I called Amanda back, after I received her voice-mail message (from the hospital) again. She told me she has "legally" written me down as her Primary Responsible Party. She told me she is very ill: diabetes, pancreas growths, COPD, water on her lungs - cannot breathe, morbidly obese, but, at least the good part is - she always looks for the good - she can finally and honestly say she has quit smoking! Mainly (she laughs) because the oxygen tanks in her room would blow up if she lit a cigarette.
She is my best artist sister. I worshiped her! I remember when she arrived. She was black. Her hair was curly and kinky. Her eyes were huge and luminous - and frightened. She looked like the girl in the Norman Rockwell painting, going to school, surrounded by officials. She had a Southern drawl. She used words like, "House-Coat" (for bathrobe). She had perfect teeth, a small nose, an oval face. She was my ideal of "beautiful". She later showed us she could play piano. She her long, slender, fingers glided smoothly along the keyboard as she sang. She taught me poetry. We read Greek Mythology. We performed plays, between the dining room/living room's sliding pocket doors. I so admired her talents.
When she was 14, she had her first mental break. She was taken away in a straight jacket. I went to see her. The word, "schizophrenic" was a new one to me. She came back home, catatonic and dull-eyed. I used her as a turnstile, to move around her to go up the stairs to my room. She was scary but I was curious. I stayed with her. Years of countless times, in and out of hospitals, she survived.
Today, for the past six years, we have talked, once a week, on the phone. She has forgotten those poetic lines she once wrote, "Life is like a rose, beautiful, but having thorns." I want to hold onto her, and yet I know she will be the next sibling to leave the planet, our family.
Margaret is a Korean-American adoptee, a sister to 14 sisters and 6 brothers, none of them blood-related to her. She writes to resolve and look at the individual lives of each of her family members and understand them, and herself.