It’s Not Like The Church Burned Down: Part II

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ANNA AT A BEAUTY PAGEANT

Dear Brother-In-Law —

This is for sure not meant to encompass the memories I have of the life with my sister in it. Some–most–of the memories are odd, random, but they stick out in my head for some reason. It’s funny what people remember about you. What do you think they’ll remember about you or I when we are gone? I bet it’s not what we’d guess. But here is a small attempt to describe just a little bit of the short time I had with Anna and the sister she was to me.

Growing up Anna followed  me. Everywhere. We where two years and three months apart. I  do remember getting to hold her on the couch and being warned about how carefully to hold her head. I was warned so many times, I remember being terrified that I was going to squish her head and she was going to have a big hole in it her whole life!

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(L-R) ANNA, NAN, LAURA

The year I went off to church summer camp and she was still too young to go, when I arrived home, she jumped into my arms straddling me with her legs, as I gave her the camp hat I’d bought for her. As little girls we made ‘baby trains,’ entertaining ourselves for hours. We took every little chair and every big stuffed animal and made them form a train like dominoes all over the house. This game never seemed to get old.

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ANNA & I THE DAY I CAME HOME FROM CAMP

In second grade I walked her down what felt like the long hallway to kindergarten class every day. Mom said she was having problems with her teacher, now also a friend I stay in touch with and a wonderful woman. My loquacious sister was maybe not used to “no talking” rules but that was as much of the story as I got besides a playground incident. I felt protective of her, as if somehow that walk would say, ‘you’ll be okay today.’ I later forgot about it for a very long time.

I picked on her, though. As siblings close in age it was my right, you see. They love her more they treat her better they always blame me it is her fault too. So I intermittently took it out on her in too many ways to name. It is a history I must live with and one that, upon her death, I needed a therapist to deal with as my grief left me in a deep depression, my  sadness left me crying on my knees, my anger left me enraged at my sister, my parents, the doctors and God, and my guilt seeped through my pores like dirt.

I teased her mercilessly. And she always tattled, ‘MOM!!! Laura’s heckling me!!’ And I got it. She forgave me.We played games together and I always set them up where I would win. She forgave me. We’d have contest as to who could dress up the prettiest of our extensive Barbie doll collections. I, um, generously gave her 10 to work on while I took only 2, giving me more time to concentrate on less. She forgave me. As a teenager, when she admitted to me she had a drink on a swimming trip, I told mom she was an alcoholic. She forgave me. I called her prom date “butt-ugly.” She forgave me. Did you ever find yourself messing up, bro-in-law, and yet she instantly forgave? It was one of her greatest qualities.

We were given chores to do for our allowance but that ended up being free money. My mother is a consummate perfectionist about the cleanliness of her home, along with about everything else. Anna and I just did not clean up to her standards. We would sweep and mop the kitchen. She would sweep and mop the kitchen behind us. We would dust the living and dining  room. She would dust the living and dining  room behind us.It got pretty silly. Neither one of us ever did learn to cook until adulthood and I’m still really bad.

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ANNA SHOWING ME LOVE:))

One of our greatest joys was the entrance in our world of our baby brother. Anna REALLY wanted him to be a girl, but as she did with everything else in life, she adjusted immediately to a little boy and loved him with all her heart. His middle names (yes, two) were family names, but we begged to give him his first name. I believe we had first names picked out for both a boy and a girl but I don’t remember the female one. Since we were sure he was going to be a prince, we named him Philip after the character ‘Prince Philip’ in Beauty and the Beast. Imagine going through life, trying to keep your masculinity in tact, and having to admit you were named after a Disney animated classic?;)

No longer did we need My Little Ponies or Barbies; we had a real live doll!!! We would take him up to the attic and dress him in an ensemble that consisted of a tutu and mom’s panties over his head. Then using the new cameras we got for Christmas, we snapped away. We curled his hair, using gobs of hairspray and gel. We had different little outfits for him and made him put on fashion shows for us. The poor kid never had a chance.

