These are the sort of vacations that the girls will have fond memories of when they look back on their childhoods: a house full of family, meals eaten outside. This is a 70th birthday to remember – surrounded by family, a surprise Hawaiian dinner cooked by a son and a birthday cake baked in Seattle and transported 100 miles by car and ferry. Deer wandered into our backyard in the evenings and we saw the full spectrum of stars at night.
Orcas Island was the first island I visited in the San Juans and it’s still magical 21 years later. It remains one of my favorite places on earth.
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Looks like we escaped that crazy, record breaking rainstorm on Long Island just in time. We were watching the weather all day, wondering if our flight would get delayed, but it was on time and we even flew in 45 minutes early, missing the storm on the East Coast by a few hours. I feel like we’ve had some good weather karma this summer, escaping rain on market days when it’s been in the forecast.
The days here in Washington so far have been drizzly and cool. We come in August because it’s usually a guarantee of the best weather of the year. The sun usually shines and the temps are warm but dry, and it feels like an escape from the humidity back home. This summer in NY, however, have been unusual in that we barely hit above 85 degrees and for the most part, wasn’t as humid as you would expect when you conjure up images of hazy East Coast summers. The weather this summer has been spectacular, in fact. The grayness here so far has been fine – typical of weather here year round and it reminds me of the days when I lived here. I think about our vaguely loose plan of moving back here in 20 or so years – you know, when we’re ready to retire or whatever that means, and whether I can truly get used to the damp and the gray again. I get cold easily. But it feels good right now, wrapping a jacket and a sweater when we’re out in the mornings and putting on socks for what seems like the first time in weeks.
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This has been a summer of loss. Another member of our family passed away yesterday – a woman who I grew fond of and who ironically, grew closer to our family by reading this blog. She used to comment here regularly up until recently when she became ill and would email wondering if I was ok when I didn’t post everyday. After it was clear that she wasn’t up to traveling to Washington this summer as she did every summer where we’d meet, we talked about meeting up in Hawaii instead next summer where she lived. I thought about her yesterday when I read that Hawaii was bracing itself for 2 hurricanes, but I didn’t expect this bit of news quite yet. Marie, I’m sorry that we won’t have a chance to meet up next summer as we talked about in our emails.
My side of the family had been spared the devastation of loss up until my brother died. In that respect we’ve been fortunate, but I think it’s also why my brother’s death was so profound. Everyone felt the shock of it during our memorial at the cemetery when our whole entire family gathered for our first funeral. We have a family plot reserved for several members of our family, but nobody expected that the first name to be etched on a grave would be one of the youngest, or that our 92 year old grandmother would survive her grandchild.
In a lot of ways the last 2 weeks have been harder than the 2 months following the initial shock. That’s why I embraced office life this summer even though the idea of working in one would have been a deal breaker for me in the past. I don’t really think about things other than the work when I’m there, but when I’m home, I often find myself just staring into space. I know my mom feels the same way. Certain days just catch you off guard though, and I found myself crying on the subway Monday morning on the way to the doctor’s office rather randomly. But…I thought I was starting to move past all this? But no. When you live through a tragic and traumatic death, there really is no easy way to move past anything.
A friend of mine recently asked me if I felt like an only child now. My answer was yes, I do.
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The thing about grief is that eventually everyone moves on, but those who are hit the hardest stay suspended in time, frozen, unable to move. The strangest form of loneliness is felt when you’re out of sync like this with the rest of the world. I listen to music a lot. Sometimes I stare at nothing because I feel nothing and other times I feel too much. But most of the time I don’t know what to feel.
I spent 6 days in California last week, a trip that was often confusing, but necessary. Sometimes with siblings it’s easier to remember how we were as children when we were still living under the same roof than to think of ourselves as adults when years of physical distance separates us. I know that he didn’t consider California his home–his heart was always here in NY–but what I came to know about my brother was that he was loved by his community. Our family always knew my brother was smart, but I don’t think we really ever realized how brilliant he was and that was something that came up time and again as we talked with his friends and colleagues. He was a dedicated professional, respected in his field of veterinary medicine, only 1 of a few hundred board certified critical care specialists in the world. More than that, however, it was clear from the crying faces of some of his clients that he made a difference in people’s lives.
I don’t believe that there is really ever any closure. You sort of just learn to go about your life with this new thread that’s knit into your being. I only hope that I too can someday make a difference in people’s lives the way my brother did in his.
P.S. thank you for all your words. I will always carry them with me.
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You’ve been gone now for a week. When I got the news at first, I didn’t feel anything. I couldn’t cry and I kept asking myself, why am I not crying? Maybe because I had been preparing myself all day for…what, I wasn’t sure, but I knew something was wrong. They say that twins have a powerful connection and know things about each other, like some kind of empathic telepathy. Well, we’re not twins–I’m your older sister by 6 years, but I knew something was not right. I keep thinking about how I called you on your birthday last Monday while we were driving to have dinner with mom and dad and the girls sang happy birthday to you on speaker phone from the back seat. Did you ever hear that message? That message we left you haunts me. You didn’t pick up the phone. I was on pins and needles all day Tuesday when I still hadn’t heard from you.
All last week people were paying their respects and posting public tributes to Massimo Vignelli and Maya Angelou and it felt weird because I kept seeing all these RIP posts and messages everywhere on the internet while I was in my own private grief state. Dad told me that he had to put away all photos of you from the house that night because he couldn’t bear seeing pictures of you right now. I understand why he did it, but it felt like we were scrubbing you from our memories. Maybe this is why I’m writing this letter and posting it here…for who to read? I don’t know, but I felt like I needed to do something so that your life–and death–was acknowledged.
I still keep replaying that night over and over, having to call mom to tell her that you were gone. How do you break that kind of news to a mother? The morning after, I ushered the kids downstairs to our neighbor’s house to be walked to school and I haven’t really left the house much since then. I’ve cried, looked at old photos of us when we were kids, retraced through our last texts and phone calls, and thought about what your last day might have been like. We had only spoken to each other 2 days before.
We really miss you, but I hope you are at peace now. This is the only thing that comforts me. That and thinking about some of our childhood memories. Remember how we were both super obsessed with watching the weather forecasts on the news? Or how we watched the movie Aliens a billion times and memorized all the lines to Spinal Tap? How you, me and cousin Jeanie felt some weird guilt about not going to church when we were left in the house while mom and grandma went, so we conducted our own “church service” just to make sure we didn’t go to hell? I think about the suspenders that mom used to make you wear or your favorite orange wooden block; how you were obsessed with the Dukes of Hazzard and how we used to threaten you with “No Dukes!” when you didn’t do what we wanted. It feels weird to think that I might be an only child now. What does that even mean? I still have a brother; you’re just not with us anymore, the same way that mom and dad still have a son and your kids still have a father. I hope you know that a lot of people are missing you right now. You were loved. You ARE loved.
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