Monday, September 26, 2005

Margaret Ann

In the South you always have two first names. My sister's name was Margaret Ann. The two names seem to stick at least through elementary school. I don't remember exactly when Margaret Ann became just Margaret but I can still hear my mother calling her home for supper...another southern term...."Margaret Ann, supper's ready. Come on in."

Margaret Ann was my baby sister born in September just before I was four in December. I remember my Daddy had me outside with him while he cut the grass so Momma could rest. When we went in Momma was on the bathroom floor and I had to go spend the night with a neighbor. I do remember that when Daddy came the next morning and told me I had a baby sister, I got a new toy, a doctor set with a stethesocope and thermometer. I think at the time the new toy was more important than the sister.

It is funny how you remember bits and pieces of your sound bites but that is the way I remember my sister and me growing up, sleeping in the same bed, fighting, playing but in many ways we were far enough apart in age that we just went our separate ways with school and friends.

I was always jealous of her because she could make people laugh. I can hear my Aunt Lucille saying, "I'm telling you that child says the cutest things," while she shook her head in amazement at Margaret Ann's latest pronouncement. I always wanted to say cute things but saying cute things wasn't a part of my personality. I was the older sister, serious and always responsible.

We grew up. I married, made Margaret's dress for the Senior Prom. I had three sons. One of my sons was the ring bearer at her first marriage. She had a son. She divorced. I had a dinner party for the family after her second marriage to Bill. She moved to West Texas. She went to work at IBM. I returned to work. Life moves on but while life was happening we were growing closer and realizing the emotional connection that we shared with each other. No one knows you like your sister.

Margaret's ability to say "cute things" continued. She could make you laugh and sometimes it got her in trouble at work while at the same time made her loved by all her co-workers. One of her friends told me that Margaret cracked up a meeting when regional management was telling the local office how they were solving a problem with more computers. Everyone was wondering how that would solve the problem when the problem was greater than having more terminals. Margaret piped up and said, "I'm not understanding how this is going to help. You can put more straws in the coke bottle but you still have the same amount of coke."

When she didn't answer the telephone all that day, I knew something was wrong. Finally when she called me, my first words were, "What the hell is wrong?" She replied, "I have breast cancer." Not just breast cancer but Stage III breast cancer.

My Mother had breast cancer before she was 30 years old. Back then the surgery was radical, and I do mean radical. Just skin left to cover the chest; lymph nodes and muscle taken from the arm pit. Radiation was a new treatment and it burned and blistered. Momma survived the cancer and the surgery and treatment but Margaret and my life was forever affected by her cancer.

Margaret had surgery, chemo and radiation. We visited back and forth, Houston to Midland, Midland to Houston. We shopped. We laughed. We drank wine. We cooked together. Life was good. Then the cancer came back in the spine. Margaret was a paraplegic for the last ten months of her life. Never did she give up hope. Never did she complain. I went out to Midland every month for a week to be with her and help Bill care for her. As always, we talked and laughed. We were close. We were sisters.

Margaret died just before her birthday ten years ago and was buried on her birthday, September 27. Your baby sister isn't suppose to die before you. Sometimes I sure do need to talk to her. I wish she was here.


Anonymous said...


I'm a man, but I can change, don't get to tears often - but a touching sentiment for your sister. I have two sisters that I am NOT in contact with enough. I think I will go call them...

Calypso John

Anonymous said...

Everytime you mention Margaret it resonates deeply. I consider that my siblings are 3 and 4 years older than I am, and they are more at risk than I, if for no other because they are older. With the recent death of our Mother, the final person in her generation -- she outlived all her immediate family and cousins -- the last chapters of our lives are now being written. The "last generation" is now ours. One has to wonder how many chapters are in our life's book....