14 years ago, my baby sister died. She was a month shy of her 18th birthday and had the world ahead of her. She was looking forward to some dates on that Friday, was planning on performing at a local high school’s dramatic revue, and was getting her retainer fixed. She was thinking about majoring in psychology in college. She loved the X-Files and ER. She adored pandas and art and music. She liked driving my car and doing the things teenage girls like to do.
She used to come out to karaoke night with my friends and me and sing with us. Most people didn’t realize she was under age. We didn’t let her drink… much. All of my friends knew she was my “baby” sister and looked out for her like she was their own. She was special to everyone who knew her: a sister, a daughter, a cousin, a friend, a niece, a granddaughter, a student, an actress… She had nicknames to match each role: Patti, Pookie, Nicknork, Hurley, Patricia, Me, Panda Patti…
I remember, when I saw her in Our Town how I sobbed at the end of it because it was so real. That was nothing compared to the tears I cried when I found out she was dead. You often hear about people beating their heads against the wall in grief and wonder if that actually happens. Yes, it does. I did it.
It’s ironic that I remember that day like it was yesterday, but have such a hard time remembering all the good times we had together. I just remember loving her smile. I remember loving her hair. I remember how, even though she could be exasperating at times- and could get lost going in a straight line- she always made us laugh. She was so passionate about acting- I just wish her biggest audience hadn’t been the procession through the funeral home the night of her wake.
She was my Pookie, my companion, my movie buddy, my shopping pal. One day we went shopping at Lord & Taylor’s for dress coats. I don’t know if it was for our birthdays or for Christmas- but we were both getting coats. I chose Savile Row, she chose The Matrix. Her coat was of glorious black leather, a duster worthy of Harry Dresden. Mine was some velvety thing that kept popping its buttons. Doesn’t take much guesswork to pick who’s coat I took with me when we moved from our “ancestral home.”
After she died, I tried to wear the coat when I could, but it didn’t fit me as well as it did her. That was the sneaky thing about her- she could always wear my clothes, because they were bigger, but I could never wear hers.
I miss my sister every day, although the pain isn’t quite as bad as when I slammed my head against the wall. I know that her spirit is still near me because I can feel her love. I’ll leave you with a quote from one of her favorite bands:
“It’s been 14 years of silence, it’s been 14 years of pain… It’s been 14 years that are gone forever and I’ll never have again” (Guns ‘n’ Roses, 14 Years).
See the poems that I’ve written about Pookie’s coat- the first one and the most recent.