**Written November 19, 2011**
He had eighteen years left to live when they met. He was already established and successful. He had a job. He had a house. He had four grown children and he had a beard (if you know me, you know why that’s noteworthy).
From day one she liked him. She came home from work and talked about him. “Who is this guy?” I thought. “The.Dwane.Moore…full on!” she proclaimed. Despite my best efforts not to listen, that much I heard. She went on and on. It went in one of my ears and out the other.
She called his voice mail and hung up just to hear his voice (little did I know then that I’d do that now). She even got so bold as to invite me to listen to his voice. She regretted that because I, being “clever”, left a message, one he was NOT meant to hear as far as she was concerned. You should have seen the look of fear, horror and contempt on her face when I did it. I didn’t understand the magnitude of the faux pas. She didn’t even know him! He was her secret crush. She became his wife.
My sister was always the bright, good-natured, good-humored, caring, considerate, compassionate type and, in my mind for many years, beyond the interest of boys. In fact, she was a tomboy. In grade school she could play kickball with the best of them. She was and still is one of the few girls I know who didn’t throw a ball like a girl. She played ball like a boy. Actually, she played ball better than most boys, certainly better than me. What I chalked up to age (she was six and a half years my senior), God chalked up to talent and hard work. She always worked hard. At school. At home. Hell, she ran cross country! Not because someone put a gun to her head but because she liked it! How crazy is that? She ran for miles (I wouldn’t make it a half a block before I saw my life pass before my eyes). And before she ran, she wore pigtails. I can still see them. I can still see the crunchy rubber bands with red balls wrapped around her light brown locks.
While I was busy provoking dad, she was busy running interference, protecting me. Later, after a bout, while I’d cry in my bed and she’d lie in hers, she’d knock on the wall. Her bed and bedroom were on the other side of the wall next to mine. It’s as though, with each knock she knew how to comfort, console and tell me I wasn’t forgotten and that she, unlike most, understood my hurt. I couldn’t have had a better sister. I really couldn’t have. All she did was give and for this, more than anyone, I felt my sister deserved to be happy.
As she got older our relationship changed. She started to wear makeup. She started to wear dresses and she started to be different, different from the boys and more like the girls. She even started to grow her nails long. My sister with long nails! Her fat little fingers with long nails! Disgusting!
Finally, she moved away to college and eventually to her own condo. I often wondered how could she and her fat little fingers do that to me. I didn’t know what happened and I didn’t like it. She wasn’t there to listen and she wasn’t there to tell me it’d be okay. Those days died when she moved out and I didn’t like any of it. I didn’t recognize her and I didn’t want to. I wanted what I knew back. Though this new her wasn’t good enough for me, it was good enough for him.
She and Dwane started dating. At work, they’d eat lunch in the park. They went scuba diving together. They rode horses. They did things. While she was out living life, broadening her adventures I was doing less and less. She was with him and she was happy and I was happy, reluctantly, for her. After all, didn’t I say she deserved to be happy?
When they got married, I thought “this fits.” It’s what she had wanted and it’s who she had wanted. For years, they lived a fairy tale. They bought horses. They moved to Buffalo. They lived on a farm. They even bottled their own maple syrup from the maple trees on their property. When she’d leave work, she’d call home to tell him she was coming. Every night. Isn’t this only in movies? The affection she shared with him after eleven not-so-many years of marriage was the same affection she had for him when he courted her. From where I sat my sister loved Dwane as much at the end of his life as she did at the beginning of their relationship. I didn’t witness many marriages like that. I still don’t. I hope my marriage is one day as beautiful, as lovely and as perfect as hers; but this was her marriage, her time, her happiness and she deserved it. She deserved to be happy…and she was.
I got the phone call when I was at work. My mom called to tell me. I went blank. When I flew to Buffalo for the funeral and saw my sister I saw something I had only seen once before. About four years previous, a friend of mine lost his wife in an accident. A week later I saw him. I will never forget the amount of pain I saw in his eyes. I had never seen it before and I’ve only seen it one time since. I saw it in my sister’s eyes and I recognized it immediately. It was unspeakable, unfathomable loss. Complete, utter, total devastation and annihilation. It was as close to dead as something living could become.
At the same time, during this same trip, the memories of my youth were revisited for about four hours the night before the funeral. It was the closest our family had been since she left and we’ve been no closer ever since. Four of the five of us, plus Jackie , our almost-sister from next door, did something we always used to do; we talked like we hadn’t talked in years. We laughed like we had laughed in years and we cried like my sister hadn’t stopped crying. For some, it seemed like the first and only real conversation we’d ever had and we haven’t had them since. There’s magic in talking but most of the time talking seems so ordinary, so mundane. Maybe what we did was more like “sharing.” We shared. Sharing is what she and Dwane did; they shared their lives, their love and their happiness with each other.
Dwane’s death took some time for me to get my head around, for me to understand. I couldn’t understand why God would cheat my sister the way He had. She was supposed to grow old with Dwane. She was supposed to always be happy. She was supposed to finish the fairy tale with a fairy tale ending because she, more than any member of my family, deserved to be happy. It was only right. It was fair. In fact, it was more than fair; given our childhood and what she had done to sacrifice herself in the hopes of saving me, it was just. Soon, what I was supposed to understand, I understood. God showed me what was supposed to happen and what did happen were the same thing. As I see it, there is no difference between what is and what is supposed to be. Dwane was never God’s gift to my sister and then taken away while she was alive. My sister was God’s gift to Dwane before he died.