Monday, June 30, 2008

My Sisters

I awakened to the sound of my sisters laughing.

And I thought I was in Vincennes, Indiana, again. I reached down to touch my bedspread, a faded chenille. I squinted to see by the light of my aquarium, the one we bought in Evansville after I saved my allowance for months. I listened for the clink-clink-clink of Lady’s dog tags, as she walked from room to room, her beagle nose sniffing and her loving brown eyes taking us in. And I could smell the damp of the basement stairs which ran alongside the wall of the room we shared.

The sparkle of their laughter drifted up to me as I lay in my bed. Jane and Meg, my little sisters. We were here, all here, together in the same house, waking up under the same roof for the first time in years.


When Jane was born, my father told me, “Now you have a little sister. You’re responsible for her.” I was only three at the time, and it was a heavy responsibility. When she went back to the hospital after being diagnosed as anemic, I prayed, “God, I don’t know who this ‘Janie’ character is, but I hope she’ll be all right.” I remember that I was trying to be good by putting my shoes away. I said my prayer as I stared at the head-and-shoulders of hanging doll whose torso was a series of pockets. Grandma Marge had made the organizer. It was blonde like me, a preview of all of us “Campbell girls.”


When Margaret was born, my father said, “She’ll be the best thing that ever happened to this family. You’ll see.” I had heard my mother tell a friend, “I want a baby so badly I can taste it.” I wasn’t sure why you’d taste a baby, and I hoped I’d find out. Margaret was breech, so Mom had to kneel butt-up on the floor for hours so she’d turn. Margaret obliged, and quickly then changed her mind and went back to her original position. Because I was ten, a ripe old age, I was in charge of carrying the basket of her diapers downstairs to our basement and putting them in the washer. The fates intervened briefly when the Kenmore motor burned out, sending the smell of burning rubber billowing through our house.

I did, and have, felt responsible for Jane and Margaret most of my life. Wrongly, I know, because they are both fabulous, capable women.

And I awakened to the sound of their laughter because they’d flown here, from their home in Florida, to care for me.

So I wasn’t in Vincennes. I wasn’t in that little house where I grew up. I wasn’t waking up in that sad broken-down two bedroom rental, with that warped screen door, featuring a prominent “S” for Springer, our landlord. I wasn’t back in that family of origin which draped such a heavy mantle of duty on my shoulders.

I was in my bed, hearing the arpeggio of my sisters’ laughter, trilling up and down. I was supposed to take care of them, but bless them, they came here to take care of me after my surgery on June 16. And as I lay there, and thought of them, and loved them, I thought, “It was worth the surgery just for this, this memory of hearing their laughter again."



My thanks to so many of you for the kind wishes, the cards, the emails and of course, the prayers. Things were a little "rocky" for a while (don't worry, I'll tell all!) but I'm home and getting better every day. Please be patient, as it's taking me a bit to respond.


Linda O. Johnston said...

I'm so glad to hear that you're through the surgery and doing okay. It's great that you had your sisters around. Take good care of yourself and I hope you're feeling well enough to jog soon!

Camille Minichino said...

Welcome back, Joanna! We missed you.
Only you can turn something as painful as surgery into a wonderful family reunion!

did I say Welcome back!

Kathryn Lilley said...

Glad you're doing well, Joanna! Great to see your post! Kathryn

Dee W. said...

I also was wondering when you would miss us and come back. Isn't it great to have a sister or two? I certainly love mine.
Take care, let them take care of you, it's their turn.

Betty Hechtman said...

I'm glad to hear you are doing okay. Thanks for sharing your sisters with the rest of us. How nice that they came to take care of you.

And I join my other blog sisters in welcoming you back

caryn said...

I'd noticed you were AWOL, but didn't know why. Hope all turns out well. With your sisters here, I'm sure things will get better.

Terri Thayer said...

Joanna - It just hasn't been the same around the blogosphere without you. Glad you're on the road to recovery.

I'm imagining the scrapbook page - a hospital wrist band, the paper gown, one of those tiny pill cups. Pictures of the cute doctors and nurses.

I had a friend who made a quilt from her MRI. It's all fodder for the art, Joanna!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Thanks for the warm welcome. I'm feeling good, but my sisters have warned me to take it slowly...and you know, it's so weird not to do EXACTLY what I want when I want, eh?

But I've still been "busy" in my own bizarre way. I'm corresponding with Guinness about setting a record for finding four-leaf clovers.

Stay tuned.

baby clothes said...

I like your entry! I suddenly miss my sister who's been out of town for quiet a while! :(

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Thanks, baby clothes. It's much appreciated.