Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Other Big Sister

I have a sister in my family that I never really knew. Her name is Linda and I wish I could say I have a few key memories of her, but she passed away at the age of five when I was just over four months old. (Birth-order wise, it goes Tom, Pat, Linda, Jane, Me, Rob, Paul.) I don't know much about the specifics of timing and such, but I do know she was diagnosed with a Wilms Tumor which is a cancer of the kidneys (From what I've read it is a rare form of cancer that primarily affects children.) My older siblings have many more memories of her because of their close proximity in age, but I have nothing but pictures to go by.

Linda (Center)
Recently, my mom has been sending old photo album pictures off to get scanned in the hopes of preserving them. Looking through them has been a walk back in time for me, really fun. She made a point to try and get lots of pictures of each of her seven kids and then gave us the disk to share around. Because of this effort, I now have a decent collection of pictures of Linda that I never had before.

And while the pictures don't tell me anything more about her, they have in a weird way helped me feel like I know her a little bit now. Of course it's nothing more than a 2D picture can tell you about a person, but when you have nothing else to go by, pictures are golden.

Linda (R)
More to the point, the pictures have me trying to guess what her personality would be like. Judging from what I've seen, she strikes me as the gregarious, outgoing type. My other two sisters, Pat and Jane are not as much that way, so I think odds would have it that she was. I do know she was a beautiful girl and would have grown up to be a beautiful woman, much like her sisters. But I question things like, would she have married? What kind of job would she have had? Would she still be as tight as the rest of us kids are even into our 50's? What would her struggles have been? Would she have moved away or stayed local? How many kids, if any would she have had? Would she be an outdoors lover or more domestic?

Linda (Far Left)
And if that isn't enough, I then extrapolate those thoughts out into my own life. How would my life be different if she was still alive? Would having a third sister involved in my life have changed my personality in any way? Would we be close, distant or ambivalent toward one another? Would I have been a godfather to one of her children? Would knowing her and having a 6th sibling in the state have kept me from moving to Wisconsin when I did? Would she have changed my perception of women in any way, positively or negatively? What would my funniest memory of her be at this point in my life?

Then I think about what my mom must have felt through Linda's sickness and treatment. I cannot fathom the thought of losing a child. People talk about how you grieve but eventually forge ahead and, while that might be admirable, I don't know how I could do it. There is a picture of her in this collection where she is holding a stuffed dog on a hospital table and while she is beautiful in the picture, it literally tears at my heart to look at it. The fact that mom had six other kids to care for must have been what got her out of bed every day, because I don't know if I could do it. Losing a brother was hard enough, I can't imagine losing a child, (or, two now-, in her case). It might be the end of me. I'd like to think I'd make it, but it is not something I would wish on anyone.

And so, much like my brother Rob, I trust we'll meet again one day, Linda and I. It'll be awkward at first, neither of us knowing what to say, but I suspect that'll change after we finish a two minute long hug and a have a good cry.

She is, after all, my big sister.

Blogging off..

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