Saturday, July 9, 2011

Devoted Sisters

One of our favorite songs is "Sisters" from that Danny Kaye/Bing Crosby movie, White Christmas. Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen, with her impossibly tiny waist, sing it first, dressed in matching blue gowns, carrying blue feather fans. My sisters and I sometimes call each other on the phone and sing the verses to each other: "Sisters. Sisters! There were never such devoted Sisters…" Our devotion to each other spreads like golden tendrils across hills, mountains and right now, through telephone lines out to the West. Our voices, our minds and our hearts reach out, trying to touch, listen and soothe one of our own.

In a distant city, in an impossibly hot desert, shiny buildings sprout like the models of alien landscapes in old sci-fi movies. Neon flashes, drunken tourists and celebrities stagger through facsimiles of world wonders. Gondolas float on a fake river in a shopping mall, and a giant, artificial Sphinx does not sweat in Vegas any more than the real one does in Giza. And somewhere, on the 8th floor of one of these buildings, our baby sister is lying on a couch. She is in pain; she is feeling weak but she is strong and intrepid. She has paper and art supplies right next to her, and when she cannot sleep, or when she is waiting for another pill to kick in, she draws. Her feelings flow from her heart and mind, bypassing her damaged, soon to be repaired chest, pouring color and emotion out on the page. Her littlest child stands next to her, helping her color.

We, the older ones, cannot quite believe this is happening to her. We don’t have cancer in our family, we whisper to each other. I hold the phone away from my mouth as she tells me the latest news, which is not as good as we had hoped. I wish I was holding her close and I am glad I am not, because then she would know that I am sobbing, soundlessly, helplessly, hoping she cannot hear me. Why should I weep when it is not my body that has been assaulted? Why am I vicariously sad? This is not my pain; this is not about me. This is happening to my beautiful Baby Sister. I remember rushing home after high school to watch Sesame Street with her; I remember her tiny voice chattering away to her three imaginary friends.

She makes another drawing, this one with a tentative smile on her face. We all want to tell her she will be just fine when this is over, in a few months, honey, it will be alright. And we do tell her this – only no one knows if it is really true. This is just another moment where we have to narrow our focus, turn inward, draw out all our resources. This is just another moment where we have to reach across the continent and remind her that no one ever had such devoted sisters. Even though she will always be the Baby, she just might be the bravest one of all.


  1. Beutiful sis! and as Gideon says 1000 times a day "I am not a baby!"

  2. Thank you for sharing this...I love her drawings.

    As a fellow survivor, I send continued vibes for good health to your sis and the entire family every day.