Pardon my language, but shit’s about to get real.
I’m feeling so much rage right now. I also want to curl up in a ball, hide under my bed, and cry. Better yet, I’d be on the next plane to Texas, and I’d never look back. Let me start from the beginning.
I guess the beginning is that my sister and I share a birth mother, but little else. Because of circumstances beyond our control, we grew up practically oblivious to each other. Our mother was not exactly fit to be a mother, per se. She abandoned us both, at separate times, with different family members.
My sister, Shannon, met me when I was a baby. I was too young to remember this, but there are photos of her holding a very chubby, crying baby Danielle. Eventually my family moved to Ohio from Texas, where I was born, and Shannon stayed with family in the south. When I was a pre-teen, my mom left me and my younger brother with my father, and I had no idea where Shannon was, who she was with, or what kind of person she was. I thought about her plenty over the years, but I didn’t know her. I hadn’t really seen her ever, because baby Danielle didn’t remember anything about our first meeting. I had photos, very outdated photos, and knew she had blue eyes and blonde hair–like our mom.
Fast forward to 2006. Myspace. I get a message saying, “Hey, this might be weird, but I think you’re my sister.” After that first line, I had no doubts that she was right. Shannon said she used to search for me and my brother, Carmen, on the Internet from time to time. She finally decided to try myspace, and lo-and-behold. Or whatever. I had a sister. She did, too.
She was raised by my grandfather’s wife’s daughter. Make sense? Doesn’t need to. She was living outside Tampa, Florida. Suddenly I had the chance to know this woman I should have been sharing my life with. It was a miracle.
We exchanged messages, but it wasn’t always easy. We were, after all, basically strangers. But still, I had the chance to know my sister–finally–after so many years of wondering.
In the summer of 2010, I flew to Florida and spent 4 days with her. It was amazing. We went to the beach, we took midnight swims in her friend’s pool, we ate and drank too much… It was the perfect vacation in so many ways. I left among promises to return, with the hopes that she’d get to come to Cleveland to visit.
It wasn’t long after that that she moved back to Texas to be near her family. The prospect of a visit was even more exciting. I hadn’t been back to San Antonio since I left at an age too young to remember what I was leaving. My grandfather, my mom’s dad, was in San Antonio. I had never had any contact with him, never met him.
Traveling to Texas wasn’t going to be easy. It was expensive. Taking time off from work was hard. I put it off, thinking I had all the time in the world.
Then Shannon was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Completely out of the blue.
A year and a half ago, the trip to Texas seemed so much more urgent. Of course, I also started a new job the same day she was diagnosed. Vacation time wasn’t going to be easy to come by. But finally, this February, I got to go.
We had a really great time. We went to the rodeo, saw the Alamo, and ate too much (less drinking this time around). I brought my boyfriend, Tony, and it was good. We stayed for about 4 days.
I got to meet my grandparents. My mom’s parents had divorced ages ago, so my grandfather and step-grandmother welcomed me into their home. They had cats and chickens, and a house in the country PawPaw built with his own hands. They took us out for steak for lunch. I don’t like steak, but there was something really special about ordering the same thing as my grandfather: steak, mashed potatoes and corn. We shared a love for corn and potatoes, even though we had never met.
I keep saying it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t. Again, these people were perfect strangers. But it was amazing and beautiful, and I feel like the planets must have aligned or something for things to have gone so well. My sister, while not pain-free, was in good enough health to spend time exploring the city of my birth with us. The whole trip made my soul happy.
After I left Texas for the north, things turned south for Shannon. She’s been in the hospital almost ever since, with complication after complication keeping her there. Then, this weekend, the doctors tell her treatment isn’t working. They said she’d have 6-8 months.
I’m angry because she’s 33 years old and being told she possibly won’t live to see 34. This young, vibrant woman shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of pain. And I’m so mad that I didn’t get to spend more time with her. Maybe that’s selfish, but if one of us dies and we’ve only spent a total of about 8 days together, then I will be so mad.
I am probably in the anger stage of grief, but whatever. This sucks. I would give anything to be able to pack up my life and take it to Texas and spend whatever time Shannon has with her. Maybe that’s 6 months. Maybe she beats the odds and has a long and healthy life. I still would want to spend it with her.
I am mad that I spent so much time putting off a visit. This is probably the worst punishment I could be served. Grow up without a sister. Finally meet her. Cancer. What the fuck, universe?
There’s always hope that things could work out. Right now I’m just so sad and frustrated that I can’t do anything from so many miles away.
I want to be optimistic. I want to believe praying and wishing for a miracle will work. I want to believe she will beat the odds. I want to believe that the next time I see her won’t be at a funeral.
It’s hard. But I’m going to try.
Meanwhile, if anybody knows somebody who wants to pay all my bills so I can quit my job and go to Texas… you know where to find me.