– CAT! GET OUT FROM UNDERNEATH MY FEET!
Dad would curse whenever Kitty brushed against his legs while he was cooking.
I was a hungry Kitty too, brushing against my big sister for attention, back in the ‘too young to be unsupervised’ unsupervised years at the farm.
Kristin was Farrah Fawcett. Seven years older, she was a blonde bombshell with blue eyes and a veritable, all ages, Central Saanich, crush icon. I was so jealous of her that when Dad’s best-friend and roommate Boogie played “Five foot two, eyes are blue, could she, could she, could she coo,” I would request “Beautiful Brown Eyes” so I could hear him sing, “I’ll never love blue eyes again”.
My buck teeth and brown eyes would read her diary, get into her make-up and even try on her orthodontic retainer when she wasn’t home. But rather than awakening my own Viking Icelandic genes or my sister’s affections, such actions led to Kristin ordering Boogie to carry my bed out of our shared room and down into the basement library- the scariest room in the house for its spiders, sticky carpet and the ‘monsters are going to get me’ walk across the entire distance of the room to reach the light switch.
That was the Sunday I started sleeping in Dad’s bed.
Rarely at the same home at the same time, I do remember fashion shows where Kristin and her best-friend Dana would dress me up in Dad’s work shirts and ties and have me strut my stuff to Blondie on vinyl: Hanging on the Telephone. I also remember hiding in the cupboard under the kitchen island with spiders, webs and Kitty’s empty, rotting, soft cat food tins because the Russians or Germans were coming. I will never forget Kristin standing at the top of the entrance foyer with one of Dad’s rifles in her hands telling me a stranger was in the basement holding Dana hostage.
Walking in the back door, I always told Dad what had happened when he was gone but I must have been on his deaf side as rifles and strangers in the basement didn’t seem to bother him.
In Grade 8, Kristin decided to go to boarding school in her own hometown rather than pick one parent’s house over the other. I was in Grade 2 that year and I spent every second weekend spying on drunk boarding school girls flirting and making out with the local boys around the house. Dad was fast asleep by eight thirty and didn’t seem to notice his and Boogie’s homemade wine cellar inventory decreasing at a rapid rate.
By seventeen, Kristin was living with her twenty-two year old, motorcycle mechanic boyfriend, Tony. But suddenly, after a trip to a Christian summer camp, the wild came home faithful.
After a year at bible school in England, Kristin married a widower with two children at the age of twenty and moved to Alberta to have more.
She was gone nearly a decade.
Our sisterhood really began when she moved her family to the farm when I was in college. We discovered our similarities: eccentric parents, earnest hearts, and cackling maniacal laughter. With all of us under the same roof, I was half-aunt, half-sibling to her four children.
– There’s nothing we can do. She’ll have to come down on her own.
Says the volunteer fireman as he looks eighty feet up at my terrified cat clinging to a limb of an Arbutus tree in the forest behind the house.
On the same morning I find my missing cat barked up a tree, I drive Dad to the airport to see my sister, a newly single, forty-two year old mother of four, board a plane to Japan alone. I am reminded: Opportunity doesn’t find people. People find opportunity and Kristin has found hers teaching pre-school abroad.
– Japan is BLOWING MY MIND!
I read aloud to Dad, sitting next to my computer with his hearing aids on, ready and waiting to laugh at my sister’s humour.
While Kristin may not be here to clean his bathroom or help me put the duvet cover back on his bed, she is busy in Japan bringing joy to our father by finding her own way down an Arbutus tree and sending back stories of a wild Farrah Fawcett adventure.
– What day is it?
– All day?
– All day.
– What year? 1941?
– Very funny Dad.
Back on the farm with Dad and his journey into old age and dementia, I am 80 feet up my own tree.
– How in the hell am I going to find my way down?
If interested, my sister is writing a blog of her own (http://www.being-a-broad.org/2011/10/seven-days/) that is published on a website called Being A Broad for foreign women in Japan.