Chapter 1: Spring
When you look back at your life, there are a few moments that you can pin point as defining moments in your journey. Moments where there were clearly at least two different ways of moving forward. Each so different that by choosing one or the other, nothing would ever be the same.
The road to my first moment like this started the year my dad had been diagnosed with his illness. It had been unexpected, but what illnesses is ever expected. It always comes ‘like a thief in the night’.
My father had been a strong man, a healthy man that took care of himself. A routine check-up had revealed something sinister lurking in the dark recesses of his body.
It had been a bright spring morning when my mom and dad sat myself and my sisters down at the kitchen table. There was a smell of fresh flowers all over the house. My mom loved spring. It was the beginning of something new, beautiful and bright, and she loved flowers.
We were unprepared for what we were about to hear. It came like a punch in the stomach and looking at my dad, as he explained what they had found, one would easily think he was trying to play a sinister joke.
At the time he told us, he was a man just passed forty-five years of age. He was six foot-four and sturdy who had always been active in sports and doing DIY at home. His oldest friends had nicknamed him “Little John”, a play on the same name given to one of Robin Hood’s’ companions who was also considered to be close to gigantic, but he could only be described as a gentle giant of music. My dad loved music, where he was, there was music.
From his example, I understood that most good men realize early in life that fighting was not always necessary. “Always being on the receiving end of a scaly-wag, half your size trying to prove his manhood by picking a fight, was tiring and boring,” my father always said.
When we had first learnt about it, we had been optimistic. Medicine had come a long way, there were new treatments being discovered every day. There was a chance and my dad was strong. Ida, ever the student, had researched the illness and new methods of treatment. I was certain that she had become a thorn in doctors’ sides, as she would question every statement they made.
In the beginning my dad had accommodated her enthusiasm. There had been sombreness in him, after he had told us, which seemed to be lifted the more Ida researched and became convinced that we could beat the disease.
We had all concentrated on the possibility that we could find a cure, which we had not noticed that as the months went by he became weaker.
It was late summer when the first realisation hit us that we may not be able to beat it. My father had been working in the garden, as he always did on a Saturday morning, when I had brought him something to drink. He had suddenly started gulping for air and before I knew what happened, he lay sprawled on the grass in front of me. I don’t remember screaming, but my mother said that was how she knew something was wrong. She had come running out and when she saw the scene in front of her she had called the ambulance immediately.
She had accompanied him to the hospital, while I rode with Alice and Ida behind them. One of the few things I remember of that day is watching the white clock on the wall of the waiting room tick by. It seemed like weeks went by before my mom came to us.
She was white in her face and before she saw us, we saw her. The look on her face was a combination of terror and pain. It changed immediately when she noticed where we were sitting, but I will never forget the look she had that day. It scared me. I felt that if my mom could feel that scared, then how could I not feel the same fear. She had tried to reassure us that my dad had over-exerted himself in his state. He would have to take it easy from now on, if he wanted to get better, but there was something more that she held back and we could all feel it.
He had stayed over for two nights for observation and when he came home, there was a hint of that same look that my mom had the day at the hospital.
It had been a rude awakening as to how it was affecting his body and we immediately tried to make things more comfortable for him, so that he did not have to put any strain on his body. We had been in denial about what was happening to him and the shock brought us back to reality, but he was stubborn at times and hated feeling helpless.
He tried to fight what was taking over his body, but as it did he seemed to shrink in size. A man, who had once seemed to be the size of a giant and strong, slowly became a child. Even though he tried to do what he did before, the strain on his face was evident and day by day there was less strength to do, what had been done the day before. A person that had built his own home was slowly reduced to being helped out of bed when he needed the bathroom, but he fought as hard as he could. He fought, until it was only his mind that had the strength to fight.
We tried to smile when we were in his presence and we still tried to be optimistic that something would happen. That anything would happen. But as the days moved into weeks with no sign of change for the better, it became harder to hold onto hope. Ida began to withdraw more into her own world and it was still only my father that could reach her there. Out of his presence, Alice was more on edge and when my mother thought I wasn’t looking, I would see the sparkle she always carried with her disappear. I wanted to scream out, why?!! Why him??!! He had been a strong, healthy man. He was a good person. Why was he suffering, when he did not deserve it. Why was there no miracle for a man like him when he was one of those that most deserved it. Why was he allowed to wither away and feel the pain of losing himself? Why was he being taken from us slowly. It was my first taste of the fairness of the world I lived in. I felt that life was not made for the good and kind. They were the ones that always seemed to suffer. I wanted to be transported out of this world, where pain was given to the least deserving, to a place where there was no pain. That one could live life happy, free and at peace.