We were renowned in church for being hell on babysitters. We hid their purses and shoes. Listened in on their phone calls with their boyfriends and told the whole youth group. We did much more, but when Phil came along, it raised the bar to a whole new level. He LOVED to make us laugh and would go to any means to accomplish this. We had him throwing water balloons at them, putting a whole egg in one’s spaghetti dinner, and I got him to lock one out of the house. We just hung out inside, watching her get more and more hysterical. Once I had him get the cash out of one’s purse and the next thing you know, there were pizza’s at the door. Unbeknownst to me, I had started a life of crime. I’m sure my parents paid her back.

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LITTLE PHILIP WITH “PHILIP RABBIT”–WHOM HE TOOK EVERYWHERE

Since dad was a Pastor, we went to church A LOT!!! Really, we grew up in a church and were expected to be examples. Anna was a wonderful example of a patient, kind, loving, forgiving person . . . except when she followed me and I got her in trouble. I was not. We went to Sunday school, Sunday morning service, Sunday evening services, Wednesday services, church stews, church all night skates, church plays, church camp, church youth activities, church camping trips, church conferences, church lock-ins, church choirs, church football games and for many years church school with chapel every Friday morning. I’m sure Anna shared with you we were pretty “saturated” as kids.

When we were in elementary school and still living in NC, we shared a room in which we each had trundle beds (high beds with a pull-out bed pushed underneath) and we each had a purple phone that let us call and talk to each other. Late into the night, against the rules, we talked on those phones. We would have friends spend the night and sleep on the trundle beds. We’d put in New Kids On The Block VHS tapes and passionately sing our hearts out to each and every song. Long before you, brother, Joey McIntyre was my sister’s first love;)

Our dinner table was something to behold in and of itself; it’s own circus. My mom had us set the table then reset it with the silverware in its proper place (don’t put a salad fork where a spoon is supposed to be!). Then she lit candles, put on soft candles and set out a perfectly healthy, nutritious meal for us all. At that point, the real fun began.

Anna and I were asked 50 million times to please take our elbows off the table. Anna, Dad and I lively debated politics and social issues. My little brother did silly things for attention. All three of us were chided at least twice during the meal for reaching across the table. Someone always refused to eat something and was told they had to eat it for breakfast. And my mom kept saying over and over, while rubbing her temples, ‘Can we please have peace at the dinner table?’ Uh, no. There were many nights we spent time after dinner writing out of The Manners Book. I tell people about my childhood and they think I’m making it up. ‘Did you really have to write out of a book about manners?!?’ YES!!

Anna was such a sweet soul, those who didn’t know her well weren’t aware she had a stubborn side to her. When she truly believed in a cause, there was no stopping her. One night at dinner, she and my father got in an argument because he only ask men to pray at the end of the church service while he and my mom slipped out to greet people. She felt it was sexist that he didn’t call on women, too and he felt that calling on men was part of having men take leadership positions in the church in accordance with his interpretation of scripture. She declared that at the next service she was just going to stand up and start praying! A full-scale war broke out. I don’t remember if she actually did it but I remember my dad was scared she was going to. You could see the fear mixed with rage in his face. I always refer to her as ‘the original feminist of the family.’

One other dinner table incident that sticks out starkly in my mind was our all out family war on September 5, 1995. I only know the date because of its historical context. Despite the protest of many high level officials who were worried about her outspoken ways, a certain First Lady went to Beijing, China to speak at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. Given China’s many, many abuses of little girl’s in particular, it was an ironic place to hold it. People do not realize how controversial the entire thing was at the time. And oh boy, was there an uproar! In the speech–the First Lady would let nobody read before giving–she boldly declared that ‘human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.’

My sister and I argued incessantly that OF COURSE this was true while my mom tried to explain Chinese culture to us and that she had ‘disrespected’ them. It gave me a lot to think about, such as the nuances of sexism I’d never really had to contemplate because of the brave fight of second-wave feminists. I stood stubbornly by my position as did Anna and the First Lady’s words became a rallying cry for a new generation of women. That First Lady was Hillary Clinton. It was on that day that I officially became a true supporter and for anyone who knows me now, that has not changed.

