30 Days of Thanks – Day 18 – Bean

When I began my 30 days of thanks, I wanted to think of things a little bit outside the box. I didn’t want to just be thankful for my home, my family, and my friends – I am so grateful for all of those things every day.  But Day 18 – November 18th – is my sister Bean’s birthday.  How could I not be thankful for her?

There were days during her life when I can admit I didn’t always quite appreciate having Bean for a sister.  She was somewhat of a slob.  No, she was an enormous slob.  I was constantly on her about cleaning up her stuff, putting things away, picking up shit she left all over.

When the holidays would come, she would take her disability checks and spend nearly the entire amount on dollar store gifts for my children.  I loved her for wanting the kids to have a huge stack of presents, but wanted to kill her when twenty minutes into Christmas, I was picking up broken dollar store toys all over.

But when her life was over, I had time to how very fortunate we were – in spite of her dollar store spending sprees.  As bad a cook as I am, I knew I could put something on the table that Bean would think deserved to be on the menu at Buckingham Palace.  She never met a person that didn’t like her, and she had friends from all walks of life.  Imagine my surprise when, just after she died, a woman I knew from a Yahoo Group I belonged to for years sent me a note to tell me she had met my sister during a stop at the store where Bean worked MANY years before.  In all the years this woman and I had chatted, she never put two and two together, but when I mentioned Bean’s passing, she remembered her from that casual meeting.  She made an impression and people loved her.

I never had to do anything alone when Bean was alive.  I could drag her to do anything with me, whether it was yet another trip to Walt Disney World, a 30 day trek across country, or to the dentist’s office to hold my hand.  She was always ready and willing to go.

Above everything, I am so thankful that I had her to help me with my youngest two children.  When I moved to Florida, I felt so isolated and alone.  Bean flew down, intending to stay for two weeks, but she always extended her stay for me.  She volunteered at school, she went to all the recitals and feisanna, and she made me a better mom by keeping me from feeling so sad and depressed that I wasn’t able to get up to be a mom.

November 18, 1965.  It is the day my sister was born, and the day I feel like I should have been ensured a partner in crime for life.  There’s so much I’ve gone through that I wish I had been able to have Bean here with me to share, but the sadness I feel at not having her here is quickly replaced by the joy I have in my heart that we had her in our lives at all.

I am forever truly thankful.

For Bean.

March 7 – Our Day That Will Live in Infamy

On March 7, 2003, I woke up, got Brighid up for school, got Eilis up and dressed, and got ready to drive Brighid to school.  My sister Bean lived with me, and she was still sleeping when I left.

When I came home, I went in to wake her up.  She had gone to bed early the night before, complaining of a stomach bug.  We had just gotten back from Florida two days earlier, and although Bean hadn’t gone with us, we fought a stomach bug throughout the vacation, so I naturally assumed she picked it up from Brighid.

I opened the bedroom door, found her laying in bed, and yelled at her.  Yep, I yelled.  She had promised to make Irish potatoes for Brighid’s Brownie meeting that afternoon.  The girls were going to have a bit of a St. Patrick’s Day party, and Bean volunteered to make her delicious candy treats.  When she told me she didn’t think she could get up to make them, I was furious.  I already had a full day stacked up, and now I had to run to the grocery store, pick up all the ingredients, and make the candy myself.  And, god damn it, I didn’t know the recipe.

Bundling up Eilis, I headed back out to the store.  I can’t really repeat all the nasty things I said about my sister, as I’ve already “god damned” once in this blog, and I’d hate to go overboard with the language.  Let’s just say there weren’t thoughts of sunshine and rainbows as I gathered up the ingredients, thinking of the burden my day now held with the added responsibilities of “Candy Maker”.

When I came home, I didn’t hear the shower.  She swore to me she would get in the shower while I was gone, and I had even gotten pissed enough to call my mother, put my mother on the phone, and make her tell Bean to get a shower.

I took Eilis downstairs, put her in her walker, and went upstairs, with all the venom of 1000 rattlesnakes waiting to spew forth at my sister.  I shoved open the bedroom door, and she wasn’t there.  Well, what the hell?  I knocked on the bathroom door, but I got no answer.  So I opened it.

While I will never, ever, ever, ever forget what I found when I opened the bathroom door, the thing I will remember forever and a day is the bitterness and anger I had for Bean that whole morning.  My last words to her were mean, hate filled, and nasty.

And I never got to take them back.  Or make up for them.  Or let her know I didn’t mean them – it was the frustration speaking.

The best I could do to take back the things I said was to write her eulogy, reminding myself as I reminded everyone else of the good person she was.

Bean is still the best person I have ever known.  We got along like oil and water sometimes, but honestly, there is no heart bigger; no soul gentler; no person kinder than my sister.

And I miss her as much now as I did the first minute I realized I didn’t have her anymore.