Winter was coming to an end and while it was slowly losing its grip on this world, my father’s strength was slowly fading with it. When everything in the world was becoming ready for warmth and new beginnings, my home was readying itself for a blizzard that was about to hit it. It was clear that my father was losing the battle and the fatigue of fighting showed. Everyone gets tired and “Sometimes you have to be the bigger person and admit your weaknesses,” but even as he said it, I heard the frustration in his voice. Closer to the end he seemed to make peace with what had happened and we tried to make peace with it as well, for his sake. But all wars come to an end and there are always more losers than there are winners. My dad was unfortunately the loser, and on one grey spring day he lost the fight.
Even when you are told of the inevitable, only when it happens does it become reality. We had known that there would come a time when my dad would no longer be with us. Its road had started sooner than we had thought and we had watched as he moved away from us, but the day that he actually left was both a nightmare and reality slapping us in the face.
The day that he passed, when all there was, was an empty shell, it felt as if there was an empty place in my heart. I tried to remember the words he had spoken, trying to ease our pain, “I will always be with you, if you need something to remember me, look in the mirror. I’m apart of you as you having been a part of me, from now till forever.”
The day of the cremation felt dull, even the outside looked grey, though it was the middle of spring. As I watched the coffin moving into the furnace, I repeated, “It’s only a shell, that’s not him anymore. I had to remember that he was a part of me, that he was free from that shell.
After the cremation we went home, followed by those who wanted to pay their respects. It felt as if everything had slowed down. It was quiet, as everyone spoke in low tones. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, because they were so silent. If my dad was there, there would be music and laughing. He would tell them not to be so sad. But he wasn’t there and all we could feel was sadness.
The day dragged on and I wondered why everyone kept saying sorry as if they had done anything.
When they left they would be going back to their lives. Tomorrow everything would be the same for them.
Tomorrow I wouldn’t be able to speak to my dad, my mom wouldn’t playfully chastise him for stealing a tit-bit of something she had made and Alice wouldn’t be turning into cotton-candy after someone had angered her. And who would bring Ida out of her cocoon, she normally wrapped herself in. No, tomorrow our lives would be different.
As the weeks dragged by, less and less people came to visit and the house became more silent. At first I was relieved by the silence, when the only sound that I heard was the sympathy for a wife and daughters that a father had left behind, like it had been choice. I wanted to stop hearing, “Poor little Elisa, so young. She needs her dad, who will help teach her as a father.” They didn’t know what they were speaking about. My dad had already taught his daughters so much. He taught us to be true to ourselves and to follow our dreams, showed us to love ourselves, respect what we thought. He had taught us how to punch, where the vulnerable spots were in case we needed to defend ourselves. He had showed us that we could be as great as any man or woman, if we just worked at it. He had taught us enough to prepare for the time he may not be there, but it wasn’t just his help we missed, it was him. Those little moments that we would miss him not being there.
The days seemed longer, our home silent. It felt as if we were living in a grey haze as we went along the normal routine of our daily lives that had been there, when he was still around. When my friends, Chloë and Jack spoke, it was if they were miles away. My family moved past each other like cars in the night without headlights. My mom could still laugh, but the spark was gone. Alice seemed constantly on edge and Ida seemed even more wrapped up in her own world. The glue that had kept us together seemed to have disappeared. My home felt like a generic clock, the white ones that you saw in hospitals. Its cogs worked, the hands turned, but time seemed to stand still in a place with no character or life.
Christmas came upon us with no warning and as much as we tried to celebrate it as before, by putting up lights and a tree, there was no life in those decorations. Our house felt like a Christmas display at a shopping centre. It was beautiful and colourful, but there was something missing from it and it was easy to guess what that was.
It was just over a year that my dad had been diagnosed with his illness and I felt as if I was living in a soundproof room. No noise coming in and no matter how much noise I made, nobody heard or maybe even listened. My sixteenth birthday was coming up and I felt like hiding away. I wanted it to pass and be over with.
