29 April 2015

Dear Becky - Happy 65th Birthday - Wish You Were Here

Dear Becky,

Happy birthday! I can't believe you'd be sixty-five years old today. You've been gone for forty-two years and wow have you missed a lot of stuff. I couldn't begin to bring you up-to-date, but brace yourself -  you're not only an aunt to my son and daughter, you're a great aunt to three incredible little girls who were born last year. Can you imagine your little sister is now a Nana? How crazy is that?

You would absolutely adore Katie and Justin - I gave Katie your middle name and it suits her. She's happily married to a very tall and kind man named John. They are parents to two absolutely adorable twin daughters who were born on Halloween last year. Katie and John named one of their daughters after our Mom which would please her to no end if she were able to remember it.

Justin married a lovely young lady named Stephanie. Justin has a heart that is roughly the size of Texas, which happens to be where he was born back in 1986. He and Stephanie are very proud parents to a little girl named Evelyn, who is lovely and sometimes she reminds me of your baby pictures. She was born on September 8th last year, just seven weeks before her NYC cousins. You could say 2014 was a very fertile year for our family. 

Our Dad and Mom are now 90 and 91 years old. Can you freaking believe that? They've had an amazing life and are still just as madly in love as they must have been when you were born in 1950. They still do everything together, including snagging dual admissions to Lower Cape Fear Hospice. I've been their full-time caregiver for the past three years and I gotta tell you, it's getting kind of tough right now. Our Mom refers to me as "that woman" a lot of the time and she gives me a run for my money, just as you probably remember me giving her a few gray hairs. Daddy still smokes a pipe, still loves ice cream and plots to escape the house when I leave to run to the store. Much of the time they're still graciously affable but suffice it to say, we're losing serious ground down here.

God I miss you. I'll be honest, given that you died when I was thirteen, there's so much I don't remember about you but there's a few things that I do and I cling to those. You were always the "girly girl" who loved dresses, never had a hair out of place and wore beautiful clothes. Me? I may be fifty-five but I'm still a tomboy, love to work outside and I'm usually disheveled, in sneakers or barefoot and I'm stalked twenty-four hours a day by a small Cairn-Terrier named Sailor and a huge Newfoundland mix named Cleo. I couldn't survive any of this without them. If you arranged for me to meet them at New Hanover Sheriff's Animal Services Unit, I must thank you. They're both "rescues" but they rescue me on a daily basis.

Oh, I cook now. Go figure. I never wanted to be a nurse, but it turns out I've become one. Remember how Mom used to take care of our Granny? Yeah, well, I'm doing that times two. It's a little crazy. Everything is a little crazy down here.

Mom tells me there's a "little girl" hiding in our house and sometimes I wonder if she's thinking of you? Your photos hang in our parents room and they look at them often. I heard my Mom telling one of her hospice nurses about you the other day - she said you were their only daughter and you died a really long time ago. I see Dad looking at old family photos on his computer and quite often he's looking at photos from the 1950's and you're in most of them. They still miss you terribly - we all do.

I'm not at all sure what it's like where you are, but it's a circus down here. Mom still has your hope chest and it's sitting in the foyer of my home and folded neatly inside are some of your things; your graduation robe and the bridesmaid dress you wore in your best friend Nancy Linkous' wedding. Mom still has some of your jewelry and I even managed to keep a couple of trinkets you gave me before you went away.  Years ago Mom made a shadowbox containing your class ring, your charm bracelet, your wedding announcement and a small pennant pin from Welch High School. Oh, and I still have your French Provincial end tables in my living room. I've refinished them and they've held up quite well. 

I gotta tell you, I look at at the sky several times a week, usually after an exasperating encounter with Mom or Dad, and I usually say something glib like, "Wow, you're missing all the fun sister!", or "Thanks a lot!", but really, I'm only teasing. If you're looking down you probably smile a lot. For the most part it's been a pretty good ride but the ride is getting bumpy and winding down and I'm scared a lot of the time. 

I think of you every single day but I become extra sentimental every year on your birthday and, of course, on May 25th. My whole life has been divided into two parts - pre May 25 1973 when everything in my world felt safe and happy and my biggest decisions involved whether to play kickball or go fishing and then post May 25 1973 when you died and nothing was ever the same. Even though I was only thirteen and I didn't understand much about death, having never been around it, it was pretty much the most jarring event of my life. Talk about turning our little world upside down! I know it wasn't your choice either but geesh...that was a really sucky time!

I hope things are well for you up there and obviously the concept of heaven implies that all is wonderful and happy and I genuinely hope it is. I can't tell you when to expect Mom and Dad, but I'm sure they'll be thrilled to see you and I know you'll show them the ropes and just an FYI - Mom's just as bossy as she ever was, but she's definitely softened with age and when she's not railing to go back to West Virginia, she's incredibly sweet and has mellowed a great deal. Daddy - well - I just hope heaven has a smoking section where pipes are allowed because if they don't, I'm not sure he'll stay. Otherwise, he hasn't changed much at all. He's sweet, kind and for the love of God I hope when he transitions to your world that his hearing is restored because he flat out refuses to wear a hearing aid. Other than that, he's a sweetheart. 

Oh, one more thing - thank you for sending Sharon my way. If ever there was an embodiment of you, it's in my best friend and non-biological "sister" Sharon Pate Batts. My gosh, she has been a great pinch hitter for you - she is supportive, kind, loving, compassionate and not a bit shy about straightening me out when I need it, much as I imagine you would do if you were here. I can't imagine getting through the last fourteen years without her and I thank God she's part of my life. Sometimes I'm sure you're literally directing her advice and actions. You would absolutely love her. I know I do.

Hey, if I never told you and, given that I was fairly young when you flew up, me being a newly minted teenager and all, I probably wasn't all that great at expressing how much I loved you but please know, you left a huge impact on my life and even though I can't remember a lot of the details about you, I know I loved you lots. I still do. Sometimes I really do feel you with me and I love those moments. I really hope I see you again (sorry, but not any time soon - I have granddaughters to spoil!), but the first thing I want to do is give you a big huge hug and the second thing I want to do is ask you what in the world were you thinking to leave me in this mess?? 

Becky, I miss you so much it hurts sometimes. Don't worry though, I'm doing the best I can and now that I have hospice, I have some great help with our Mom and Dad. I won't let any of us down. Promise.  I can't say I'm having a wonderful time, but I sure wish you were here.

All my love to you,