Strong words, if you know me. Sorry about that.
I know it may seem I should have been far more concerned about my dad's angiogram yesterday, and I sincerely was, but there was something that I was growing more and more pissed off about as the hours leading to the hospital visit came.
Mainly, Christine. Think Stephen King. Think evil car. Think possessed.
That's my sister.
My entire life, she made me miserable. I'll give A FEW EXAMPLES - I'm not going to tell you every time she pushed my buttons or was cruel...
From earliest memories - such as me pulling a blanket around the linoleum floor while she sat on it (such fun - swirling around the floor on the ride of her life!) and then when it was my turn to ride on the blanket while she pulled me around, Christine would say, "I don't want to play anymore." And picture this sort of thing happening repeatedly. I was a slow learner.
Christine & Me - I was maybe 7, she would have been 8
(Nice Mary Poppins lunchbox)
People in high school would come up to me and say, "How come you're so nice and your sister's such a b***h?" I never knew how to respond. I could agree, but she was, after all, my sister.
Every boyfriend she ever had would call me and ask why she'd dumped them and ask why she had been so mean to them? Welcome to my world, I wanted to say.
In our 20's, she saw a band and had the hots for one of the guys. She made me go with her one night (I resisted for a long time), and I'm not what you would would call a musician-type-of-girl. I always liked the clean-cut, all-American, athletic type of guy. But I said I'd go to see this guy. Crap. Somehow, I got the hots for him, too. She wasn't too thrilled about that. But he wasn't the long-haired musician I was expecting...
When we'd go see bands play with our girlfriends, guys would ask us to dance. We'd all say yes (usually...you know there's always some freak that even the nicest of us say no to...OK, after I said once out of sheer pity and guilt, I said no the second time), except Christine. Worse, she'd be terribly rude and point out that none of us had been introduced, and she didn't talk to strangers.
HUH? Isn't EVERYONE a stranger until you're introduced?
And THEN - Mom's heart attack. When my mom was 55, we all got calls that Mom was in the ER with a possible heart attack. We all drove to the hospital and as we waited in the hallway of the ER, we heard over the loudspeaker, "Code Blue in ICU...Code Blue in ICU." And we panicked! Turns out, it was indeed our mom and her heart had indeed stopped beating, but they brought her back with the ol' shock paddles. You remember the day you learned what a defibrillator is.
It's a terrifying time because a second heart attack is possible. And what a horrible thing to realize your body can take you without your permission. I was terrified.
Well, after one has a heart attack and is in ICU, they only let two people in at a time for a few minutes to see the patient, with large breaks in between. During one visit, my mom told me she was so tired and my other sisters' energy was so draining. Therefore, when the call came to the waiting room that it was time for two visitors, it was my turn - and Christine's. I simply told her to go without me. She said, "Why aren't you going in to see her?" "Don't worry about it, just go." "Why not? Why aren't you going? What's your problem?" And on and on. I kept calmly telling her to just go ahead and I'd go later. And she got right up to my face, gave me a sneer like I had never seen in my life, and slowly said, "Then I'm just gonna tell her you don't want to see her."
I punched her in the face before I knew what was happening.
You may have guessed that this was completely out of character for me. She ended up with a black eye. And I didn't care.
Oh, and when I was getting married, my mom made me make her a bridesmaid. She was so rude and terrible and awful and disrespectful throughout the whole process, I finally kicked her out of my wedding.
The ONLY time I ever saw her happy - and I swear, I am NOT exaggertaing - was when I was miserable, crying, or heartbroken over something.
Almost six years ago, we were planning my dad's 70th birthday party via emails between the 5 living sisters. She eventually sent an email asking who we were kidding, that none of us liked each other, and why on earth did we want to all get together. I pointed out, via email, that this wasn't about us, that it was about Dad. She shot back a message that simply said, "F- off!" I typed back (again, everyone is copied) that maybe that was the way she spoke to the people in her life, but that this was not how I communicated with people. Uh-oh. She said, "I don't need your holier-than-thou attitude and you can all go F- yourselves!"
Now, Thanksgiving and Christmas were traditions at my parents' house. Every year, Thanksgiving there, no matter if you had in-laws to visit...you visited later. Christmas morning, we all went over in the morning and opened presents for 5 hours - all the kids and grandkids - one gift at a time so we could all see what each other was opening.
Well, after this big blow-up via email, we had one VERY uncomfortable Thanksgiving, and one VERY uncomfortable Christmas. After that, my parents said no more holidays at their house. That was it. My daughters were 2 and 3-1/2 and they never again had a holiday at their grandparents' house. Because of Christine (my parents always protected her...I guess they felt sorry for her angry self).
So, I spent years and years (almost 6 now) being so angry about that. And over the past few years, as Christine got divorced, I would call my parents on Thanksgiving and Christmas only to find out that SHE was there celebrating with them, with her kids.
No matter which daughter asked if they would reinstate holidays (never me, by the way - I was brooding silently...is this what's called passive-aggressive? I just called it brooding), they said no.
So, I haven't seen or spoken with Christine since. And I was A-OK with it. It was amazing how much better my life was. My mother even knew she wasn't allowed to talk to me about her.
Then, Tuesday at 5pm, my phone rang and it was my mother telling me my dad went to the emergency room and would be transferred the next day for an angiogram, and then an angioplasty or bypass surgery, depending on what was needed.
I asked her if she needed me to come down there now and she said no, that Christine was driving down and would be spending the night.
My mom, god love her, can be overly-dramatic, which has caused me to try to panic only when necessary. So, I set my panic aside, worried about my dad, and then thought about seeing Christine.