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FORMER FIRST LADY HILLARY CLINTON, IN BEIJING, CHINA, ON 9/5/95

Some of our favorite times where with our relatives in the Atlanta area, especially our cousins. There were quite a few of us who were close in age. Every Christmas while the adults stayed up late, we ran around the huge yard playing games, and often getting into things we weren’t supposed to. We had such great times, though–on four wheelers, in the pool, watching movies, catching my Aunt Beauty with a trunk full of liquor, and just hanging out with the ease only cousins can.

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(L-R) JAY, PHIL, MATT, LAURA, TREY, TYE, ANNA

When we were very little my parents left us in the care of my Aunt Bearce and my Grandmother while they were in the middle of a move. My mom felt Anna was too old for her pacifier and had cut off the end. There was no end to Anna’s hysteria so they fed her an onion sandwich. Yes, really. Once we were in the car with my Grandmother on the expressway, both watching with a mixture of fascination and terror as the speedometer climbed past 100 mph. Then we looked to our right and saw the Highway Patrol. ‘Look Grandmother! There’s the police,!!!’ we screamed in unison. ‘Grandmothers’s aren’t scared of police,’ she growled back as us with authority as she put the pedal to the medal and the car sped even faster. I miss my Grandmother.

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MY LAST EVER CARD FROM MY GRANDMOTHER BEFORE SHE PASSED AWAY

My Mema (Mom’s mother) was a secret smoker. She often took walks along her large property. This intrigued Anna and I so we decided to discreetly follow her. Sometimes we followed from outside at a distance and didn’t catch her doing anything. Not to be deterred, we continued our covert op and watched her through windows of the house as she walked along it. We FINALLY discovered her secret . . . she smoked! Instead of telling anyone this shocking news (everyone knew anyway), we were able to find her cigarettes, steal them and bury them. Oh, she was SOOOO mad! But she blamed my Uncle Grant!! You could not have convinced her he didn’t take those cigarettes. Scared to death of her wrath, we vowed to keep our mouths shut and while we eventually told Uncle G., Mema never did know what happened to those cigs.

You’ve probably heard this story, brother, but another time she asserted herself was on a family crabbing trip in Charleston, SC. My Mema spent all day catching crabs with the rest of us helping. At the end of the day as everyone was packing up to go home, we looked around and all these crabs were running towards the ocean. While no one was looking, my dear sister had freed them all; saved the crabs. Anna loved animals and was always saving them. My Mema was less than thrilled to say the least.

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ANNA & UNCLE GRANT HAD A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP. WHEN SHE WAS TOO YOUNG TO SAY HIS NAME SHE CALLED HIM “GUNKY.”

I never forgot her first day of high school. She came up to me in tears, saying an older boy was picking on her. I knew who he was and where he sat at lunch, on a bench with friends. I stomped over to that bench, eyes a fiery blaze as I’m told they can get, and came down on it so hard, feet first, with my entire body weight that it toppled everyone. Practically straddling him, I grabbed his collar and told him to leave my little sister alone or I would do unprintable things. I told her only that I had taken care of it and he ever picked on her again.

As we became teenagers, she became more about her group of friends and me more about mine. She didn’t follow me around all the time as much but at night when we got home we would stay up talking and giggling sometimes. I’m not sure if she knew I was always stoned. Sometimes I gave her a ride to school or even took her out to breakfast, but she often chose to ride with her friends. She disagreed with my lifestyle and as for hers, she became very, very serious about her swimming. Her body even changed. You could see the defined back and shoulder muscles.

As a child, she had a ‘spaghetti bib’ that was the length of the floor because she never failed to get it everywhere. As a teenager, she needed that spaghetti as she was taking in 1000’s of calories worth of carbs. She became very close to her swim coach who took the team to state and was also voted Teacher of the Year that year. Last I heard this coach was in the newspaper for robbing a bank because of her addiction to opioids. Anna cried when she heard about it.

