The Best Medicine

There is a great distance that exists between my family and I. This distance is not purely physical. But it is perhaps the physical distance that has increased the silence amongst my sisters and myself. I don’t find it difficult to talk to my mother on the phone at least once a week. She is my mother after all. I turn to her for advice, for comfort, for emotional support and when there’s still time left to talk, for updates on my two sisters. My sisters and I though, we rarely talk on the phone. Lately it seems that my mom and sisters don’t either. Though the silence between my mom and sisters isn’t due to living far apart. They live in the same state and yet, one sister is creating a large chasm between my oldest sister and our mom. The back story on my middle sister, who is closer in age to our oldest sister than she is to me, is a story that has many facets and reads much like any generic tabloid magazine. All the news and updates that I get from my mother on her always leads to the same conclusion, my sister is headed for a breakdown. Most of the time I would roll my eyes at this, after all, my mother has a lifetime of experience with mental illness, so she is a self-proclaimed expert at identifying it in others. But when the phone rang earlier this week and it was my oldest sister calling, our lengthy conversation ended in the same conclusion about our other sister.

I’ll admit, when I knew who was calling, my mind immediately thought something was wrong up north. She is the one who called to tell me our oldest cousin had committed suicide and that our mother was in the hospital that one Thanksgiving. She is the unofficial spokesperson of what is left of our family. Surprisingly though, she was calling just to chat. I was glad of this. She had just spent Easter recovering from gastric bypass surgery and I was interested in talking to her about her experience. Our conversation eventually turned to our other sister. The details of what has been happening since my visit the previous summer saddened me. We ended the conversation after a solid hour of talking, something that has never been done with her and I. We vowed to chat again and to make it a regular thing.

The news of the inevitable demise of our sister’s mental state, given the crazy things she has done since her divorce, made me nostalgic for the few times I have traveled to visit them. The times when there was only one nephew and everybody was mostly happy. I will never, in all my life, forget the happiness I have always felt in the presence of my two sisters. Sometimes I debate who is my favorite, but it’s impossible to decide considering they are both different and unique in their own way. What is the most memorable of our reunions is the laughter. My sisters, together, are the only people who have ever been able to make me laugh to the point that I literally start coughing and gagging because I am laughing so hard. Embarrassing things happen to my bladder when they make me laugh, which made me very cautious the night we went to the Cheesecake Factory together and began making jokes about their husbands. Even my husband, who makes me laugh every day, has never made me laugh as hard as I do when I’m with my sisters. It is my hope that I will be able to experience that kind of laughter again. That what has caused this divide between our middle sister and the rest of us will heal itself and we will enjoy sincerely happy times again. Living so far away from them means that these moments are definitely few and far between. I like to pretend that the distance doesn’t bother me. That because there is a disturbance in the peace, I’m happy to be living several states away. But as time advances, I know that I’m not as happy as I wish I was being this far away.  It is my hope that there will still be time left in order to experience laughter that hard once again.

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