And I know you are going to think I have serious problems, but I also don't talk to another sister, Esther. This came about three years ago when my other sister, Jean, gathered us all so her son, my nephew, could announce that he'd gotten a girl knocked up out of wedlock and that they were going to be getting married. At this event, it was time for my nephew's surprise announcement, but no one could find Esther or her daughter, Athena. Weeeeelllllllll, I finally checked the garage, and my sister and her daughter were smoking pot, while Atehna's two kids, my sister's grandkids, were upstairs...and eventually needing a ride home after the event!!!
OK, I may be a goody-two-shoes (my mom used to tell me, "If you do any of the things your sisters do, I'll just leave", so tell me if YOU wouldn't feel a certain amount of pressure to be "good"!), but this just seemed WRONG to me! (Not that she smoked, but when she smoked.) So, that was it - I could live without her, too. I have a big thing about being able to respect people...
So, anyway, I knew I'd have to see Christine and Esther, as well as my sister Jean, who is very busy with a job and 4 sons, so we don't talk much, but she has a very good heart. But I was mostly worried about Christine.
I could hear her in my head, see her sneering. She'd say something about my blouse. Mock my being a stay-at-home mom. Say something snide about our choice of private vs. public school for the girls. Something. Anything. Everything.
And I started to get PISSED. I ran through my retorts, much less filtered since I am MUCH less of a doormat now.
She had tried to add me as a Facebook friend a few months ago, if you can believe that! I know she merely wanted to check up on some friends I had that she would never add, including that handsome guy from the band that we both had the hots for. We'd gotten back in touch and I know it must irk her to no end.
I imagined her saying, "So - what? Are you sleeping with him?" And I would say, "What? With HIM? NO!" And then, in very soap-opera fashion, walking away, I would look over my shoulder and say, just to drive her insane, "SLEEP...would be a waste of time." And I'd walk off into the sunset. Or into the hospital cafeteria or into the Crash Cart. Whatever. You get my point. I just wasn't going to take any more shit from her. Sadly, that conversation never took place. It mighta been fun to make her think that.
I was working myself into a pissed-off tizzy, just KNOWING how terrible the day was already going to be with my dad, and then having to deal with HER...THEM...
So, yesterday at 11:30, I walked into the hospital room. And there they all were. I just gave a "Hey" to my sisters, then focused on my mom and dad, giving hugs, asking him how he was doing. I spent a few completely awkward moments, really not even remembering anything specific because I was just so unprepared for how dizzy I would feel with all of these emotions at once.
After a few minutes, the nurse came in and started to ask my dad questions with my mom right there to answer them. :-) And that left me with only one place to go... Jean, Esther, and Christine.
Back, L-R - Esther, Jean
Front, L-R - Christine, Me
1973 - I was 6 years old
We exchanged very polite 'how are you's and I wished I was almost anywhere else. As the fricken nurse took her sweet-ass, must-be-paid-by-the-hour time, we all had to continue talking.
Slowly, gradually, we talked about work. Christine was in escrow for 22 years and she said she got out because it was too emotionally draining. They had to keep their mouths shut about the bad loans these people were getting, and then they'd see them again as their property was auctioned off. She said she hated seeing them again. I, in typical joke-to-make-light-of-a-bad-situation fashion, said, "You must have been like, 'Gee, um, it's good to see you again, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. You look different than the last time I saw you. When you weren't...like...sobbing.'" And she started laughing so hard she couldn't breathe.
And this was how the day went. We went downstairs with my mom and had lunch. They went out for smoke breaks, and I went with, for what I called (and they laughed) my "second-hand smoke breaks." When one of them went outside via the stairwell, I snuck over and pretended they couldn't get back in; literally holding onto the push-bar with all my weight backward and my feet against the wall, so they couldn't open the door, hiding as close to the floor as possible. (What a sight!) And then them trying to open the door, looking through the glass square, finally down to me...and flipping me off.
Stuff like that all day. I felt like I was a kid again.
Oh, and Jean doing a crossword puzzle, saying, "I need a four letter word for kiss." And then answering her own question, saying, "The old word is buss." She's a smart gal and I knew she was probably right, but I sat there and matter-of-factly told Esther and Christine, "She's wrong. Nope. Wrong. Doesn't know what she's talking about." Then Chrstine said she had Hershey's Busses in her bag, and pulled out a green foil-covered buss and a silver foil-covered buss, and we were cracking up. Then, I said in a Southern drawl, "I been bussin' my ayass all day!" And they started pretending to kiss each other's tushes and laughing like crazy.
Christine told us openly that she was now on Prozac, which controlled her anger. Jean pulled out her typed-up list of meds for diabetes. Esther talked about her dog having cancer. I was able to tell them about my roll-over car accident and show them the pictures on my iPhone. Christine gasped and put her hand over her mouth at the picture of my car upside-down.
Yeah, that's my car. (Seatbelt saved my life.)
We spent from 11:30 yesterday morning until 7:30 last night together. Laughing hysterically and uncontrollably. Way too loud for a hospital.
I know, like me, they must have had moments where it felt surreal. Entirely magical. Like home.
Dad's angiogram showed that he had some blockages, but normal heart function due to the growth of other blood vessels around the heart (who knew this could happen?), and that he didn't need an angioplasty or a bypass. He could go home that night.
I drove home from the hospital last night listening to a song a friend recently shared with me, "In the Waiting Line" by Zero 7 (thanks, B!). The sound was soothing and I put it on repeat and listened to it the entire 60-minute drive home while I replayed the day in my mind.
And I cried for two miles. I did - I cried because I grew up developing my sense of humor with these girls. They "get" my humor and I "get" theirs. No one was safe from being jabbed, and we all took and gave our shots. And if I hadn't been driving, I probably would have cried uncontrollably for hours.
Maybe... Thanksgiving and Christmas will be reinstated.