Once we went out with both of some of our friends to a bowling alley and there was a guy there she was dating (and I use the term loosely). He was very grabby with her and at one point she sat in his lap and he had his hand right on her backside. I was absolutely seeing red. If it is true that parents always see their children as little babies, it is also true that older siblings always see the younger ones that way, too. I was very close to telling this punk that if he didn’t get his hand off my little sister’s ass, I was going to knock him into next week.

I was so angry I was shaking. I pulled Anna aside and we preceded to have an argument about it. Her nonchalant attitude regarding the matter was enraging me. She was also doing something important, though. At the age of 17, she was pushing me away a little bit. Telling me I didn’t need to walk around defending her from every guy out there. She felt she could handle herself. Whether it was true or not, I needed to respect her position and back down. I stomped out of the bowling alley, leaving everyone there.

She left to go to Catawba College in NC to major in musical theater and came back for a visit a few months later with a finance and a major in political science. I was very skeptical of it all–especially of Adam 1–and felt like she was having a hard time finding herself. Anna hadn’t lost her love of politics, though, and thoroughly enjoyed doing volunteer work for Elizabeth Dole’s Senate campaign.

However, things went way, way, WAY south with Adam 1 eventually and the engagement never came to fruition. In fact, she went into his dorm room and ripped everything off the walls. For my part, I did the standard thing I did when a person, especially a guy, hurt my little sis–I threatened him. I called him late at night at his parents house. His very unhappy father answered the phone, by the way. And I told him if he ever so much as looked at her again I would get in my car, drive up there directly to him with a very sharp knife, and relieve him of his testicles.

I made this call after much contemplation. I came very close to actually getting in my car and delivering this message in person, knife in hand. Again, I was bound and determined to be a criminal. But nobody had hurt my sister like that before with such malice. She was such a kind, sweet, caring person, it is beyond me to this day how anyone could treat her so badly. I know I haven’t given details, but the story is long and ugly.

After that came Adam 2 and 3 who are not worth giving space to. During this time, Anna’s case load was especially heavy and sometime during her junior year she started taking Adderall XR. I believe it started as a ‘friend referral’ but was prescribed by a doctor pretty quickly after that. The drug was huge (and probably still is) on college campuses. Did she have ADD or ADHD? I don’t know. I remember helping her with a book report one time in middle school and she drove me crazy because she kept talking to me about other things, reading other books, and in general, just wouldn’t concentrate and get the work done.

I disapproved highly of the Adderall use, though, and made no secret about my feelings. Psychotropic drugs are high powered with many side effects and given that this was a fairly new drug, long-term side effects had not been studied. Anna claimed to need it to get all her work done and finish on time. Which she did. I was a daily drinker (drunk) at this point and felt there was only so much I could say what with the glaring hypocrisy. I said plenty anyway.

For the record, as I re-read this I noticed I mostly paint myself as the ‘bad’ one and Anna as the ‘good’ one. They say Pastor’s Kids are angles and devils and I think it’s clear who was whom. I loved her dearly, though, and we both had our moments. As we got older, we would both have our struggles and mine would be much darker and more sinister, overall. She would no longer follow me around and want to be like me but instead worry about me and want to make sure I was taken care of. She would always introduce me to complete strangers as her big sister who once made her drink mud and almost burned down the church. Please see the first part of this series for my defense of what I consider to be scurrilous–yet very enduring–accusations. And to her credit, she always said her piece with a smile:)

In adulthood we became true equals. I continued on a downward spiral, however, and Anna, instead of marrying someone named ‘Adam,’ went to work for Cabarrus County, NC, helping to go after out of state dead beat parents whose partners were on government assistance. Oh, the stories she would tell!! For instance, one woman claimed she knew she got pregnant by a man whom she poked a hole in his car with her heel. If they would just go look for a make and model of a certain car with a hole in it, they would find the baby daddy. One person claimed to know nothing as they were allegedly impregnated at a parade. One person had 7 people take paternity tests which all came back negative.

