My youngest sister, Tami, passed away in 1978. Her fate was due to a car accident at 16 years old. Many of the readers of this blog and Face Book friends knew her, or at least remember her. Even my wife knew her, before I knew my wife! Today, March 18, is Tami's birthday and she would have been 55 years old.
Today is not to tug at heart strings or elicit sympathy. I am not the only person to lose a sibling in some way, and those that have, particularly at a young age, understand the familial dynamics set in motion from such an tragedy. Know that, beyond the emotional toll the heartbreak takes on your parents, there is also a unique set of circumstances for the surviving siblings that comes with the event that would be hard to put into words, even to a master "wordsmith" like me. No, mostly today is just to ramble a bit, bring up some memories, and reflect on what her life might have been had she survived.
Tami's death was over 38 years ago. Hard to fathom that fact. Let me preface this with the fact that I was not living at home at the time, having taken up residence in a bachelor pad in Chebanse. (Can one really claim to living on your own when the "pad" is in a town of 1,000 people and located on the other side of town from your parents...a distance of about 4 blocks.) I had been out of the house for about a year by that time and quite frankly, between work and an overly active social life due to the legal drinking age being reduced, really kind of lost track of what she had been up to. We had made a bargain that if she would do some light cleaning around my apartment she could drive my brand new Chrysler Cordoba, with rich Corinthian leather, on occasion. I don't recall either of us living up to that bargain so much. It kind of fell apart after she, or one of her buddies, put a cigarette burn in the roof.
So now as I look back on her short life, all these years later, most of my now hazy memories are really are of her being a pre-teen, rather than the pretty young lady she was becoming. I know that she was crazy about animals (horses and dogs in particular) and boys...in that order. There is the now fond memory of the ratty looking dog that we just had to keep because it followed her home...on the end of a leash. (My God was that dog ugly.) My mother likes to tell the story of the time she got a call at work because I was chasing Tami for eating all the marshmallows out of my Lucky Charms, and she went out the door. The problem was, she hadn't opened the door - she literally went through it. And I vividly recollect the time she turned up missing during the night, only to have been found in the backseat of dad's old Dodge, door open, sound asleep. She had been sleepwalking, but the really creepy part of the story - my parents kept the doors chained at night to prevent that very thing. To this day we do not know how she got out... as the chains were all in place. Tami had a shock of long blonde hair that she was always messing with and a mischievous, almost sassy smile on her face that seemed to hint that she was up to something... and about to take others with her.
As surely other folks are wont to do with long lost family members, I sometimes try to imagine what her life would have become had she lived on with us, and have come to some whimsical conclusions. Sue me for having my rambling thoughts, but given how life has turned out with our entire family, including cousins, aunts and uncles, and the like, along with our backgrounds and rearing in a small town, with all the good and bad, I envision her something like the following:
Like me, she was a "B' student and I did not get the impression school was any more to her than for social activity. The grades came easy with little work, and a B- or C was perfectly adequate to her in order to keep the folks at bay. I don't believe she had any grand ideas about her life by that time, as quite frankly she had not reached an age to have taken any of that too seriously - she was too busy having fun. Cindy Lauper's "Girls just want to have fun" would have been her favorite song. But in all honesty, there was nothing that predicted she might be the first female president of the US, or go on to have recorded several gold albums or act in Hollywood - those did not seem to fit the personality I recall. I have to think that she would have attended community college after high school and worked at the trucking company sporadically as her social life would allow. Ultimately she would have married some schlep with a slightly checkered past, who would have turned out to become a good hard-working and simple man. She liked to champion the folks that seemed to have some internal struggles and bring out the best in them. Her husband would be at her beck and call constantly, and hopelessly smitten with her...like me to my squeeze! She would have dabbled in various vocational activities, and probably wound up working part-time for a veterinarian or one of the super-sized pet stores. As she liked kids, particularly babies, four kids and three grandkids would be rocking her world right now, plus probably one skinny, scrawny mutt that nobody liked and two aloof cats. There might have even been a horse at a stable somewhere waiting for her daily visits. Her life would have turned out uncomplicated; she would have been happy, and a major part of the glue that would have held the family together.
In stark contrast to my whimsicality towards my baby sister, is the other side of that coin with thoughts on what has transpired in the past 38 years but would not have happened had she lived. Some of these thoughts are extremely private, and since there is no way to prove them, best remain in the dark corners my over-sized head. But if you are fortunate enough not to have gone through this at a young age, I mention this not to taunt, but only so you might consider how this situation would impact events like family dynamics or your jobs and careers. The road not taken as usual, seems endless, boundless, as so inexplicable.
Sadly, time (and an aging mind) does erode memories, and I probably don't think of Tami as often as I would like. But today, I am remembering her and thought I'd share with you.
Miss you "Wamus."