I watched my mother destroy my best friend, a friend who took the pain away from my heart and tucked it inside her own. Sissy was diagnosed with bi-polar depression after Daddy moved out of our house and into his own. My mother said feeling sad was in our blood and not to worry. To me it was comforting to hear, to know perhaps my aunts and cousins felt sad too, Sissy thought differently.
The last good memory I have of Sissy is one of the first days of the summer. It was a Saturday and my mother took the two of us to the town pool. Sissy and I played Marco Polo and read our new books while lounging in the sun and snacking on pretzels. My mother was by the snack bar most of the day sipping on white slushy drinks served with a pineapple slice on the cup’s brim. She was talking and joking with some of our neighbors, I kept peaking over watching her laugh. Sissy said everything was fine. I wasn’t worried though, I was having a grand time.
The sun was rather hot by the afternoon so Sissy and I stayed in the water for the remainder of the day playing with some children we knew from school. I noticed she had a constant eye on mother, I begged for her attention. We were well into a game of tag when Sissy grabbed my arm. “It’s time to go,” she said. “Why, no it’s not, it’s not dark out yet” “Shut up, let’s go”. I looked up and saw a waiter grabbing at my mother’s wrist. “I’m fine! Let go of me, OK I’m leaving” I heard her say in the distance. Sissy packed our things into our pink backpack and we followed as my mother said “C’mon girls we’re leaving”. I was scared, I didn’t like it when she was mad. I saw Sissy was concerned too, I really didn’t like this feeling.
We arrived home and my mother began to scream and cry, sobbing that her life was over. I wasn’t sure if I should give her a hug or not, so I decided to stay back. She rose from the ground and started punching at the wall. I felt my body begin to shake. She reached for a bottle of whiskey and was about to pour some when the pleading words escaped my lips, “Can Daddy pick us up? I want to sleep there tonight”. My mother, red faced, turned around and threw a tumbler glass that struck me on the forehead. I was frozen, as was everybody else. Sissy ran out of the room, I needed her, where was she going? Everything went fuzzy.
I can’t remember anything until blue and red lights filled the room. It wasn’t until then that I noticed the blood on my bathing suit and red stains on my hands. My mother talked to the police officers for a bit. I was carried into an ambulance and my mother and Sissy joined. We drove to the hospital; I have to admit it was kind of neat racing through rush hour traffic. My mother spoke, jolting me out of my daze, “Look what you did to your sister. You awful, awful child.” We were both puzzled, “But…” Sissy said accompanied by a tear forming in her right eye. “No buts child! No leaving the house for you this summer”. Sissy fell silent. The paramedics stared at her. That was one of the last times I really ever heard her speak.
Daddy came to the hospital and gave me a teddy bear. He looked at Sissy with a furiously sneer. She knew what to expect, regardless if she deserved it or not, and just starred at the floor. “Daddy, Sissy didn’t…” “Enough sweet pea, you need to rest or you’ll give yourself a migraine.” My mother stroked my hair, I was so confused. Daddy placed his hand on my knee and just then I drifted off to sleep.
I woke up to my mother and Daddy talking to a doctor and a police officer in the hallway. Sissy was still awake, still starring straight ahead. They walked in by my bedside. “OK darling, if you’re feeling a bit better we’re all ready to leave”. I nodded. Daddy gently lifted me and carried me to my mother’s car. He buckled me in and kissed my bandage where I had received five stitches. I looked over and Sissy was starring out the window at the droplets of rain running down the window.
In the morning my mother woke me up and helped me get my tee shirt on, sure to not rub against my bandage. “We have to take your sister to the doctor today” “But I’m the one who got stitches” “I know silly, she’s sick” “No she’s not” “Sweetie she is, her anger makes her sick” “But, I don’t understand, and why did you say she hurt my head?” My mother left the room without answering or picking out pants for me to wear.
We drove ten minutes down the road and pulled up to a pink building. In the waiting room there were plenty of magazines and toys, I was pleased. My mother went up to the patrician and spoke, “Hello, I’m Meredith Solomon, Dr. Richard over at the hospital phoned last night regarding my daughter Katrina…” “Oh, yes the Doctor is expecting her, you stay put and I’ll take her in. He’ll invite you to join them a bit later” “Wonderful”. Sissy left with the young nurse.
I sat with my mother playing games in Highlights magazine until the nurse called her in to the doctor’s room. She told me to sit tight, and I did. They were back some time later, I couldn’t tell exactly how long I was too happy to have all these games, my mother waved for me to come and I hopped off my chair, leaving my unfinished puzzle. I lagged behind with Sissy, “How was it?” I asked, she shrugged her shoulders and continued to stare straight ahead. I took her hand into mine. “We have to head to the pharmacy next girls,” my mother said from afar, waving three slips of paper in the air. “Can we go to the park after?” I asked with glee, “I’m afraid the Doctor gave your sister some medication that may make her a bit tired, we need to head home so she can rest”. “But I’m bored!” “You can get a toy at the pharmacy to play outside. How’s that? A kite or something.” I was secretly excited but tried hard not to let it show since Sissy looked so sad. I wanted to live with Daddy too, he had a dog and unlike my mother he only had one mood. He said we needed to wait until all their grown up meetings at the courthouse were over.
