Last Tag

My dad’s side of the family plays this game.  Last Tag.  I’m not sure where it came from or who invented it, but it is the ultimate version of tag and to this day, not one family visit has ended without it.  The rules are simple.  The same ones as tag, except with a nice twist. You only play this right before you’re about to leave, because the point is to tag as many family members as you can last.

The game begins when the family visit ends (and I mean literally coming to an end…bags are packed, car is ready – sometimes, the car is even on).  Everyone will be hugging and saying goodbye.  Up to this point, things are good, normal.  We are the frickin’ Brady Bunch.  But then, someone will go in for a hug to say goodbye and as they pull away, a hand swings back to hit them in the arm and the crucial words are uttered: “Last tag.”

And all pandemonium breaks loose.

Usually, an aunt or uncle starts it.  But the moment those words are spoken, there are no more hugs or sweet goodbyes.  The gloves are off and a seemingly-normal family is turned into a crazed bunch of animals running through the streets, the house, the yards with only one thought in mind: I MUST WIN.

Now, the aunts and uncles, the grandparents – they’re easy.  All you really have to watch out for are the quick tag-backs, because they’ll only chase you for so long.  Once you wear them down, you just gotta tag them and jump away before their longer, lightning-quick arms (or legs – there’s no limb discrimination with the tags) snap out to get you.  It’s the cousins that are the true challenge.

It’s the cousins that run through the neighborhood…run in the middle of the streets…  That refuse, REFUSE, to give up.  To give in.  To surrender.  Okay, maybe it’s mainly me and my cousin Edward who have been trying to outdo each other in this game, since the beginning of our wee little lives…but still…

This game can extend actually leaving by over an hour.  It’s usually ended, because the adults (I say this, but this is exactly what happened last time we played about 8 months ago and I am well into adulthood – so, here adults means the OLDER adults) will either holler at their kid that the car is about to go or will literally start driving towards them.  This is key.  If you can get in that car and slam the door shut and lock it and make sure the windows are rolled up and have tagged your target last, well, you’ve won.  Really, it’s about tagging everyone (or Edward) and getting in the car safely.  If you’re not the one leaving, a good strategy can be to also get in the car, especially if you can do so first without the other person knowing and surprise attack them and hop outta the car.  Doesn’t always work out great but if it does – that’s the best!

It’s my favorite (albeit chaotic) family tradition.

At my sister’s funeral we had a place to write down messages and memories of my sister, my cousin (Edward’s brother) wrote her a message and ended it with: Last Tag.

I found this to be perfect.  The perfect send off from a cousin, from our family really.  And, I’ve been thinking about this lately, because – well, soon my sister will have been gone for two years……and because, the cousins I’ve mentioned – their father just died.

It was completely unexpected.  And although my cousins are adults, they’ve still lost their dad. I don’t want them to have to go through this.

Eight months ago, he was their getaway driver.  He was giggling evilly at me, as I was scowling at him through the car window for helping them escape.  Eight months ago, he was here, still playing Last Tag, in all its glory.  And now, he’s gone.

So, as my cousin wrote to my sister, I will now write it to my uncle.

Last Tag, Uncle.

I’ll miss you.

Moments

There are these moments.

Random moments.  They’re not consistent in how, when, or why they happen.  Whether they’re set off by a good memory, a bad memory, or anything at all.

But they are consistent.  Because no matter what caused them, they lead to the same indescribable feeling.  A pinch of utter despair?  An ounce of heart-wrenching sadness?

It’s the feeling that goes along with one realization that to function, I push away.  That I’ve tried to bury deep down in some dark cave in my soul.  No matter how hard I try, though, sometimes the damn thing finds its way to the light.  And for a brief moment, I face this reality, I cry, and then, I push it away.

I will never talk to her, again.

That’s it.  Just that.  That realization…is something that my brain, my heart – just doesn’t understand.  Even after almost two years.

I know she’s gone.  I know it.  But, I just don’t get it.

I don’t think I ever will.

Attempted Suicide(s)

journal_entryAbout six months before my sister died, a friend called me – somewhat out of the blue. We’re definitely friends, but we definitely don’t talk more than once every couple of years. He called to ask if I was okay…in a very concerned sort of way, not your run-of-the-mill-how-you-doing way.  I said I was fine and asked him what was up…and then, he told me that his mom (works at the hospital in our hometown) had called him when she heard about my sister.