With the memory of what had happened last summer still fresh, I could not imagine celebrating anything, especially my birthday.
For the first time ever, I was happy that it was at the beginning of the year, during the year end break, when everyone was still on holiday, somewhere. It had always been difficult to arrange a party, as most people would be out of town, but this year it was a relief.
It could pass over without anyone noticing and there was still a few weeks left before the beginning of the new year at school. I had become tired of all the sympathetic looks I had received from both the student body and the teachers after my father had died.
I understood that that they were trying to be nice, but there was just so much “How you coping now, Elisa”, I could take. The six week break and the beginning of a new year, would overwhelm and maybe erase the fact that I was without him.
But even at this time, I could always count on my family to try and keep the routines the same.
That morning my mom woke me up in bed with my sisters hovering behind her, “Happy birthday Elly,” they all shouted in unison. She had a huge cupcake in her hand, “Time to blow out the candle and make a wish,” she smiled. I wanted to pull the covers back over my head. The wish I wanted, no one could grant me. But instead I sat up and put on the best smile I could. I blew out the candle; let it not be so silent, I wished. “Present time,” Alice piped up. Alice was my older sister, the oldest of the three of us. She was doing her second year at a college; about three hours drive from my home town. At twenty-one years of age, Alice was also the splitting image of my dad, but with very few of his personality traits. She was tall, model tall, with light hair and grey eyes. Her face was square with chiselled features, but softened by femininity. It was like seeing what my dad would have looked like if he had been a girl. But she had a quick temper and it always seemed as if she was ready to fight. The one characteristic she did posses of my dad was his soft heart. She would be quick to fly into a rage if someone had hurt her, but if that same person got hurt in anyway, all that rage and anger would disappear, replaced by nothing but concern. My mom tried to explain that Alice had a quick temper as a defence mechanism. She felt that she had to protect everyone and herself from pain, because it hurt her deeply and she broke every time. How had she survived not going crazy with my dad’s illness?
She came around the bed, with her hands uncomfortably behind her back; a large package was sticking out. “Here Elly, from all of us,” she smiled, putting it on the bed. It was almost half my size, wrapped in different coloured paper. Excitement seemed to start boiling from the bottom of my stomach and my curiosity took over. I pulled the paper away as quickly as I could. Underneath it was a case, the shape of a guitar. A guitar!! “Here is the addition,” Ida came up with a book in a hand. “We made it up for you.”
Ida was the middle child, although quiet and reserved, she never allowed an opportunity where she could not voice her opinion on topics she was interested in. She was eighteen years old, tall like my dad and slender. She had my mom’s dark hair and my dad’s grey eyes. She wore glasses, but these seemed to accentuate her square shape face and features. She was beautiful and graceful in her movements. I had always been jealous that I had not inherited my dad’s colour eyes, but he had tried to comfort me by telling me that mine was like big dark pools that one could lose themselves in. That although my face gave away my moods, looking into my eyes, one knew they were like vaults that kept my true thoughts hidden. I enjoyed hearing that, now I wished I could hear it again.
The book was a collection of my favourite music, with the music and chord arrangements.
“Plus we have arranged for a tutor to start you off with the basics,” my mom added. Everything overwhelmed me. I had not thought about playing since my dad had gotten sick. I had begged my parents to get me an instrument. “I want to start a punk rock band,” they had looked me with sauce bowl eyes, but then my dad had gotten ill.
Hugging them I whispered, “My wish came true.” My mom had arranged that Chloë and Jack meet us at my favourite place, ‘The Diner’. It was a sizable restaurant that was themed as a 1950′s diner. From the menu to the decor. It made the best milkshakes and banana splits and the burgers weren’t too bad either. We had breakfast and it felt like there was a new beginning around the corner. “So you got a guitar, that’s awesome,” Jack said, excited, “one of these days I will be able to say that I am best friends with thee Elisa James.”
I laughed, “I doubt I will ever be a “thee”, but I am excited to start learning how to actually play.”
“When is your first practice?” Chloë inquired. “Tomorrow, I think,” with that the discussion turned to band names and what I should do if my music career ever happened. We laughed and for the first time in a long time, there wasn’t any sadness or regret.
