April 29, 2008
Thankfully the thick highway traffic swallowed our need to communicate. She chased the downtown buildings with her eyes as I obeyed the break lights from the car ahead of me to the local Greyhound station.
After my grandmother’s death, my mother announced to the family that she wanted to move south to Atlanta and be rid of the tortuous midwest winters. I had flown the coup some 18 years earlier but the majority of my family remained in Kansas City, Mo. including my younger sister and brother. At this time, my mother already had custody of 4 of my sister’s children and my sister visited them over my mom’s as often as possible with their youngest sister whom she still had with her. My mother’s announcement also hesitantly brought about my sister’s decision to move to Atlanta too.
They made their move June 2007 and my sister hated every second of the three months she stayed. One day, my mother went to the store and my sister packed up a few things of hers and the youngest girl and caught a cab to the bus station to return to Kansas City. My sister told the other kids she would be back soon. They loyally watched and waited for her until my mother told them she was not coming back. My conversation with my sister wasn’t cordial but just as direct. When I would have conversation with the kids, they wanted to know why she didn’t take them. The oldest girls wanted to know how their younger sister was doing.
Countless conversations and seven months later, my sister agreed to let the youngest girl come back to Atlanta to live with her siblings instead of pretending to be an only child. My sister stayed with us a little over a week to allow the baby to get re-acquainted with everyone. Now we allowed interstate 85 south to commence her trip. I’m sure she was thinking, ‘the trip where I lost another baby’.
In my heart I knew this was the right thing because the children needed to be together and my sister did not have the stability she needed to care for a baby nor did she have the near by help from my mother in Kansas City. My sister described her bus ride down as smelly and long. She vowed she would never take the bus to Atlanta again, she would have to get over her fear of planes. I wonder if this is what she was thinking as she gazed out at the downtown architecture. I wondered, where did she feel it? Did it feel like a slow paced pendulum that swung vertical in the pit of her stomach like mine? Did she want me to drive faster so she could get it over with?
The coneflowers had just bloomed in the city and incised my allergies to set off a chain of sneezes as we reached the bus terminal. She pulled her bus ticket out and read to me her first stop would be in Tennessee. I searched for the right words to find, that last conversation to have with her and drew an absolute blank on a topic that would be pleasant. My sister, reached towards the back seat and grabbed her black duffel bag as I found a spot to park right outside of the lot. I wanted to tell her this was a no win situation for both of us. No one won, no one lost. I wanted to reassure her that being selfless was what we both needed to do and time would allow everyone to reap the benefits. I wanted to reach over and hug her, kiss her on the cheek, tell her how brave she was. Instead, I fought back tears and searched her eyes for a possible good-bye. She looked my way but not at me, opened the door and said, “her birthmark is on the back of her right ankle.”
Her comment soothed my urge to cry. I knew that simply meant, ‘take care of my daughter.’ I drove my heavy heart home thinking the entire ride, ‘I will, I will.’