Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My Sister Sally

I've only known Sally for a few years, but sometimes I believe it is the work of some cosmic prankster that we can't find any evidence that we are actually sisters.

The first time I stepped into her house, I knew we were going to be fast friends.  Her house looked as though a box of crayons has exploded, but in a nice way.  Every wall had a half dozen paintings leaning against it and that many more already on the walls.  Books were on every horizontal space and she let my dog in, even though he was shedding all over her tribal and Persian rugs.  It felt just like my house with a little less red in the paintwork.

It took us about thirty-seven minutes to become fast friends.  She'd lived abroad with the Foreign Service and the Peace Corp and we'd recently done our seven or eight years in England.  She loved art and I was running at a gallery back then.  We'd both read pretty much everything one is supposed to read and number of things that one shouldn't.  We even shared an agnostic philosophy while at the same time being fascinated by iconography.  She collected antique icons and I had a collection of Madonnas.

My family loved her too and pretty soon my grown children were calling her Aunt Sally, as was my oldest grandchild.  She was a part of our holiday celebrations, we were always in and out of each others houses and then I found a lump in my breast.  Sally never had children, but a maternal instinct roared up in her that allowed her to mother me.

We thought she wouldn't be allowed in for my treatments unless we passed her off as my sister, which wasn't hard to do.  We're both tall, assertive and have just a touch of vitaligo.  Her hair was short and gray, mine was short and gold. (Now her hair is gold and mine is graying, but that's a whole other thing.) We were passing as sisters to my docs for about a month before we were assured that Sally was welcome in the exam and chemo rooms, in spite of the lack of a common bloodline.

She was there for every exam and every wretched session of chemo.  She paid careful attention to what the docs said because my chemo fueled brain couldn't retain a lot.  She urged me to eat, made me tea and she made me laugh.  Sally would call me and remind me what meds I was supposed to take after every treatment.  She took my dog for walks and treated him to a wonderful summer of swimming at her family's lake house so that I could nap.  She even told me I looked good bald, but loaned me scarves from her Hermes collection when I didn't believe her.

That summer is thankfully four years in the past.  Sally's only sister Pedge Daniels, the photographer who shot the lovely picture of me and my puppy on my website, died last Friday.  She was Sally's older sister, but Sally will always have me.  We're the sisters who chose each other.