Holy Saturday, day before Easter, second day of Passover, April 4, 2015
I try not to cry in front of my sister or her family. I don't want to upset anyone. I don't like crying in front of people. I don't much like crying.
I was with her most of yesterday, Good Friday, and I don't think I cried. Strong like bull.
Today I spent the morning frantically doing what I do, now, on days when I am not teaching or with my sister: tried to catch up on email, tried to grade papers, tried even just to think about what herculean tasks or black magic I need to do perform to meet my own insurmountable health care needs.
I was invited to a Passover Seder and I wanted to try to attend. I walked in, realized it was a strictly family thing, and that I was in no condition to be charming enough to penetrate someone else's family event, and left pretty quickly.
In between I managed a brief visit to my sister.
She has been bedridden for a while. She is at home.
I was standing next to her bed, her daughter on the other side. I was thinking, hey, I'm superwoman. I got all dressed up for the Seder, and I am visiting my sister, too, and I am okay. On an even keel.
I suddenly thought of something and my sangfroid cracked like a dropped vase. I could not stop crying. This is what I thought of: the time she bought me pomegranates.
Before I moved back to Jersey from Indiana, where I got my PhD, except for a few stray and strained sentences, my sister and I had not seen each other or interacted much in over ten years. For good reasons, none of which I will go into here.
I drove a U-Haul from Indiana to New Jersey. She and I got together. No matter what else was going on, Antoinette and I could always bond over food: talking about it, shopping for it, preparing it, and eating it. We are Polish / Slovak! We went to Corrado's produce market, a legendary produce market in Paterson.
I adore them, but I am very careful about buying pomegranates. They cost a buck fifty or two bucks; not cheap. I wait till they go on sale, and I make sure to get good ones, and appreciate every morsel when I do let myself eat them. I eat pomegranates only on my day off. A work day is entirely too rushed for the delectation required in the consumption of a pomegranate.
There were some big ones on sale that year. It was a good harvest, not like this past year, 2014, when the pomegranates I saw were small and had shrunken cheeks.
As we approached the cash register, Antoinette, radiating her powerful aura, as if by magic, moved me backward and paid for all my groceries, including the pomegranates.
My childhood was not perfect, but this was always true. When Antoinette and I went to the movies, to a restaurant, or to a store, she always paid for me. It was never discussed. I tried at times to treat her to a movie and she would physically restrain me.
So it touched me so much when, after a decade of silence between us, she paid for my pomegranates.
Today during my short visit, the thought suddenly occurred to me: she'll never buy me pomegranates again. Maybe no one ever will. That vital, statuesque, elegant, commanding woman I could not vanquish with my attempts to pay is going fast. I will never again be anybody's younger sister.
And I could not stop the tears.