February 16, 2015

. . . if I could sing with Jean . . .



As time passes, my mother Jean sings more & more.

Now, in the best of times, when Jean was fully in control of her voice & her body, she sang with sentiment & enthusiasm but would never be chosen for a solo in any choir.
It amazes me that while both of my parents enjoyed & appreciated music, neither Jean nor my father Jack could sing in the center of the note.

Their second daughter, my sister Janet, sings like an angel conceived in a dream.  I have mentioned this more than once.  But it just amazes me, that Jean & Jack, both with voices of a different note, produced a voice that gives glory & honor to praising the Lord.  In song.  Always in the center of the note.

When Jean sings now, if you don’t know her, you think she is moaning or perhaps, in pain.  Sometimes I  think she is moaning or in pain.  And when I ask, she assures me that she is singing.

It would be disingenuous if I did not admit that Jean’s singing drives me a little crazy.

And then I remind myself how I will miss my mother’s voice when she leaves us.

A Facebook friend of mine, Juan Rangel, forwarded at my request a list of life lessons he & his wife read to his son Juan every morning & every night & then discuss on Sunday mornings.

I felt I needed to read & reread those lessons, to remind myself about what is important in this life.  Lesson # 22 is:

Get to know the people you love.  Love them as humans-in-progress.

And I was reminded that we are all works in progress.  When we stop growing, when we stop changing, when we stop aging, we leave this world to return home.

Works in progress do not cease to contribute when a body fails its host.  Works in progress to not cease to contribute when the skin needs more lotion to remain smooth, not when the hair needs oil to make it soft, not when the legs no longer function.

Works in progress do not cease to contribute when the sound of a voice singing is mistaken for something else.

When Jean’s Occupational Therapist Ronald visits, her singing does not drive him crazy or irritate him.  He sings with her.  During the time Ronald spends with Jean, our room & the house resonate with laughter & song.

If I could sing, I would sing with my mother.
 
But that is not my gift. 

Instead, I put on music for us when we turn off the TV & the lights.  The last offering was Bill Medley.  Jean loves Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga.  And Josh Groban & Johnny Cash.  Tonight I think we will listen to Rachmaninoff & Tchaikovsky. 

Because music is not just about lyrics or sounds or what is mistaken for moaning.

Music is about the soul.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Jaki Jean on the Little Red Ball & the Snare of Memory

Memory is a snare, pure & simple:  it alters, it subtly rearranges the past to fit the present.  (p.95)  Mario Vargas Llosa, The Story Teller .

In the wake of the fallout from journalist Brian Williams misremembering that he had been shot down in a helicopter in a war zone, when in fact, he was in another helicopter, I want to write about the snares of memory.

In my soon to be sixty plus old mind, I remember an incident from my childhood that convinced me my mother Jean betrayed & failed me.

We were still living in Dallas & my parents had a couple & their children over for dinner.  We had visited the couple & their children at their home, so it was a return invitation.

All of the children were deaf, all  read lips & some were able to verbalize.  Or at least that is how I remember it. 

After dinner, or perhaps before – the snare of memory is like that & for this story it does not matter – I played with the girl closest to my age.    I showed her my dollhouse.

Now, my dollhouse was not one of those gorgeous architectural reproductions – it was of metal, not wood.  I had no reproductions of fine furniture or art or carpets.  But I did have a little red ball in the corner of one of the rooms.



I no longer remember why I loved that little red ball – or why I thought that it was the finest, reddest, most perfect little red ball I had, in my then few short years of experience, encountered.

When the family left, the girl I played with went up to Jean, my perfect little red ball in her hand, & asked if she could have it.

Jean gave it to her.

Because so much time has passed, I cannot remember my reaction. 

Except for anger & disappointment & an inexplicable sense of loss of the perfect little red ball.

That was embellished & rewritten & remembered through the filter of a story teller.  A snare of memory.

Over our years together as adult daughter & ever so slightly older mother, I have talked to Jean many times about the little red ball & how she gave away my treasure.

One year a long day ago,  at Christmas or my birthday, Jean gave me a present & in the box, outside the tissue paper covering what was inside, was a little red ball.