The first thing I did when we got home was unwrap my new kite, what a great suggestion. I took it out into the backyard as Sissy and my mother headed to the kitchen so Sissy could get a glass of milk to take her medicine with. I felt bad for Sissy, I knew she hated swallowing pills and she had lots of them to take. I had a nice day in the backyard flying my kite and playing with our neighbor’s dog. Sissy slept through dinner so I didn’t have anyone to play with, instead I watched a movie and went to bed.
The next day was the same, and so was the one after that. Everyday my mother would take Sissy in to the kitchen to take her medicine. Sissy would come outside on the swings with me but just sat there still and then watch as I made sand castles. Sometimes she would even push some sand around with her toes to create a mound but most times she just stared at the sky.
One night my mother pulled me aside and told me Sissy wasn’t doing well, she was much too sad. She reminded me that it ran in the family and that my aunts and cousins overcame it. She promised Sissy would too, she said the doctor gave her medicine to be happy again. I asked her why it wasn’t working and she said they had to find the appropriate dosage. Whatever that meant, it didn’t matter, whatever it took to get my best friend back. I missed running around with her. I missed talking to her, telling her my secrets. I missed her hugging me and even yelling at me. I missed my sister.
That weekend we went back to the Doctor’s office for the same routine, I didn’t mind I figured it would help her. Again we went to the pharmacy, but this time I didn’t ask for a toy, I was enjoying my kite. My mother began taking Sissy into the kitchen twice a day now. I thought it made her worse but I didn’t say anything. Sissy wouldn’t sit on the swing anymore. My mother had to bring a lawn chair out for Sissy to sit in just so she could get some fresh air. I was pumping on my swing when I began to cry, I felt so sad for Sissy, she took all the hurt away from me and I loved her for it. I wish she didn’t have to suffer.
We didn’t go back to the doctor’s that weekend. I asked my mother why and she said because she didn’t feel well. I didn’t like when she said that, it usually meant she would become mean soon and it was only lunchtime. I took Sissy by the hand and lead her upstairs to my room; maybe I could help her be less sad if she didn’t have to see our mother yell and cry. I was playing with my kitchen set when my mother called for Sissy. She obediently left and returned shortly after with a milk mustache. I continued to play and turned on the radio so Sissy couldn’t hear our mother crying downstairs.
I was getting bored, I took Sissy by the hand and lead her downstairs through the kitchen and into the garage to get our bikes. My mother grabbed Sissy’s hand and yanked her towards the kitchen. “We’re going to ride our bikes!” “Don’t get fresh with me! You’re sister needs her medicine, you never know what she may do to you again!” “But…” “Shut up”. I waited for Sissy to finish her milk and then we went outside. I whispered to her “It’s not dinner time yet, why did you need medicine again?” Sissy just shrugged, I guess I too would do whatever my mother told me, I didn’t want to get punished.
Sissy just sat on the curb and starred at the sun. I rode my bike around the block a few times, making sure that she could see me; she always worried when I rode my bike in the street. “Sissy, you’re going to hurt your eyes, Daddy told us never to look directly at the sun.” She sat there and didn’t listen to me. My mother came out in her robe and called Sissy in, she must have forgotten that I was out there too.
I took one last lap around the block for good luck and had a make believe race to the finish line. I put the kickstand down, unbuckled my helmet and headed inside. Sissy was in the kitchen with my mother, I was hoping they were making a snack, I was starving. “Can we have lunch? It’s 3 o’clock, I want peanut bu — Mom! You already gave Sissy her medicine!” I saw Sissy didn’t want to take the pill, she had her mouth clamped shut and my mother was shoving it in. Sissy didn’t put forth any more restraint, I ran over and grabbed my mother’s arm and started to cry, “Please, Mom, please!” She shoved me off and I fell to the floor. I began to sob, I wanted Sissy to play with me, the pills made her sad and still! I raced to my room and slammed my door. I pulled the covers over my head rocking myself in my tears and at some point drifted off to sleep, tired from being so sad.
Sissy took a nap that afternoon too, except she didn’t wake up. I woke up around dinnertime and walked downstairs to find my mother cradling Sissy who was lifeless and limp. Just like Sissy did for me that one warm night at the beginning of the summer, I called the police to come help her. When they arrived they put a sheet over her head and rolled her into the very same ambulance except I wasn’t allowed in. The policeman who was here last time put my mother in handcuffs, she sat in the back of the police car starring straight ahead. Daddy came and lifted me off the ground, he was crying, he kissed me on my forehead and whispered I could come live with him now. “Starting tonight?” “Starting tonight” “Can Sissy and I share the big bed?” “Sissy won’t be there sweetie,” he said with red eyes, “Why not?”