I would call her office and make up the best stories I could think of, laying on a thick Southern accent, and leave prank messages. She said she used to play them for her co-workers. One woman would call her every single day and if she did not return the call, would complain to her supervisor. I decided to up the ante and prank called her supervisor.

It was somewhere around this time that she met you, Brother-in-Law. I didn’t think much about it all for awhile, having seen enough romances go bust. I DO remember meeting you for the first time. It was the weekend of Phil’s high school’s graduation. The first time I saw you was when you, my ‘rents, and my Uncle Grant’s family came over for a little while. My first impression was that you were quiet and polite but it irritated me slightly that you and Anna never took your hands off each other. As you can tell by now, I’m touchy about people’s hands on my sister. You attended high school graduation Phil’s ceremony also.

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(L-R) ANNA, PHILIP, LAURA AT PHIL’S HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION

I didn’t realize how serious you and Anna already were until we had a conversation about you. She told me at that point she was pretty sure you were the man she was going to marry and that you guys had already even talked about it. I was shocked. I thought she was moving too quickly and just wanted to get married. I felt like she hadn’t taken enough time to get to know you.

Do you remember coming over to my house over the holidays with Anna and visiting with my boyfriend at the time, Chad, and I? I had a great time and felt like I knew you a lot better after that experience. Your wit and sense of humor were on display and the conversation flowed easily between the four of us.

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YOU & ANNA AT THE KANNAPOLIS COUNTRY CLUB ON 3/18/06

I am sorry I ruined your wedding at the Omwake-Dearborn Chapel in Salisbury, NC on April 1, 2006. That sentence sounds so stupid, like, ‘I’m sorry I spilled wine on your shirt.’ At that point in my life, I was going on insane drinking binges, and my relationship with mom and dad was one of pure animosity. We couldn’t be in the same room without fireworks exploding–if not internally than externally.

One very sweet moment I remember is the day before the big event, all the bridesmaids went to a professional to get, um, beautified. I had my hair professionally done and everything and all of a sudden Anna looks over at me a little bit anxiously, but smiles, and asks, ‘Are you having fun?’ Of all the things she had going through her mind and all the people she had to worry about, she was worried about ME.

The next morning, late, I went to pick some food up for my boyfriend and myself at a restaurant across the street from the hotel. It was going to be a little wait so I sat down and had a beer and thought, ‘Why not a shot with it?’ I’m not sure how much I drink but the food was dropped off uneaten and I went walking down the road looking for a convenience store. I drank 6 more beers on my way back to the church.

By the time I got there, I decided I would not be part of this shindig if my parents would not pay for my education. Anna’s best friend reminded me it was her day. I highly resented the remark. I remember struggling to get dressed, don’t remember getting down the aisle, but do remember swaying in the line and thinking I wasn’t going to make it. At what seemed out of nowhere, someone snatched me up, threw me over their shoulders and carried me out of the church. The story is I let some choice remarks fly as I left. I missed the wedding, the reception, everything.

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ANNA & TIFFANY–HER BEST FRIEND

I was devastated. And I can’t even imagine how Anna felt . . . or how you felt, brother. I told my little brother, ‘I ruined Anna’s wedding.’ He said, ‘She got married, didn’t she?’ I replied, ‘Yeah.’ He says cheerfully, ‘So you didn’t ruin it,’ That was Philip before Anna left us. Or maybe before Leigh really entered the picture. Or both. I miss the old Philip. He was my brother. He seems as dead as both Anna and my Grandmother.

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PHILIP HANGING OUT IN HIS COLLEGE YEARS

As adults when the three of us would get together (pre-Leigh), we would have a blast. Once we went to an outdoor food tasting with games in Dunedin and Phil kept coming back to Anna, you and I until he’d cleaned all 3 of us out of cash. It was cute, though, and we loved him and loved buying him stuff. He was a growing college boy who ate himself into oblivion that night, along with buying a few souvenirs.

