When you’re a kid ten months is ridiculous. It’s forever. Almost a year, almost the yawning span from one Christmas Day to the next. The presents are unwrapped, toys played with, swapped with your sibling’s because you like hers better and you have to wait a whole 365 days until you can do it all again. Ten months is somewhere over three hundred days, long enough for trees to grow new leaves, for the leaves to enjoy some summer warmth, for the leaves to fall.
My sister Libby died almost ten months ago. It feels like yesterday and it feels like forever.
In Libby’s home some of her things are as she left them, her shampoo, conditioner, soap and make-up are still beside the bathroom sink. I can’t bear it but I don’t live there, her partner does. I shut off the tap and make a quick exit. Her jewellery – her rings and bracelets – are on the dining table where the ambulance guy left them. I have a special spot for her boots and a special spot for her letters. There are little Libby memorials all over the place.
People die and we build memorials for them.
But there is no bigger memorial than the one we make in our minds. We turn our loved ones into saints, oh, she was so beautiful and bright and funny. We concentrate so hard on how great they were, she’d do anything for anyone, that our loved ones become unrecognizable and we will never measure up. A memorial isn’t human.
A week or so after Libby died I dreamt I was driving my car. She was sitting at a table outside a café. The closer I go to her the more she stared at me (probably worried I was going to hit her). I woke up in tears, of course I did. Week or so after that another dream, us in one of our childhood homes, everybody there, a happier dream but I have no idea what about. I was just glad to see her. I woke up in tears, of course I did.
Last month I had a sharper dream. Me and Libby were in someone’s house, an old lady’s, possibly our Nanna’s, and Libby kept playing with something she wasn’t meant to touch. A ceramic figurine; delicate, expensive. The big sister, I was worried, ‘Put it back, you’ll break it, put it back.’ She didn’t. She held it up as a mask and made faces at me.
I woke up, no tears. Instead, I was smiling.
That’s right, it was like an enormous penny dropping from a great height, Libby used to give me the shits. She could be so bloody annoying. Yeah, she could be a total pain in the arse. She had crappy feet of clay like me and everyone I know.
Who’s ever heard of an honest dream?
It has been great remembering Libby in a more three dimensional way. It seems to have helped with not having her here. I am never going to get over the loss of my sister, as if I could, and as if I want to, but imagine how hard it’d be to get on with the rest of my life if I was trying to live without a saint, somebody I’d inflated into THE BEST PERSON IN THE WORLD. She wasn’t a saint. Libby was like the rest of us – great and funny, stupid and impetuous. She lived her life doing the best that she could, like the rest of us. She was a person. She’ll always be my person and I don’t need to hero worship her to know I miss her.
What can I say? 1974 suited us.