The first time Laurie visits Jen in the hospital she moves slowly around the bed, her back pressed against walls and furniture, keeping as much distance between her and her younger sister as possible. It is that first time shock of seeing someone you love, the unexpectedness of serious illness no one is prepared for, of viewing something hard to understand, accept, something creating changes in the everydayness like the wake of a boat long after it passes.
Still standing away from the bed, still acclimating herself, Laurie calls Jen's name. Visibly, Jen fights her way to the surface, is able to open her eyes for a brief moment, tries to find her sister in the dim room, is able, for the last time before descending, to speak with sense, to mouth the words, Hi, Laurie.
Two years apart, always different in most ways, the girls grow up with our idea that they are coming into our lives, that we are not going to center everything around them. We walk around the house normally when they are sleeping babies, play music, loudly sometimes, have friends over and laugh and argue. Dee and I make all the right moves, disciplining them with a swat on the butt when they are learning right from wrong, no means no, never letting them interrupt adults when they are talking, never letting adults interrupt them, loving them and caring for them, treating them like we wish we could have been treated as children, always aware of everything we are doing is molding them, especially the first two years; during all those days in the late 60's, early 70's, referring to Dr. Spock occasionally about ailments, aware we are doing it differently from our parents, we make all the right moves and still fuck our children up.
Only a few months old and Laurie is sleeping all through the night. (Nothing to this child-raising gig.) Always independent and head-strong about food and clothes and opinions, even as a child, she is looked at by others with a touch of envy because decisions come easily, no endless debating like most folks over choices and consequences. Choose and move on. Just like her mother. On the other hand there's Jennifer--who doesn't sleep through the night as a baby, whose disposition is reflected in a photograph of her on the front porch on Bernardo Street in her windup swing, arm on the front of the seat, chin resting on arm, eyes staring straight into the lens, questioning, reserved, a weary resignation like she's had enough of this childhood thing.