Once the 3 of us went out to lunch at Olive Garden and Anna and I fought about who was going to pay until Phil pulled out a platinum American Express and said, grinning mischievously, ‘Dad’s paying!’ Dad indeed payed and left a very generous tip. I had just gotten a brand new Himalayan kitten and we went out riding in Phil’s truck that night, Alice the kitten in tow. Anna would NOT put her down even though she had horrible cat allergies. Her love of animals was stronger. She made Philip pull over to Wal-Greens and bought allergy medication but Alice stayed in her arms.

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ANNA, PHIL & I–THIS PIC WAS TAKEN THAT DAY

There were “down” family times, too, as my drinking progressed. Once I went to the airport to fly to meet the family for Christmas, and being that there’s nothing to do in an airport but visit the gift shops or the bars, I think I cleaned both Tampa and Atlanta out of alcohol before I ever reached Greenville, SC, where the family was picking me up. I arrived in a blackout drunk; AKA vacant, senseless, and unpredictable.

On the way to Asheville, I got into a vicious argument with the ‘rents about who knows what and actually came over the driver’s seat at dad. He pulled over into a rest stop and a cop asked if they needed help. I think he went so far as to handcuff me. They said they just wanted to get me home. I believe I passed out after that and woke up in Anna’s bed in my parents house feeling, uh, not-so-good. Not just physically, but I had that dreadful, nagging feeling of ‘Something really bad happened last night’ . . . that feeling that only another blackout drinker can relate to the horror of.

I didn’t have time to dwell on it, though, Anna was sitting on the edge of the bed with 3 Advil. She told me to take them and get some more rest and I would feel better. She said NOTHING about the events of the day before. There was nothing critical, or angry or judgemental in her tone. Already, she had forgiven me. If I can impart anything from this blog post, I hope it is that THAT was the character and temperament of my sister. That was who she was.

She kissed me on the forehead ‘goodbye’ because you guys were going to visit your side of the family and she promised me she’d be back in time to spend some time with me before I flew home. Because she forgave me, so did everyone else. She truly was the family peacekeeper. I downed the Advil with a little shot bottle of rum I still had in my purse from the plane to take the edge off, and fell back asleep feeling loved by my sister. Anna made everyone around her feel cared about and good about themselves no matter who they were or what they’d done.

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(L-R) STEVE, NAN, ANNA, LAURA, PHILIP

At some point she started having very bad anxiety issues at work. I blamed the Adderall and I still do. She was promptly taken off of it and put on anti-anxiety medications for panic attacks–something that runs in the family–both myself and my Grandmother had them and we don’t know who else covered them up with alcohol. She stopped working, became the best Mom ever to Buddy the dog, and started looking forward with anticipation to having her own family. She was experiencing some health issues here and there, though.

Overall, I believe she enjoyed life. She taught herself to cook quite well. She would call me every single day and we would talk for about an hour. She would tell me exciedly about what she was cooking you for dinner. And she always knew when a Law & Order SVU marathon was going to be on TV. We loved those. Anna was not about technology; she loved the phone. You guys traveled often and I know she loved that.

I was able to see her more. Because of your unusual work schedule, brother–one week on and one week off–during your week on she often traveled this way. She would come to my house and look in my kitchen with shock. I couldn’t cook at all at this point and never kept much food in the house.

During one visit I was quite ill. After giving proper attention to Rage and Alice (I had quickly bought a new Himalayan kitten because I thought my first one needed a friend–it was her half-brother), putting a cold washcloth on my burning forehead and inspecting my empty refrigerator and kitchen cabinets (in that order!:), Anna decided an immediate trip to the store was in order. I went looking for my helmet, lol;)

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ALICE–ONE OF THE HIMALAYAN CATS. (STEVE & NAN KILLED THEM BOTH LAST YEAR. SERIOUSLY.)

