Missing. by SJV
In the 52 days since I spoke to my sister for, what turned out to be, the very last time, I’ve had my beanstalk training and picked up my first ever pair of prescription sunglasses that, in hindsight, are less Jackie O and more Jackie Stallone.
In the 47 days since my sister died, the 16th anniversary of my dad dying came and went and two subscription boxes from the craft gin club arrived.
In the 23 days since my sisters funeral I’ve had a haircut which, in hindsight, is probably a bit too short, bought a piece of original ATM artwork and put on nearly a stone in weight. Bake Off is back, I’ve cut back Susan, my lavender plant, for the first time and bought 2 new bird feeders.
Not one of these big or small, exciting or boring, interesting or duller-than-dishwasher things that have happened in the past 52 days have I been able to talk to my sister about. Laugh about. Ask her opinion on. Discuss or cry over, together. I can’t talk to her about the irrelevant minutiae of my life, or the big important scary bits.
And every day since we last texted each other, two days before she died, I’ve been missing her. Her infectious laugh, her sarcasm, her wisdom, her intelligence, her tiny size 2 feet, her willingness to forgive and forget, her Rain Man like memory for names and dates, her kindness, even her intolerance of me when I do stupid things. Which I do, a lot.
I miss watching her. Drinking with her. Making plans with her. I miss reminiscing with her. Doing things with her. Going places with her. I miss being able to boast about her in the present tense. Because I used to do that a lot. “My sister did this, my sister says that”. I don’t think I ever told her how proud of her I was. How much I looked up to her. How much her opinion mattered, still matters, to me.
I miss her in the hundreds of ways unique to us, and the thousands of ways everyone who has ever lost someone misses their loved one.
And I can’t imagine a day will go by, however many days I have left, when I will stop missing her. The raw pain and shock will pass, and the dull ache of acceptance will kick in. People will eventually stop asking me, with the head tilt, how I am. Hugging me. Making allowances for me when I stare into space and doodle in meetings, when I cancel social plans and still refuse to make new ones.
People who never knew my sister will forget. Forget she’s gone, forget I lost her.
And at some point, I know, I’ll stop having to fake interest and fake laugh. I’ll stop crying. Start sleeping again. Stop comfort eating. I’ll stop having to wear my game face like a mask and screw in my jazz hands.
And then I’ll start reading again. Cause here’s the thing. As well as gin and cake, the hobby me and my sister shared the most was a love of reading. And since she died I’ve not managed to finish reading a single book. I started one – a manuscript we had on submission that I’ve taken so long to read, the deadline for final bids has long passed – but I’ve stalled at 94%. I’ve not read one of the manuscripts we called in following our #OneDay open submission day, or any of the brilliant new books that have recently published that, before my sister died, I’d been eagerly anticipating.
Because, at the moment, I can’t bare the idea of finishing a book and not having her to share it with. To rave about to. To recommend. To pull apart. To send a copy to, with a note saying ‘You’ll love this!’ I miss her telling me how much she loved, or didn’t love, a book I suggested she read. I miss her telling me off for not reading more widely. For not having ever read a ‘classic’. For steadfastly refusing to read ‘literary’ fiction.
And whilst I take this, hopefully, brief hiatus from doing one of the things I love most in the whole word, I’m telling you, from someone who knows, reading may be a solitary affair, but sharing the love of books is anything but. So, leave a review. Recommend to a friend. Join a reading club. Browse a bookshop. Seek out an author and tell them how much you loved their book. Find a book buddy. Or 10.
Share your book love folks. Do it now. It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world, and one of the things I miss most, without my sister.