The text message at the top of this post (which I sent to Matt at 3:34 AM on 12/6/20) includes the date and time because my half-sister, Julie, died in 2016, before her birthday, which was December 3rd.
I got the news of her death from my older son, Mark, who called Matt while we were sitting in a Pancake House in South Florida.
Mark had received the news from his grandmother, my first ex-mother-in-law, who’d been told by my mother, who was the bitch who didn’t even let me know my sister was sick. “Mom” (said with the sort of sneer that inserts your favorite epithet in its place) just waited for Julie to die before passing on the news, and in her spectacularly cowardly fashion, sending it by third-hand sources.
That’s “Mom’s” style — waiting for folks to die, so that she can gloat over the knowledge, punishing me because after my son came to me to tell me about being molested by his father, Mom called him a liar — and me too. And I told her I that she and I were done.
My ex was found guilty, and convicted, and sentenced, by the way.
So both my sister’s and my father’s deaths have been third-hand news and both discovered way after the fact…
But you’re never as done with the trash in your life as you might hope.
The funny thing is, when the Bitch Queen croaks, I’ll never know. I’m remarkably okay with that.
But in any case, my sister’s birthday was December 3rd. She would have been fifty-six this year, and I’d celebrated her birthday privately. And I’d been thinking about her.
And in one of those weird, disorienting dreams, on December 6th, I dreamed that I was fifteen again, that she and I were in the horrible torture-device fold-out couch in the sunroom of our single-wide trailer, which, in the manner of most sunrooms, didn’t have any walls between it and the room next to it. In that trailer, the kitchen/dining room was there.
In my dream, Julie was on the right side of the fold-out bed (her spot) and sound asleep, while I was awake on the left. I’d dreamed that she stole the covers and kicked me — she was a magnificent blanket-stealer and kicked like a mule, and it was her kick that woke me up.
And I reached over to grab the covers, and she wasn’t there.
So I grabbed my phone and texted Matt (who was awake and downstairs): “What happened to Julie? She was here…
And he didn’t text me back. He just came upstairs, looked in at me, and said, “Are you okay?”
And first I remembered that I wasn’t fifteen. Not asleep in a single-wide trailer in the trailer park above Beaver Creek State Park. Married, with kids. With a husband who at that moment was looking in on me with slightly unsettled bemusement.
I said, “Oh.”
But following right on that first realization, I remembered that Julie was dead. It came as a hard, mean shock, because just a second before, I’d been fifteen and she’d been right there with me and had kicked me awake while stealing the covers yet again.
And I said, “OH!” And my throat tightened up and for a couple minutes it got hard to breathe.
And that would have been it — weird dream, disturbing and disorienting but totally explicable — except for this morning.
When I woke up realizing that my main character in the Ohio Novels also has a half-sister. It was just a line in passing in the revision of Book 1, and I’d never planned to use the sister character.
This morning however, I realized that while my bitch of a mother made sure I never got to say goodbye to Julie, I don’t have to. Not entirely. A part of my memory of her can live on in fiction.
My main character’s sister is going to become part of the Ohio series. I probably won’t name her Julie. But she’ll be dark-haired, blue-eyed, and not look even remotely like her half-sister. Or her mother.
Just like Julie and me. Unlike Julie, the fictional sister won’t have been born with cerebral palsy or mental retardation, so she’ll get to do all the cool shit Julie never got to do in real life.
And in my own way, I’ll get to say goodbye.
Holly, that is so cool of an idea. A great way to honour your sister. I love it when amazing ideas pop into my head for writing projects. This is one of those, and I believe you’ll do an excellent job with it.
Thank you. I’m really looking forward to writing that book. I think it will be Book 3 of this series (the next one, as I write this) — but that is subject to plotting and the way stories in a series shift around as you build them.