The following day was a warm, sunny day. The quiet of the house was suddenly disturbed by the ding-dong of the door bell. With a start I looked up at the white clock in the study. 11 am already? I had lost track of time. Another ding-dong echoed from the hallway and I jumped from my chair and ran to the door. A bit breathless, I opened it and almost stumbled over myself. Looking up, I was met with hazel-coloured eyes that were the shape of almonds. There was green and gold flecks that seemed to disappear as you moved. A wide smile greeted me. What nice teeth, I thought, not perfect or even perfectly shaped, but strangely sexy. Before I could mentally chastise myself about how weird that thought had been, an accented voice emanated from the mouth with slightly thin lips, its’ corners turned up. “Hi, I’m Darryl McDougal. I’m here to see Elisa James,” he said with an amused look on his face. Confused, I looked at him. What did he want with me? Before I could utter the question the mouth made that sound again. “I’m here to help her with her guitar.” Internally I face-palmed myself. Of course, the tutor my mom had arranged. I had totally forgotten about that. I had lost track of time and it seemed most of my mind. “Hi, I’m Elisa,” I said shaking his hand. It was rough at some parts, but not scratchy and his grip was firm. There was a sparkle in his eyes that seemed to intensify as it got closer to his hair where it burst into flame. “Nice to meet you Elisa.” For a moment we just stood there, then he spoke up again, “Uhm, can I come in?” “Yes,” I replied, a bit dumbstruck. I lead him to the sitting room, “Sorry I totally forgot that you were coming over today.” He smiled at me and seemed to take everything in his stride and with humour, “Don’t worry about it,” he said. His calmness made me feel even more embarrassed and I could feel the temperature in my face rising and that any moment, I would burst into flames, like his hair.
Sitting down, I handed over my guitar for “inspection”. “Nice instrument, good for starting off with.” he said looking at it, like a wine connoisseur. “Ever played and instrument before,” he asked, looking up suddenly. “No.” “Did you put the strings on yourself?” “No,” I replied withering into myself, “ My mom had the store attendant replace the original ones, with ones they said were better for beginners,” I continued feeling even more ignorant about the instrument he held so confidently. “That’s good. If you haven’t done it before and you not sure what you doing, there are a lot of parts you could mess up.” I looked at him bewildered, scrunching my face, “Really?” “Yip, like the neck, machine head or bridge,” as he spoke he showed me which part he was referring to.“Why did you choose the guitar?” he asked. I hadn’t thought about it for so long, my dad had loved music, but he couldn’t play anything. I had gone through a list when I had asked my parents to let me play an instrument. I eventually spoke up, “Well I had wanted to play the drums, but my mom’s said not till I could afford to soundproof my room. A violin sounds like a cat in a trap when you start playing, and I don’t think I would be able to handle listening to myself, let alone others listening to me.” He burst out laughing. It was a good laugh, full bodied and sweet at the same time. “ So I decided on the guitar, it’s bearable to listen to when you start playing and if I wanted to start a punk rock band, I would only need to other people two complete the band. “ You want to start a punk band?” his eyebrows arched and his face changed between confusion and disbelief. “Maybe, it’s an option.” “You don’t look like the punk rock kind,” “Why not? Do people have to act and look a certain way you like certain music? I can like punk and dress like a nun,” I replied staring at him. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. Shouldn’t have judged before I knew you. You know what they say about book covers,” he said smiling in a sweet way, what I assumed must have been his way of trying to cool down the situation. I nodded my acceptance of his apology, “You forgiven.” His lips seemed to form a smirk as if he was a cat that stole cream and the dog was blamed. We drifted into an awkward silence. For the moment I dared to stare at him, while he looked around the room. He was average build, muscular but not a bodybuilder. His arms and legs were defined but not over-sized. He was average height, not as tall as my dad, but if I wore heels he would still be a bit taller than I was, by almost a head. He had a milky complexion with a tinge of caramel and there were freckles that covered the tops of his cheeks. When he had smiled, there were dimples on both cheeks and the ends of his mouth had curled up as if straining to meet them. The burst of fire on the top of his head seemed to be the combination of molten rock and blood. It seemed to bring warmth to the rest of him and I wondered if all red heads were warmer than other people. Maybe a good way to keep warm in winter time. At that thought, his eyes met mine and I froze. Did he know that I had been looking at him and did it show on my face? This was embarrassing, how would I salvage this? “Why did you choose the guitar?” I asked quickly. A slow smile crept over his face, “My uncle and my dad plays and I wanted to be like Ritchie Sambora.” Who? I looked at him confused. As if he read my mind, “the guitarist from Bon Jovi.” “Yes, Bon Jovi, I know them.” His cheeks turned a pale pink and I blurted out, “Sorry I’m very bad with names, one day I may have to wear a board around my neck to remember my own.” He smiled. Suddenly he stood up, “I think it’s time to begin. I don’t want to waste your time by telling you my life story.” “It won’t be a waste of time,” I replied quickly, “but maybe we should begin, you can always waste my time afterwards,” I smiled back. As the words came out of my mouth, I wondered where they were coming from and who was saying them. “Okay deal,” he replied, smiling broadly.