Not really, but Anna was a TERRIBLE driver!!! Especially when she had someone else in the car with her as she paid way more attention to the conversation than the road. She made left turns from right turn lanes . . . the kind that would say ‘DO NOT TURN RIGHT ON RED,’ lol. She parked sideways in 3 spaces.

One road trip she got 3–yes 3–speeding tickets in one weekend. And in true Anna-style she got out of every one of them without points. Don’t ask me how. I know for one she wrote the judge and he let her do community service in lieu of points, fines or fees. She usually didn’t get tickets at all. As soon as she was pulled over she’d start crying. She used to brag about her ability to turn on the waterworks at will when it came to the police. Ah, if we could all be so charmed . . . Being ultra sweet and sensitive has its advantages.

Anyway, she took me to the store, picked up my medication, lectured me about not taking vitamins and bought me a huge bottle of women’s vitamins and started shopping. When we got home, my fridge and shelves were more full of food than I’d ever seen them. She’d bought me, like, $200 worth of groceries. I told her I was never going to eat all of that and she told me I had better.

The last time I saw my sister in person you guys were both down visiting. You treated me to lunch. Later we went to the beach. Anna and I were alone for a long time; I’m not sure where you were, bro.

She and I spent hours out in the water talking and talking. She really opened up to me. It had been a long time since she’d allowed herself to be that vulnerable. Everyone in the family knew there were certain subjects with Anna that were off limits. She talked a little bit about you, brother-in-law. She said she loved you. It was the best time I’d had with her in years. She wasn’t just my sister; she was my good friend.

Afterwards, we laid down in the sand for a while. Anna fell asleep. I watched the ocean, the people and my sleeping sister and I remember thinking how much I loved her. She looked completely at peace.

You showed up soon after, brother, and we explored some of the rest of Honeymoon Island. You guys were reading the signs about the different animals and trying to find turtles, I think. It occurred to me then why you both loved traveling so much–you both had an insatiable curiosity about everything, about the culture of an area. To be honest, I wasn’t all that interested.

Shortly after this, maybe a few months later, my mom called me and told me you’d found her turning blue and not breathing in VA beach. Mom said the ER docs had said it was from a bad panic attack.

I literally have a library on panic attacks and almost never does a person pass out. If they were to do so their breathing would regulate immediately and the panic attack would subside. I frantically shared this with mom and Anna again and again. I did not know she had cardiac arrhythmia. Mom and Dad never told anyone. Ignoring the incident in VA Beach and accepting the ridiculous diagnosis seemed to be everyone’s choice. I seethed. No one in this family ever listens to me. She is gone and they still don’t. I am not including you in this list of people, bro-in-law. I wish you and I had directly spoken. In hindsight, I should have reached out to you.

The next time she stopped breathing and turned blue there was no one to resuscitate her. There are so many what ifs . . .

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TREE FOG

I was blessed, however, beyond what words can express to have had 30 years with Anna Gregory Vance as a little sister. Just as I know you feel blessed to have had 5 years having been wed to her. I’m also blessed she chose you and she chose a best friend who has been like a daughter to my mom. There are many memories I didn’t include or don’t quite remember at the moment but I hope to have given the reader an idea of what a wonderful, kind and precious little sis I grew up with. I will love you forever, Anna. And I love you, brother.

Take care — Laura

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2 thoughts on “It’s Not Like The Church Burned Down: Part II

  1. Louise

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I’m glad I was able to teach Anna in K5. She was a talker :), and I truly didn’t understand why your mom didn’t support my efforts to have her conform to the rules. Nevertheless, I have fond memories of having her in class for part of the year. She was a sweet girl.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laura Cereta

      Firstly, I’m sure Nan couldn’t get on board because that would mess up her narrative of the roles each in the family were supposed to play. In Nan’s eyes Anna’s excessive talking made her “bad” and Anna wasn’t the bad one–I was. Secondly, Nan & Steve own Montessori schools now where kids talk away, there are no grades, blah, blah, blah. It’s all very hippyish. Thirdly, Nan and reason don’t always agree;) Regardless of all that, I’m glad you were MY teacher:))

      Like

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