I had custody of my little sister for awhile. She’s now independent. That was not the goal, and it happened more quickly than we planned but, well, there it is. We don’t talk much.
We didnt’ talk much when she lived with me, either. It was weird, trying to be her guardian when really we are just siblings. Siblings who are pretty close in age. I’m six and a half years older. That’s not a ton of life experience, really. It’s some, but not a ton.
But it wasn’t all a bad experience. I mean, we both lived. There was even some laughter. And it was nice to catch up with her after living apart and, indeed, not talking for so long. Nice to be around somebody from my family, who knew my past and who I had hundreds of inside jokes with. Somebody I didn’t have to explain my aversion to mayonaise to. Somebody who I used to pass sign-language notes with across the table. Somebody who will still burst into laughter when I say the line “stick out your tongue.” We did, after all, grow up together.
At one point I took her over to one of those movie rental kiosk things to get a couple of movies (Los Angeles to rural-ish Maine was a shift for her… not much in the way of entertainment). When you slide your card it asks for your zip code. Without really thinking I tapped “90-” first… and then hit back, and hit “04609.” My sister looked at me and laughingly said, “Still?” I had been about to type the zip code from back home. More than 5 years after I left, with 4 zip codes learned since then, I still defaulted to “90260” when I wasn’t thinking about it. And she recognized what I did, and smiled.
Yesterday my dad called. Our conversationgs are remarkably easy if only because we both have a mental script. “How’s work?” “how’s stepmom/grandmother/brother/stepsisters?” “well, nice talking to you” “give stepmom a hug for me” “bye.” He diverted from the script for a minute to say that he was helping grandma fix up her bathroom. I laughed and said, “oh, finishing Grandpa’s renovation, eh?”
Grandpa started that renovation when I was 4. He passed away two years ago, at which point finally somebody else was allowed to step in and help finish it up.
And my mind was immediately swimming with all of the memories of my grandfather. How any day’s work was shot if it didn’t start by 9:30am. How, “damnit, Charlotte! I’m thinking!” was basically his constant refrain. How his “thinking” involved sitting in his old brown arm chair, watching football on mute while he listened to his slightly out of tune radio talk politics at him.
All of that unvoiced but present in our conversation.