“Well the first thing about a music lesson is that you should know your instrument. What each part is called and what note each string represents.” Sitting and listening to him speak; I became certain that I would enjoy the lessons. He was nice, he had an air of calmness and he was patient. Soon the hour was done and if I thought I was confused before, my mind was swamped with information. I must have shown on my face. He stood up and put a hand on my shoulder, “Don’t worry about it. It comes with time. Practice those two chords that I showed you. Do you remember them?” I nodded. “They will help you with your finger exercises and strumming.” My finger tips and joints were sore; thinking about more practice seemed to increase the pain. Putting that thought out of my mind, I heard my stomach grumble, loudly. Darryl and I looked straight at each other. I smiled sheepishly, “Seems the bell has been rung for the end of the lesson. Would you like to stay for something to drink and a snack and then you can waste my time telling you life story?” I stifled the surprise at the words that were coming out of my mouth.
Just then we heard his stomach grumble, we laughed, “well it seems my stomach has replied for me,” he replied. We made our way to the kitchen, where I put out snacks and the kettle boiled. I set out the drinks, positioning myself across from Darryl. “Thanks, I haven’t eaten since breakfast, I didn’t think I would be hungry by now,” he replied. We started eating away, but there was an uncomfortable silence. How do I break it?
“So Darryl, your life story. Where were you born? I can’t place your accent, nor are you a robot sent here by an alien species to observe humanity?” He laughed that full bodied laugh, “Well if I was a robot sent by an alien species to observe humanity, I couldn’t tell you that, now could I?” I shook my head. “What I can tell you, is the back-story that they implanted in my memory banks.” We both smiled.
Darryl was nineteen years old. His family had emigrated from Scotland just before he started school. He had taken a break after high school as he wasn’t sure what path he wanted to take. He enjoyed computers, but couldn’t decide between hardware and software, but he supplemented his income by working for his dad, who had a small engineering business, and doing music gigs. He was part of a band who mostly did tribute shows, as that was what most people wanted, but the music that they actually played was based more on eighties hard rock. Even though he was closer to Alice’s age he was easy to speak to and he didn’t give me the impression that he thought I was some immature kid that didn’t have an opinion. I hadn’t been able to speak this freely to someone since my dad had been alive. It was as if all my thoughts and ideas that had been bottled up came rushing out like a waterfall. He took it in and just listened patiently. Even as I rambled on, part of me couldn’t understand why I was so open with him.
“Hey Elisa, who’s your friend?” Shocked, I looked up to see Ida leaning against the kitchens door frame, looking at us intently. She had a sly grin on her face and I knew by the expression on her face that I would be bombarded with questions later, as well as a few choice comments. “Ida, this is Darryl, the person mom said was going tutor me. Darryl this is my sister Ida, the recluse of the family.” Scowling at me, Ida shook Darryl’s hand. That was getting her for all the questions and comments I would hear from her later. “Nice to meet you Darryl. I hope my BABY,” emphasis on ‘baby’, “sister hasn’t been too much trouble. You know how kids can be, when they learn something new and she can be very stubborn.” “It takes one to know one,” I hit back. Looking between myself and Ida, he smiled and replied, “She’s been an excellent student. Very diligent and she should pick up the guitar in no time.” “I’m sure she was,” Ida replied in a ‘not-so-convinced tone’. Glancing at his watch, Darryl jumped up, “Wow, I didn’t realize that it was so late.” I looked at the grey clock on the kitchen wall, 4pm. “I promised my dad that I would help him with a few things today, it’s a wonder he didn’t call me to find out where I was and I have to get ready for tonight’s show at a local pub.” I walked him to the door with my sister following at my heels, “Sorry I have to rush out so unceremoniously, same time next week?” “Same time next week,” I replied.
