Friday, August 26, 2011

The Day Before That Day

When I needed a summer job between my junior and senior year of high school in 1989, my big sister helped me land one at the photography studio and film lab where she had been working for the past year.  Our summer hours were so very normal, especially for a high school girl like myself. 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday with an hour off for lunch.

The Friday before the accident, the day before that day, we had gone to Arby’s for lunch, the two of us in her car with no air conditioning. We pulled up to the drive-thru to order while Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldiers” blared on the radio and the heat of late August radiated through the floorboards. 

I don’t remember exactly what we ordered, but I remember we both got turnovers. She got apple and I got cherry. Every since that day,  I can’t eat one of those without thinking of her, belting out Bob at the top of her lungs as we cruised along University Avenue. 
“If you know your history, then you would know where you are coming from, Then you wouldn’t have to ask me, Who the ‘eck do I think I am.”
As we ate in the break room back at the studio, we chatted.  It was just sister-talk; you know, easy banter about boys and college and had I seen "Weekend at Bernies" at the dollar theater yet?  

Then, as she finished her apple turnover, she grew serious and still. 

This was so very unlike her – she was always moving. She was a sliver of light that weaved and bobbed through shimmering aspen trees, not a contemplative alpine glow that stretched across the valley. 

“Munna (her pet name for me), do you think it is weird that Mom has twelve kids and not one of us has ever had a major injury or illness? I mean, no one has even broken a bone!” She leaned into the word twelve, her voice lingering over the vowels. 

Her voice dipped and her blue eyes clouded when she asked, “Who do you think will be the first of us to die?" 

There was a long pause. At 16-years old, death was a stranger to me. That happened to old people or really sick people, not one of us.

She let out a sigh, gathered up the left over bits and pieces of lunch, and then said resolutely, "I am pretty sure it will be me and when I die, I want Stairway to Heaven played at my funeral. Promise me you will make that happen." 

Whatever storm had settled in her thoughts for those few moments was gone.  She flashed me a huge mischievous grin and said, "Mom will never let that happen, but wouldn't that be awesome?" Then, in her voice that was always off-key, she sang: 
"There's a feeling I get when I look to the west and my spirit is crying for leaving...Oh it makes me wonder. "
We laughed at her inability to carry a tune. I promised her I would make sure they played Led Zeppelin and nothing else at her imaginary, in the future funeral, and then we went back to work.  

At about 4:30 p.m., she came up from the film processing lab to tell me she was headed out a bit early to go camping with some friends and she would see me on Monday.

She left, trailing Bob Marley lyrics behind her as she exited the front door, letting it slam behind her, 

Looking up from the paperwork in front of me, I watched her walk in front of the long plate glass windows at the front of the reception area, her blonde chin length hair swinging and flashing in the summer sun. She danced down the sidewalk and sang out to the passing cars,
Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival.” 
She turned the corner and then she was gone.

1 comment:

Jenna said...

your storytelling is flawless, giving great sensory detail and drawing us into your close relationship with her. Thank you for sharing a page out of your story. *HUG*