My Sister

My sister would have been 76 this week but she died at 58. Sometimes it seems that a long time has passed since then but at other times it seems as though her death was last week. Is it a function of aging that time and events lose their relative connectivity?

I was four years older than she was and when we were young that was quite a gap. As we grew older, the gap grew smaller until we were in effect the same age. We did not look alike; my sister was blonde, blue-eyed and a chubby baby while I was black haired, hazel=eyed and as skinny as a pole bean. Even out skin colour was different. She had fair skin which burned easily while I had olive skin which tanned easily. Strangers found it hard t believe we were related, let alone sisters.

My sister trained as a primary (elementary) teacher and when she qualified worked first at a school in the town where my parents lived. I married and moved to the big smoke and she came down to Wellington too. She was employed at a private girls” school for a few years before accepting a post at an associated school in Lima, Peru. That position gave her the travelling bug and she and friends went all over South America during their summer vacations. They travelled by merchant ship, buses and trains and she once told me she rode a bicycle through a train carriage. Why she did that, I have no idea but it sure sounded like something my sister would do.

After a revolution in Peru when the army took over, she did not feel safe so she joined me in Canada in the spring of 1969. By September she had a job in a country school and an apartment in Oakville. When Palermo School closed, she went to another rural school because she liked the independent natures of country kids. However she finished her teaching career in a town school after the second school also closed. I used to hear about the children she taught and was even involved in writing their reports. As a relative with a degree in English, I was the obvious choice to correct her spelling and grammar! I can remember saying, ‘You can’t write that. What is the kid’s problem?” Then we’d write a more professional comment.

My sister travelled all over and visited every continent including Antarctica where she went on a Russian tourist ship. She flew in a small plane past Mount Everest. She didn’t marry but was never short of men friends. During the last fifteen years of her life, her partner traveled with her on many wonderful trips which he documented in carefully-arranged photo albums. They were very happy together.

My sister could be annoying. She was loud and high-spirited and inclined to be self centred. She was also fun to be with, hard to ignore and genuinely interested in family doings and events. I admired the way she coped ith the cancer that killed her. She and I laughed at similar things and I miss having someone with the same background in my life to talk over daily happenings. Maybe I should have asked my parents for another sister. One wasn’t enough.