That discovery was not a snare of memory, but a wonder & affirmation of a mother’s love.

This afternoon, I left my workspace & writing to ask Jean if she remembered the incident & story of the little red ball.

She did not. 

And that is just another one of the snares of memory.

Over the years, I have misremembered many incidents.  I have confused time & space & players.  Not to mention conversations.

I don’t think I have misremembered the incident of the little red ball or confused time & space & players.  I don’t think the snare of memory has taken that incident from me.

I think Jean gave our guest, a little girl who could not hear, the brilliantly red ball I cherished, because she needed it  far more than I ever would.

We all misremember – especially if we are storytellers or writers.  We embellish, we recreate, we make the story something our friends or public want to hear or read.

Memory is filtered by many things – time & space & experience.  Perception & state of mind & maturity.   By the audience, by who is listening or reading or wondering.   By events.  But always, it is a snare, altering, rearranging, rewriting, sculpted to fit in the moment.



PS:  I am certain the perfect, most brilliant little red ball came from one of these.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Maiming Jean, Memory & Forgiveness



This afternoon, I pulled out nail trimming & grooming supplies & perched on a stool next to the bed to take care of my mother Jean’s nails. 

Sitting on the stool, I went after her left hand first.  It is the hand most affected by her Parkinson’s, several fingers are extremely uncooperative, but slowly, I trimmed her nails & cleaned the remains underneath & tried in my inept way (there is a reason I used to be a regular at a nail salon) to shape them with an Emory board.

The doorbell rang & our manicure session was interrupted by the home health care nurse, the effervescent & charming Sheila. 

As Sheila interacted with Jean, I sat nearby & started to re-read The Velveteen Rabbit because of a post by my friend Jo-Ann McCoy.

Before Sheila left, she was laughing at something Jean said & I was adamant about what bandage I wanted her to use (I had the bandage, but I have learned over the years that it is best not to confess to home health care that my sister keeps me the best equipped home health care giver in history). 

Besides, it is the bandage Jean’s wound care doctor & nurse wrote in their orders.

After Sheila left, I moved the stool to Jean’s right side & began to trim the nails on her right hand.  All went well until I reached her pinky.

And I cut her finger with the clippers. 

Suddenly I was thirty or thirty six & cutting a baby’s nails & nipped a piece of flesh & it seemed to bleed forever.  I cleaned it – I bandaged it,  I cried & apologized & it still kept bleeding.

It seemed to me that the nick was bleeding forever.

I went extreme & called Sheila of our Home Health Care Service & she calmed me down, gave me instructions.  Instructions I already knew & was following.  I wanted someone to tell me that I had not maimed my mother, that Jean was not going to bleed to death.

Of course, the bleeding stopped & I put on a bandage & gave Jean a choice of leftovers from lunch or yogurt & fruit.  She chose yogurt & fruit (raspberries) & after I tossed it with honey, I grated dark Ghirardelli chocolate into the mix.

Still feeling guilty.

As Jean ate, I finished reading The Velveteen Rabbit.  Pondering about the nicks & wounds we inflict on those we love, on those we encounter, on those with whom we share time & space & memories.

I did not remember buying The Velveteen Rabbit for either of my sons.  So I went back to the pages where people (like me) write an inscription.

The inscription reads simply:  87  Merry Christmas Nick.

No signature.  At first I was at a loss who gave this book to my son Nicholas in 1987. 

I spent a ridiculous amount of time & energy trying to remember, trying to determine who gave my son such a lovely book without leaving a signature.  I have my suspicions, based on the handwriting & timeline & the 87, written with a line across the middle of the seven, in European fashion.

Of course, in the end, I realize that it does not matter who gifted the book back in 1987 without a signature.  The gift, the book, is still lovely.

But there is a part of me, not a nick on a pinky, but something deeper, a bit buried, that longs to remember & grieves for not knowing.  

Jean forgave the pinky nick I inflicted this evening.  I am sure she has forgiven much deeper, longer lasting wounds I have inflicted on her in the last six decades.   But Jean is a much finer person than I.



