Friday, August 26, 2011

That Day

On a crystalline blue, blistering hot Saturday summer evening 22 years ago, my older sister was killed in an alcohol related car accident on I-15. She was on her way to Lagoon with some friends when the very young and very inexperienced driver came up on some traffic that had slowed down because of construction.

Go figure. Construction on I-15 in the summer time? Some things never change.

The young driver was only going about 55 MPH, but like the others in the car, she had been sipping rum and Coke. She slammed on her brakes, started to skid and spin, then over-corrected. 

At some point, Carolyn was ejected through the windshield of the car, even though she had been sitting in the back seat, without a seat belt of course. Seat belts would not have helped much in this case. In fact, if the girls had been wearing seat belts, all four of them most likely would have died. As it is, two of them died - my sister and the driver - and two others who were ejected before the car hit the semi survived - barely.

Thinking back on this, a wry smile steals across my face. No, not about the death and dying part, but the part about where she was sitting when the accident happened.

If Carolyn was ever in the back seat, she always wiggled her way into the middle and leaned forward onto the front seats so she could talk to whomever was up front. Not safe nor smart, but that's just how she was, always wanting to talk, to be engaged in life and whatever was happening up front.

The back seat and back of the line was never good enough for her.

She was determined to not miss a single moment of life. I can only imagine she was smiling and laughing with that infectious laugh of hers when she was launched into eternity, eagerly leaning forward between the front seats.

Even though she was killed at about 5:00 p.m. that evening, we didn't find out about the accident until later that evening. She had been carrying fake ID (had she been the one who bought the rum?) and so the police had a hard time identifying her and locating her next of kin. It didn't help that her body...well, let's just say there was no visual ID made. They only asked for identifying marks below the shoulders to ID her.

I found out she had died when I returned home from spending time with my friends.

I pulled up at around 11:30 pm, my 17-year old avocado green 1972 Buick Electra rolling in like a tank. Nearly every house on the street had lights on. Every light in my house was on. My parent's car was gone. I could see someone vacuuming the living room through the plate glass window.  Neighbors were standing on their porches.

Something was dreadfully wrong. 

As I got out of my car and heaved the massive door shut, one of the twin brothers who were two years younger than me came running out of the house like an prison escapee. It took me several minutes to register what he was yelling at me.

Carolyn was dead. 

Within a few days, we would be having a closed-casket funeral for her. My best friend would be gone and my whole world would start to unravel at the seams, wildly spinning out of control for years to come.

But at 11:00 a.m. that Saturday morning - that morning -  all was well when I stopped by College Terrace where my sister lived to visit a friend.

I saw Carolyn getting into her brown station wagon. I leaned over the balcony as far as I could to get her attention yelling, "Carolyn, Carolyn, CAROLYN!!! I love you!!!"

She looked up, flashed a huge grin, threw both arms over her head like an Olympic gymnast and yelled as loudly as possible, "I love you too, Munna!"

Munna. That was her pet nickname for me because she was in too big of a hurry to say all the syllables and consonants in my name. It was the last thing she would ever say to me.

Looking back, I can remember how she winced in the bright sunlight and was a bit unsteady on her feet. I now know it was because of the alcohol she had been consuming.  There were so many things I didn't know about her, but I knew the important things.

She was a devoted sister. She would have moved heaven and earth for me. She was fiercely loyal to me.

She loved me.

That's all I needed to know.


Monica Fox said...

You are SO strong. I envy that trait in you : )

sostinkinhappy said...

Strong in the broken places, Monica. If you notice, it has taken me 22 years to finally write about losing my sister! Even now it is incredibly difficult to write about those early days after her death. It seems like a dream sometimes....

Karlene said...

It does seem like a dream at times. And absolutely does not feel like it's been 22 years. I still think of her often—and of you as a young woman in YW. Full of life, full of love. Vibrant. Talented. Love both you girls.

sostinkinhappy said...

I was never young enough to be in Young Womens! That is impossible. ;)

I was driving Capt. Knuckle to school the other morning and had a conversation that went something like this: "I remember when my mom was the age I am right now. I was in high school just like you are. How weird is that?" His response: "That's really weird because you are like...old. No offense meant."

No offense taken, son.

Anonymous said...

I don't like to cry but somehow it just felt right....

I can't imagine.

What it was like losing a sibling.
Or what it is liking carrying on.
Then wondering how life might have been different if circumstances had been different.


Thank you for sharing.
You are even braver than I knew.

sostinkinhappy said...

Thank you for you kinds words, Lori. There have been many moments over the past 22 years when I have wondered what she would have been like. She was only 18 when she passed away, just on the brink of life - and what a life she would have carved out, too. I think the hardest is when I hear of her High School class having a reunion and I start seeing all the pictures come across on FB from friends we shared. It seems...unfair, if that makes any sense at all.