I had no clue what he was talking about.  Then, he gets quiet and says: “Your sister attempted suicide a couple of days ago.”

And…

I laughed.  I laughed in disbelief.  I laughed in pure belief.  I laughed at how I was finding out through a distant friend days after it had happened.  I laughed at how awkward this must be for my friend.  And, I think I said something to the tune of: “Of course she did.”

He was taken aback by my response, as he should have been.

But this wasn’t the first time…or the last…

How many times total?  Only my mom probably knows.  She didn’t call me every time my sister got sick and had to go to the hospital…and she didn’t call me every time my sister attempted to kill herself.  There was a threshold that had to be passed before my phone rang.  Death had to be not just hovering around my sister but with his hands at her throat before my mom would let me know, because she didn’t want to put us (me or the rest of my family) through it…unless we really needed to be put through it.

And my sister’s suicide attempts were…halfhearted.  She had an addiction to pain meds (a topic for a future post) and she would take enough pills to kill a normal person but not enough to be sure that they would kill her.  So, my mom, again, didn’t want us to have to deal with the drama of it all, because she believed my sister really did not want to die or why wouldn’t she have downed the whole bottle?

If I sound cavalier and cruel in talking about this, it’s because I was.  The possibility of my sister dying, whether of her own accord or from her disease, had started to mean less to me.  Maybe it was some form of self-protection.  She would not make choices to lead to a healthier life and no one could convince her to change…so, in theory, I was over it.  She was going to die.  In reality, I was selfish and blind, numbed by the past to the present.

The last time she attempted suicide was three months after my friend had called.  My phone rang, again, but I missed the call (I was in the bathroom – peeing).

I had heard my phone, so I checked it – missed call from my sister.  I set down the phone, thinking that I’d call her back later, but then picked it right back up and called her. Because in those three months between the phone call from my friend and this phone call from my sister, something had changed.  I don’t know what, but I had stopped the self-protective selfish bullshit going on in my head and started to really really really be concerned.  Because I had realized one thing…

I didn’t want my sister to die.

It’s not even “realizing” really – it’s more like admitting.  Admitting to yourself that your selfish behavior is just an act and that deep down you are a mess because you are destined to lose something that you would really really really like to keep.  Your little sister.

I had started to admit that more and more (like in the journal entry pictured above).  And instead of treating my little sister like something I had already lost, I started treating her like something I thankfully still had.

So, I called her back.

She was crying.

She said something about nobody caring and how I didn’t even pick up the phone.  I told her I was peeing – that I called her right back. (Thank gawd that I had!)

And she kept apologizing and saying that she wasn’t going to come visit me (she was supposed to come to town in a couple of days).  That she was sorry – she just couldn’t make it.

I know we were on the phone for a while but I don’t really remember what I said – I don’t remember much more of what she said.  I just remember trying with all my might to make sure that she did not hang up the phone.  Of trying to convince her to stay with me…to stay with all of us…to stay.  Stay.  Stay.

Eventually, she hung up on me.  Not in an angry way.  In a sad, I-love-you-goodbye way.

I immediately called my mom and told her to go home.

She immediately called my dad because he could probably get there faster.

He got there in time and this turned into another “attempted” suicide.  Her last one.

She did end up coming to visit.  I’m so thankful that she did, because we had a really great time…and because, three months later she died…not from suicide but from the damn disease.

Now, it’s a year and-a-half after her death…and I’m still here – trying to live in a world that doesn’t include my little sister.

And trying to understand why I didn’t do more to keep her in it.

The Dress

sister_dressI am a bridesmaid.  For the first time.  I’m more of a boy’s girl than a girl’s girl.  Hence, I’ve never been in a wedding.  I’m sure all of you know this, but weddings are a butt-ton of work.  I sort of knew this, but now I really know this…and I’m only really involved in planning the pre-wedding events.

Anyway, wedding craziness is not the point of this post…but the bridesmaid dress I chose is.  I went dress shopping with the future Mrs. to try on dresses in the color scheme of the wedding (weddings have color schemes, if you did not know this).  In this particular dress store, the different styles are named…well, names.  Normal people names.

I try on a few but only one really looks good on me…it even goes with the cowboy boots I’m wearing (this is a very important qualification of any dress I own).  As I’m wearing it, staring in the mirror, my friend asks if I noticed the name of the dress.

I had not.

It’s my sister’s name.

Dress. Sold.