Muttontown Preserve, New York, three kids in Carmi, Illinois.
I was the baby of the family as you can see, and even then had a fondness for hats. No, this isn’t a well tricked out pimp with his foxes out on the make in some green and pleasant woodlands, these are my sisters and myself.
People often say that the youngest is the baby of the family and yeah, sure, I’ll buy that. That doesn’t make it easier though. My oldest sister, Vickie, on the right – take a bow Vickie – besides having a fondness for gloves – and what female didn’t in 1964 – once caught me as a little boy having a pee against the side of the house. From that point on, I was under her thumb. All I had to do was look like I was going to get out of line and I was threatened with “I’m going to tell mom and dad you peed on the side of the house.” And it worked, till I was about seventeen years old and realized the statute of limitations had run out.
My little big sister Kim, was the middle one, in the unenviable position of being the Jan Brady of the family. She was the good kid, never in trouble, good grades, the only one to actually finish college and the most level headed of the three of us.
These three little people grew up of course, and it’s hard with sisters, you don’t really get to bond like you would with brothers perhaps. I was once told by a bigger kid at the county fair that if I didn’t turn over a dollar he would beat me up. Not having a dollar, I had to page my sister Vickie. When she arrived, I told her what I needed the dollar for and she threatened to beat the kid up herself. A couple years later I was chased all the way home by the kid’s girlfriend, who finally had his revenge. But then he had a glass eye and you always felt sorry for him, except when he pretended to take it out and chase you around the playground with it.
My sister Kim I don’t really remember as a child. As we grew older, I felt like perhaps she got me better than anyone else in the family, but that’s hard to say. I spent most of my life figuring my family didn’t know me, only to realize later I didn’t know them either. The only real memory I have of her is on a trip back from Florida to southern Illinois, in the backseat of an un-airconditioned car, eating raw lemons and laughing hysterically as only kids can do, about someone my parents were talking about being dead. Punch drunk, she kept saying “yep, he’s dead as a doornail.”
And that’s where she is now, dead as a doornail. She’s not pining, she’s passed on. She is no more! She has ceased to be. She’s expired and gone to meet her maker. She’s a stiff! Bereft of life, she rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed her to the perch she’d be pushing up the daisies! Her metabolic processes are now history! ‘She’s off the twig! She’s kicked the bucket, She’s shuffled off her mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!
And maybe it’s only in humor we can deal with this shit. The normal cycle is Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall and the Winter again. You grow old, feeble, drool a bit and then drop off and people say “well, she had a long life.” But she didn’t play by those rules and I don’t get to say that and to be honest it pisses me off.
I was hiking the Muttontown Preserve a while back, taking photos and thinking about this, and dreading the anniversaries. The last time we talked was Easter of last year. I had no more than got back to New York before I had to fly back for the finish, and there was such an air of unreality about it all that maybe I never came to grips with it. Maybe you never do.
And in a couple weeks I fly back again to sit around that table and try not to see everyone seeing that hole in their hearts where she used to be, and yes, there’s a part of her there still. But it ain’t the same. I keep longing for the days when I could wear a sporty red blazer and a bright red hat, and I dream of a time when girls wore white gloves and my biggest fear was being told on for peeing on the side of the house.