My sister Amy is the funniest of my sisters. I say is instead of was because her voice continues in my head from time to time. Softer, yes, since her death but still her and still here. Her birthday is in July and her exit day is in August. Anyone who knows me, or has read me, knows I do things to honor Amy on one or both of those anniversaries, and honestly almost every day of my life. The people we love, all the people alive, dead or just MIA are always part of us and how we move through the world. Over the years on one or both of those days I try to do something as a tipping of the hat to Amy. I have done things like scattered her ashes or smoked cigars, not at the same time mind you, though there were two giant martinis’ attached to smoking that cigar so there were some ashes scattered that night too…. Overall I try to do something different, and this year was no different.
In trying to figure out what to do on Amy’s birthday this year I remembered when she lost her hair and had chemo head. She was devastated. She had the best hair of all of the Freeburg girls; the rest of us have this downy, floating stuff that is so thin and fine you need David Copperfield or Chris Angel to style it. Amy’s hair was a blonde riot, sometimes waves, other times just crazy jutting shapes all diving around her face like some kind of geometry experiment. It was beautiful, and so was she. As her hair fell out, Amy tried her best to come to grips with it, to find her beauty, her femininity. Being 6’1” like me that can be a struggle, add being bald to that and you can well imagine a loss of footing, but not of humor.
This year for her birthday I thought about those girly things she wanted to do while in the bin, which is what Amy called the hospital. I thought a pedicure might be a token of the girly rituals she missed and eating some purple ice cream as well, which she loved. I also knew I would watch one of her favorite movies so The Big Lebowski was up for the evening’s festivities along with a White Russian or a Caucasian as the “The Dude” calls it. I made my appointment for the pedi a few days prior to her birthday trying to remember Amy’s favorite color.
The morning of her birthday I sat with my coffee after mediation and toasted Amy for a well lived albeit short life. I miss her humor and the punch of her wit; it was visceral and alive. Yes, I hear her voice in my head here and there but over time it is lighter, she is lighter. The missing of her acerbic tone, the voice of reason bundled in the absurd, all that was odd, quirky and brilliant spilling out every time she opened her mouth, put pen to paper or fingers to keys. I bemoaned all of those things, complaining to her sitting there with my coffee. I know she is with me and always will be, but there are differences. Time has softened the edges and everything changes. As I thought this all I could hear a faint smirk from the ether from my sister.
Prior to my appointment I was on Flickr looking at old pictures Amy took at Comic-Con and EverQuest conferences with incredibly funny burbs she’d written. The girl was a major geek in the best possible way. I looked up from my monitor to check the clock and saw it was time to trundle off to my pedicure. On the way I asked what color she wanted, of course in my head as to not startle those on the street. I thought I heard a faint answer of “purple” in my tiny head. Really I thought, not her favorite color and certainly not mine at least when it comes to pedicures. My toes are purple on a regular basis but it has to do with running around in bare feet and being clumsy. I usually favor the pinks and reds in polish but I asked again and got “purple” as I walked in the door of the salon.
After I checked in I was instructed by the young woman behind the desk to pick a color. I picked up almost all the purples and got “No’s, until I hit a particularly ugly one. “Yes,” I heard, but I kept going, I tried other colors and other shades of purple and continued to get “No’s.” And yes, I was thinking “I am crazy in doing this,” but I knew that I needed to do it so I continued. I kept going back to this horrible shade of purple, which was like a cross between a superhero costume color and a two-day-old bruise before it goes green. I could hear her in my head saying “Yes” to that color every time I offered it up. But there was not a lot of side talk if I asked why that shade: was there a superhero angle? Was it a favorite color? I got nada, crickets from her. I again doubted my tenuous grasp on reality and took the bilious shade of purple up to the lovely young woman who was tasked with filing down my hooves and polishing them.
The rest of the afternoon was lovely; a nice lunch, some journaling, and a couple of scoops of purple ice cream to match my toes with Amy’s voice periodically in my head like a peanut gallery. Later that evening after dinner I settled in to watch The Big Lebowski. I love it. It is a very funny movie but I don’t watch it every year. In fact, it had been a few years since I had seen it. I started the movie and reflected about the proper beverage to accompany it. Naw, I thought, I don’t really want a White Russian. By the second scene making a White Russian became a compulsion, not only did it look like a great dessert, but it is thematically just too good to pass up. I put the movie on pause and created the same concoction Jeff Bridges had moments before on film, complete with half-and-half. Really, this was monkey see, monkey do; I am just that malleable when it comes to the pleasure principle.
As the evening wore on I occasionally caught a glimpse of my toes and winced at the color but I knew I’d taken one for the team. I knew Amy was pleased somewhere sitting on a cloud with a Mountain Dew and some Cheetos as she watched this all play out just for her. Again, I thought I heard that smirk. I sipped my cocktail and was enjoying the movie immensely. I congratulated myself on putting just enough time between viewing’s to fully appreciate it. I caught even more details than I have in past viewings. I was really quite pleased with myself, but it seems I was not the only one.
I was hunkered down and laughing along when John Turturro’s character Jesus, who is a top rival on the opposing bowling team, appeared on screen. I froze mid-sip and just took it all in. In the film Jesus is dressed in a skin-tight jumpsuit that is the same exact bilious shade of purple that Amy chose for my pedicure that day. Then the camera zooms in as he licks the bowling ball pre-roll, showing his long pinky nail is painted the exact same color purple as my toes were. I almost spit my cocktail all over the sofa; there was a wild cackling laugh in my head. And then passed being stunned, I was laughing so hard I missed the next few minutes of the movie. The idea of a practical joke being perpetrated from the great beyond is both humbling and awe inspiring. Me being the dimwitted sad sack of “I miss the punch of your wit” hours before made me the perfect patsy. I caught my breath, Amy’s voice all too clear in my head and heart, “I’m still the funniest sister.” Touché, Amy Charlotte, touché.