Closing the door, I turned around to be faced with Ida, arms crossed with a look that she was about to dissect someone. “A bit old for you don’t you think?” With my hands on my hips, I prepared to scold her, when my mom walked in, “what did I hear about too old?” Before I could reply, Ida jumped in. “Elisa has a thing for her tutor. They were supposed to be done at 12, but he just left. I caught them having a cosy chat in the kitchen”, she rambled on. I wanted to scream. If Ida had, had any real interest in a boyfriend, she would have had her pick, but she was only interested in her books and since my dad had died, it had intensified.
She wanted to be a medical researcher and specialize in the disease that had taken his life. If they had not found a cure by the time she had finished he studies, then she would try and find it. The one thing Ida and I shared was our stubbornness, if she set her mind to something, it was hard to move her, and so if anyone would be able to do it would be her. But now she infuriated me. “If you want to be asexual, Ida, doesn’t mean everyone has to be. And it’s not even like that. His nice, he listens and he’s been the first person in the last year that I have been able to speak to, that did not constantly remind me that I was the youngest or that because of my age, I had nothing of value to add.”
I would never forget my mom and Ida’s face as I stormed to my bedroom. They were stunned. I had never been the one to fly into a rage, but it seemed that today all the frustrations of the last year came flooding out. It had been a relief to speak to Darryl, and to have Ida belittle it as a simple crush of a teenage girl, had pushed the boundaries.
A little later I heard a soft knock on the door. It was 6pm. I thought that it was probably my mom calling me to have some dinner, since I hadn’t left my room since the confrontation. There was another knock, but this time it was accompanied by a voice, almost a whisper. “Elly, it’s Ida, can I come in?” “Not if you going to give me grief again,” I replied. I still felt a little bit tender about what she had said. “I promise I won’t, I just want to talk.” I opened the door, “what is it?” She looked sheepish, which happened very seldom, although my sister was taller than me, she seemed to look like child in front of me. I let her in. At first she looked everywhere but me, then with a determined look, she faced me. “I’m sorry about earlier,” she started off, “I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions and I know you feel that we ignore you,” I opened my mouth to protest, she held up her hand “please let me finish. I let her to continue. “Like Alice sometimes treats us like she is our mother, I think I do that with you as well. It’s just that you are my little sister and I want to protect you, which doesn’t excuse treating you like a baby. So I promise, from this day forth, that I will not treat you like one again. I won’t dismiss what you say and if you need help, I won’t think you don’t understand. I’m sorry that I jumped to conclusions about you and Darryl.” She looked away for a moment, a bit embarrassed, “I was standing at the door for a long time watching you, waiting for the two of you to realize that I was there, but you were in your own world. And it took me announcing my presence for you to even know I was there. I should have been more open-minded about the situation. Am I forgiven?”
I knew it was hard for Ida to express what she felt and for her to acknowledge she was so wrong. How could I not forgive her? Hugging her, I replied, “It’s okay sis, all is forgiven.” With a big grin on her face she pulled me down to sit on the bed, almost excited, “Okay so can I hear the low down about Darryl now?” I was taken aback by the sudden change, “Yeah okay,” I replied, uncertain. “I want to know about the person that seems to understand my lil’ sis and who she can be so open with, plus his cute.” Cute!! Ida had actually called a boy cute; I don’t think I had ever heard that come out of her mouth. Intelligent, curious, something to do with the brain, but nothing as simple as cute. I looked at her dumbfounded. A blush rose on her cheeks, “What? He has this contrasting thing going for him. On the outside he’s shy, cute nerd, but every now and again you get a glimpse of what lies underneath.” I wondered who had been the one that had spoken to him, Ida or me. “And what lies beneath,” I asked, curious at what she had seen. “A spontaneous energy that needs to be unlocked,” she laughed, “that what comes from having to stand and watch people, while you wait to get noticed.” I felt my cheeks colour a little bit. How long had Ida been standing there watching us, while she had waited to be noticed? It was long enough that she could see the same spontaneous spark that I had seen. Did it matter? It felt good to sit and speak to my sister again, to confide thoughts like we use to do in the past.