My little sister is here from her Zambian home. Also an outpost, but better populated than mine. She has a supermarket with more than one trolley which is all our Amory sports because there’s never more than one of us who require it at any one time.
She brought me cat biscuits and chilli flakes per my shopping request. Because she came via big cities which I have not seen for more than a month. The chilli flakes for me; the cat biscuits for the feral little thing I’ve adopted and who traipses after me all day, every day, getting fatter by the week for who could ignore the Oliver plaintive mews for more, please.
My sister, C, and I have had time to swim together, up and down, up and down, lap after lap, more exhausted from the chat than the exercise. We have had time to dissect things we’ve never had the time to. Six years my junior, there was a gap – a gap when she was a child and I a teen, when she was a student and I a new mother . The years have narrowed the gap – our common ground has grown. We have laughed loud and long. We have shared cold beers. We have touched lightly on the tougher stuff ; we do not want to cloud precious days of sunshine.
And we have put heads together over mum: her future, her fragility, her reading. Sometimes it seems a lot to grapple with, it has been good to sound ideas out. It is only recently – and with some startled, delighted surprise – that I discover my sister bears a wisdom and a common sense that I sometimes lack as I flail in panic wondering what to do next. As the eldest I assumed a mantle of responsibility when Dad died. Before that: when mum got sick. When I was 13 and C barely seven.
C bears a graceful privacy. Does not wear her heart so untidily on her sleeve as I. Her approach is one of warm pragmatism. I remember her as that 7 year old, trotting along beside me as Dad hauled us into the psych ward to see mum in hospital. C was more interested in the chocolates beside Mum’s bed than I, who was consumed with useless fear and confusion. Her lightness then helped to brighten the darkness. Six years later, when Dad died, she was the small hand that slid itself into my clammy nineteen year old one, ‘it will be ok, A’, she said, and smiled, bravely dry eyed in the face of this enormous, life shattering loss.
And now, a new chapter in our lives, a new big change, new big decisions, new fears and she wings her way up.
And she brings me cat biscuits and chilli flakes.
And courage. Again. She brings me courage.