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sisters

Guest Posts, love, Mental Health, sisters

Piece

July 28, 2017
beaten

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been assaulted, find help and the resources you need by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or visit www.RAINN.org.

Note: most names have been changed.

By Noreen Austin

Gere’ December 1993

My sister Gere’(Jer-ray) has been missing from her North Hollywood, California group home for several days. Raoul, her counselor, a stocky man, coiled with a black belt in martial arts, has the skills to survive in this socioeconomic oppressed part of town. He cares for the mentally disabled. His home is a place of refuge in hopelessness. But he can’t keep Gere’ safe after all, and he files a missing person’s report with Los Angeles County.

My father calls me in my Northern California home from his apartment in Southern California and explains, “She was badly beaten.” The police had interviewed Gere’. They told Raoul they had never seen anyone so severely beaten and still able to walk.

“She wasn’t taken to the hospital?” I ask.

“She bolted before the ambulance got there.” My father says.

Gere’ is 29-years old, has Tuberous Sclerosis, a gene mutation that causes tiny benign tuber-like tumors to grow onto the ends of the synapses in her brain. Autism, learning disabilities, hyperactivity, anger and defiance behavioral problems, ash-leaf shaped skin pigmentations, and seizures are a few of the symptoms of this condition. Some people with TS don’t have seizures. But Gere’s started when she was eighteen months. Each seizure causes brain lesions, which contributes to her cognitive decline. It’s easy for me to understand her confusion. The police are there to arrest bad people. The police are talking to her. It’s when the police leave the room to get some information from Raoul that Gere’ runs. Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts, sisters, Vulnerability

Wonder Twins

December 11, 2015

By Marin Sardy

My sister speaks easily with strangers. She’ll chat you up at a party or a neighborhood coffee shop and introduce herself by her nickname, Sadie. You may find yourself looking across a beat-up wooden café table and noticing the straight line of her nose, the high cheekbones, the blond hair swept up loosely, the wrap dress flattering her lean shoulders. She’ll come off as confident, casually beautiful. She she’ll talk openly about her life and tell you the kinds of things most people skirt around, until she gets distracted and you realize that she has forgotten that it mattered or that you cared to hear it. It’s best if you don’t take this personally. Because everything matters and nothing does, and it all gets mixed up most of the time. That’s what she knows and it’s what’s hard to express about the life we have lived—what says, No one has imagined us.

When she talks to you, the facts will be right but the story will seem more like a tangle than a thread, and it will sound a lot like this:

I’m just getting a cup of tea, nothing to eat. But I have plenty of time to chat. Then I have to go take my sister’s car away from our mom. It’s not a big deal. Mom’s not mad about it anymore. She’s actually going to drive up to my house and park it there and then I’ll give her a ride home. There was this whole thing, though, last week. Marin left her Subaru here in Santa Fe when she moved to New York a few months ago. She was letting Mom use it but now she doesn’t want her driving it anymore. Which I think is a good idea considering what’s happened, although Mom’s pretty bummed.

It was worth a try. Marin couldn’t take the car to New York anyway. And Mom has pretty much no money. She lives on Social Security and she used to just walk everywhere or else she got us to give her rides. Marin asked me before she moved if I thought Mom would disappear with the car or sell it or anything like that. But mostly she was just worried Mom would decide to go on a big road trip to California and put tons of miles on it or something. I said I really thought it would be fine. Mom was so excited to have a car and she seemed totally willing to follow all Marin’s rules. Although of course because of her illness Mom’s memory is so elastic there’s no real way to be sure she’ll remember she agreed to anything, especially after a few months. Existence for Mom only happens in the present moment, really. Everything else fades in and out like dreams. Totally delusional, totally unmanageable. Anyway I have to work tonight so I need to get the car back before that. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing, sisters

The Hole Truth

October 27, 2015

By Janet Reich Elsbach

I am looking for my sister.

They say grief is a bottomless pit but that doesn’t mean you are always falling down into it.  Other activities are possible.  You can toddle around the perimeter, peering down into it.  You can hang off a ledge, partway down, and take in some of the sights.  You can just generally pretend, sometimes, that you are moving intentionally.

The next day you may find yourself in a free-fall again, but at least you’ve had that little other experience, where it seemed more like an exercise in free will.

I am looking for my sister everywhere.  If I look for her, seek her out, then seeing her can’t take me by surprise, or so goes my crafty thinking.

“I’ll be a bird for you,” she said, right before she died, to our mother. Really, it was a kindness to my mother, who badly needed a rope tossed her way in that still, sacred moment right before the big wave crashed.  My sister could not have chosen a better totem, neither for its resonance with my mother, who’s very tuned in to birds, nor for its plain availability. Who goes a day without seeing a bird? Every time you turn your head: there’s a bird!  There she is! Oh, so sorry, were you not at that moment wanting to fall down a hole?  Yeah, well–here’s your bird.

No birds in the grocery store.  Safe in there.  Except up the produce aisle comes a person who has not heard, somehow, after all this time, and who booms out his question: “is your crazy sister still riding horses?”  He turns to his friend.  “Endurance rider!  A hundred miles—OUCH, right? Ha, Ha.  Ha.” And I just have to pretend the broccoli is birds until that little humorous moment blows past, and then feel bad—for some reason I must feel bad—when I have to break the news that she is possibly still riding horses, depending on your belief system; most days I hope so and some days I am full of doubt. Continue Reading…