"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Remembering Debbie

Thirty-five years ago, today, I lost my big sister, Debbie, in a car accident. She'd just turned eighteen six days before. She was coming home from visiting our father in Houston, Texas, and was set to head off to start as a freshman at the University of Oklahoma the next morning. It was the last day she could register to vote for the presidential election and I kept calling home from work all afternoon to remind her she needed to rush down to get her voter's registration card. She never picked up the phone and as the afternoon went by, I became increasingly frustrated that she would miss her first chance to vote.

Around 4:00, my mother called me at work just as I was finishing my shift to tell me to come straight home. I could tell she was upset and insisted that she tell me what was going on.

"Debbie's dead."

Everything after that for the next few days is a blur. Anyone who has been through that sort of thing understands.

What hasn't blurred is my self concept that I am Debbie's little sister. It is who I am, part of how I see the world and how I order things. Even though Debbie will always be eighteen in my mind, she is still my big sister. More importantly, I am still her little sister. It is who I am. No matter how much responsibility I have, no matter how confident I feel in court, no matter how much I feel in charge of things, in my heart, I am the "little" sister.

And I still miss her. I miss sharing my kids with her. I miss sharing my heart breaks, my pregnancies, my fears, my triumphs, my troubles with mom. She "should" have been there when we lost mom. And my dad. She "should" have been at my kids' births, ball games, recitals, weddings along with kids of her own. I miss sharing her heartaches, her joys.

My life I had built up to the time we lost her ended when she died. In the next year and six days, I went from being a carefree sixteen year old rising junior to pregnant; kicked out of high school as a result (times were different, then); kicked out of my home as a result (did I mention that times were different, then?); married; highschool graduate; moved three times; my mother and grandparents moved away to a different state; and became a mother. All while grieving. I can't explain how I felt looking at my newborn son's face. New life. I had a family, again. Probably not the best reason to have a child but I don't have words to describe how grateful I was to see that life, indeed, does endure. I can't look at him without remembering that lesson. Babies are sacred.

I was utterly unprepared for motherhood and it really was too much. But I didn't realize that for decades. Thank goodness. I had enough to deal with besides facing the reality of the situation.

But enough of that. I miss my sister. I always will. But I have tried to live a life to honor her memory and she is never - not ever - far from my thoughts.

The beer is peculating along. All systems are "go."

I had to remove some blocks on the Weave Quilt and flip them but it went back together pretty easily.

I am expecting a delivery of some fabric, tomorrow, and hope it will be suitable for a border. It is large enough to not need a border but I like a little wiggle room to square it up for quilting and binding.

I also trimmed up Jezebel's quilt - you remember Jezebel's Quilt that I worked on in the weeks after we lost her?

I hadn't gotten around to trimming it up and putting on the binding. I prepared some binding out of the yellow material and will attach it later this week.

I just love the pawprints.


JessicaSews said...

Those are very special thoughts Penny.
These last two weeks I've been helping my 2 daughters move to new towns to attend college. They have both taken time to help each other pack, haul and unload the furniture and belongings.....I'm seeing the stress of being apart on their faces.
~I'm so sorry that you lost your sister. Just knowing you through the quilting group and your beautiful blog, I can imagine all the joy your sister would have, watching you "weave" through your creativity, your family (including those beautiful dogs!) and knowing you as a sister.

Jezebel's Quilt - I love the pawprints on the quilt too!

Shogun said...

That's a really wonderful posting. Thank you for sharing such a personal thing with me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. You never fail to give me something to think about.


Terri said...

I just posted how I loved your Sand and Surf quilt, but blue and yellow??? That wins out over everything, and as mother to 3 dogs and grandma to 2 more :) the paw prints quilted in it are the best! Love it!
What a beautiful story about your sister, having only 2 brothers I always (and still do) wanted a sister, such a special bond. Thank you for sharing and know that she has followed your life and is proud.

Stephanie D. said...

I can read the pain still there. What an awful time for you, but how miraculous that you were able to survive, and not only survive, but make something of yourself.

When in all that life did you find time to go to college and then law school? And how do you keep from holding some of your guardianships up to your standards? Or do you?