Friday, May 09, 2003

A wonderful dinner with my sister Suzanne at the Mendenhall Inn last night. She made an interesting--and fully unexpected--criticism of the way I discuss her on this blog ("The way you write, the reader can always add the phrase 'because she's a bitch' onto the end of every sentence you write about me": "My sister doesn't like me discussing 'hotness' on the blog....because she's a bitch." "My sister prefers playing EverQuest....because she's a bitch."). I truly, truly love my sister...because she's not a bitch. Her four incredibly likeable and strikingly decent children didn't become that way in a vacuum.

Suzanne was especially cute in describing Tom's emails from Italy, where he's visiting his brother Marty. La mia moglie e gioia, they begin ("my wife and my joy"). Being in Italy really does have that effect on people.

She is as fun and ironic and chatty as ever. Chatty in her case is a compliment, because she is so interesting and can, among all the family talk, weave in discussions of ideas and ethics and values that can leave me with a lump in my throat. But inevitably whenever we talk for more than a few minutes, the subject of our sister Mary comes up, like a shadow over us, and we have to say something about her. It's like a rule. It is so terribly impossible to describe her to those who didn't know her. And to those who did know her, no preface is necessary: It becomes a kind of code. Well, Joe did this and Suzanne did this and Ed did this...and then there was Mary. Even 16 years after her death, talking about her is--for me, anyway--infuriating and terrifying and compulsive. When we talk about her, there is neither bitterness nor pleasure; to me it always feels like we attempt, over and over, to capture our own emotions at the time, and to understand what being around such an angry, disturbed person meant to us. To us, this is far more important than any rational explanation of her madness. Because there really is none. Talking about her is not exactly cathartic for us, but it is absolutely necessary.

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