By February 21, 2008

Living with a ghost

My niece moved in with me about two months ago. She had finished her second year of college and wanted a change of scenery. Lack of localized family crazy brought her to me instead of my sister or back at home with my mother and stepfather. At any rate, it’s been great having her around, both as family and because I work from home and get lonely every now and then.

One thing I did not expect was that my sister’s ghost would be moving in along with her.

I don’t mean “ghost” in a Patrick Swayze kind of way. I mean that my niece is to the age where she’s an adult; not my sister’s kid that laughed with a loud laugh. Now she does things my sister used to do, like sway uncontrollably while laughing and walking, bonking into me and whatever else is in her path. Her nose is my sister’s nose. Her short hair reminds me of my sister’s. We listen to music loud in the car, just like I used to do with my sister. I find myself having the same conversations with my niece that my sister had with me when I was younger.

It’s a crazy thing because my niece and I are eleven years apart in age. I was eleven years apart from my sister. I felt like I could talk to my sister as a person instead of Family™, and I know that my niece and I have talked about things she hasn’t told anyone else in our family.

I have told some of you that I believe we wind up being more like our parents than not. I think that if you’re really, really in tune with yourself you might be 20% different than your mother and father. Having my niece around has validated a lot of that theory. My sister died when my niece was twelve, and yet she echoes a lot of her mother’s behavior. She even has a cartilage piercing in the same ear, in the same spot.

This post isn’t so much about my niece growing up. Having her around has reminded me of her mom, and that has rekindled things I thought I’d laid to rest. Yes, I used to think of my sister on the anniversary of her death. Yes, I used to be thankful every time someone talked about the Star Wars prequels because I knew how much my sister would have been disappointed by them. Yes, my sister’s untimely death has led me to put my estate in order. But the day to day things of missing my sister? I thought I had put those emotions away a long time ago.

I see my sister in my niece’s eyes, and I miss her now more than ever.

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2 Comments on "Living with a ghost"

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  1. Ed says:

    Good. The day you stop missing her will be the saddest day of all. With any luck, it will never happen.

  2. Ninja Mary says:

    I lost my mom 9 years ago. There are always little things that catch me to remind me of my loss–like a movie that we saw together when she was ill. Or finding a letter she sent me while I was in college. I deal with it better than I did when she first died, but it’s kind of a little empty place still. I’m sorry if you have that too.

    I’m not sure how alike we are aside being short and having a huge rack. We’re both kind of silly and cheerful after a few glasses of wine. Get along well with animals. But my mom loved children–and they loved her and I certainly don’t have her charisma. And I’m way more assertive.