She made sure to touch me. It was good luck, of course. Not an obvious touch, that would appear too strange, just a bony elbow touching mine. Firmly. Or her foot on top of mine, lightly but deliberately.
My sister was afraid to fly. But fly she did because it took her to exotic locals. Like my sister I live for travel. I die in between my trips.
But I’m not afraid to fly. But I’m also accustomed to superstition. Why not be on the safe side? I have taught my children and my husband that indeed we must touch on every take off and landing--a family connection so strong that airplanes bursting into flames would become impossible. I have no idea how my sister came up with this particular OCD type habit. But it has stuck.
I think that last time I flew with Georgie, we were on our way to spend Christmas in Zermatt, Switzerland. I believe the year was 1988. I’m sure one of our body parts touched on the way up and the way down. I am also sure she placed me by the window so every half hour she could ask me to look outside and tell her if the plane was in a tail spin, plunging to the earth below, in a fiery blaze of fury.
“No, the plane is still flying,” I would try and reassure her.
Of course, she also had a difficult time with the bathrooms on the airplanes. She tried to make like a camel and sit through eleven hours of flying without ridding herself of any waste. But sometimes, her bladder got the better of her.
I was called in for such emergencies. “Stand by the door,” she would command. The thought of locking herself into the tiny deathtrap of a room was an unbearable thought.
I was the devoted little sister who stood patiently outside her bathroom door.
I wasn’t afraid to pee thousands of miles in the air. Not in the least. But I understood her fear on some pure level. No words were spoken. They didn’t need to be. I understood my sister.
She understood me.
I stood and guarded the bathroom door. I reassured her that the plane was still flying on course. And I made sure to be present on take off and landings when she needed to touch me.
No words were necessary. The unspoken friendship of siblings completed me.
My son Kyle has some of my sister’s phobias. He didn’t get them from her. She died when Kyle was in my uterus.
He represented life when the world looked as bleak as a world could be. Not just for me, but for everyone who loved Georgie. And there were many people who did.
Yes, poor Kyle had to bear all the love we had for Georgie and all the love we had for him. He was smothered in love. He was life, he was laughter, he was hope.
He is now an almost grown man.
I am acutely aware of the significance of his birth and its link to the death of my sister. I am holding tight to his lightness as he gets ready to leave home for brighter pastures.
I will not hold him back. I am resolute if not on shaky ground. The ground feels surreal. I never knew earth could move so quickly and violently.
Still I am steadfast.
He made sure to touch my hand as we landed at Los Angeles International Airport from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle on December 30th, 2010.
Gentle was his touch. But he touched me with intent. He wanted me to know he was there.
I have never been good at beginnings or endings.
I’m not sure I’m even good at the middle stuff.
I know, like my sister I live for the travels I take. I die in the moments in between.
Life with Kyle is like one big trip. I have been awake and alive.
Heaven sent by my sister. She didn’t have to say a word.
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