Because I cannot seem to find it in me to forgive the person who gave my son a book & wrote a date but did not offer a signature.   Anymore than I can forgive myself for not remembering.



Sunday, January 18, 2015

Jaki Jean, Jean & Mini Muffins



Several years ago, I mentioned to my sister Janet that I wanted a mini muffin pan, because I could cook muffins for our mother Jean that she could handle with a fork & her Parkinson’s.  I would no longer have to slice a muffin beyond recognition.

I am convinced that a major part of the joy of eating really lovely things is visual.  Presentation in food preparation, as in anything, is essential.

Not long after that, Janet & her husband David’s brother in law Dave died.  Dave was preceded in death by David’s sister Linda & their only child, Katie.  Janet found a mini muffin pan at the estate sale & bought it for me.

Since then, I have struggled with this kitchen implement.  I wanted to be able to take my favorite muffin recipes & make mini muffins.  I googled, I researched, I looked in vain for a formula to convert 12 muffins to 24 mini muffins. 

I even bought mini muffin liners.  Adorable liners.  Every recipe I tried was a disaster.

The results were always the same.  Never 24 yummy, moist, mini muffins, just 24 inedible rocks.

Then last week, as I was getting Jean positioned for lunch, Daphne Oz of ABC’s The Chew was preparing a recipe for Sweet Potato Brownie Bites without all the calories.

Right up my alley.  So I pulled out the mini muffin tin that belonged to Linda & tried Daphne's recipe.

And my friends, although I made two small changes to the recipe, using dark chocolate chips instead of mini milk chocolate chips & substituting dark cocoa powder for cocoa powder, the results were amazing.

Moist dark brownie bites that melt in your mouth.

I did not douse my Brownie Bites with confectioner’s sugar but I may do that for Jean’s dessert bites today.

So, look out culinary world.  Now that I have conquered using a mini muffin tin, I have no limits.  No boundaries.  Be prepared.

To all brownie fans, mini muffin tin fans & brownie bite fans, here is the link to this yummy recipe without all the calories:



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

On Gifts & my Sister



I thought a lot about what I wanted to write for the dawn of this New Year – which I have every expectation of being glorious & celebratory.  Somehow it seemed natural that I would write this.

Sometimes you receive gifts you long for, sometimes you receive gifts you need, & sometimes, miracle of miracles, you receive a gift that you did not know you wanted or needed but fits perfectly in the center of the note.

Years ago, before I had children but still visited my parents’ house, my sister Janet gave me one of those gifts that fit perfectly in the center of the note.  Sitting at our parents’ table, she listened to my tales of my life in the inner city & my obsession with one graffiti laden wall in downtown Houston.

That Christmas, Janet gave me three black & white photos of my favorite graffiti laden wall.



I still cherish them, spending too much time trying to create the right frames for displaying them again.

We no longer sit at our parents’ table, my sister & I.  Sometimes we sit at one of my barley twist tables to share a holiday meal.  These are fine moments.

But my sister listens to me on Facebook just as she once listened to me at our parents’ table.   And this year, although we have never discussed the PBS show I crave, she gave me the first four seasons of Downton Abbey on DVD for Christmas.

Amazing.

A few days later, I asked her to have her daughter Emily Kate Douglas deliver Janet’s copy of Frozen, which I had not seen but so needed to hear about letting go.  (And, in all honesty, this was a manipulative move on my part so I could meet Emily’s boyfriend Zach.  How great is that name?)



I could have downloaded the song, but I really, really wanted to see the movie Rosie O’Donnell claims is the best animated film ever.  And I really wanted to see Emily Kate & meet Zach in person.

So Janet brought over Emily & Zach (never was there ever a more adorable couple) & my own copy of the sing along version of Frozen.

Right in the center of the note.  Again.

That is my sister.  Whose voice is so different from mine.   We have different takes on so many things, we are so very different, but we both have a voice.   I write.  She sings.

She sings like an angel who has yet to be created.  She lifts up her voice & everyone listens.  It is a beautiful, awesome voice, a lovely soul behind it.

That is my sister, who gives me gifts right in the center of the note.

The most glorious & totally undeserved gift is her love.