Eighteen tiny ballerinas occupy center stage, all on their knees, heads lowered to the floor, ruffled tutus up in the air behind them. Their next movement will depict flowers blooming in spring. The recorded music tapers down and the lights dim. Amused moms, dads, brothers, sisters and grandparents hold their breath to preserve complete silence in the elementary school auditorium. One second. Two seconds. Three seconds… One tiny head, cheeks so red they appear rouged, pops up, searches quickly through the audience, then pops down again. The audience roars with laughter.
The ballerina who didn’t keep her head down is Debbie. She has brown hair, brown eyes, an impish little face – and diabetes. She will live to be 49.
She is the youngest child in her family, the one who can get away with doing things her parents would never have tolerated in her older siblings; the one who can get away with being sassy because she’s so cute.
She will become a good student and play an instrument in her high school marching band. She will go away to a good university but will return to live with her parents and finish up at a local college. She will never break the parental ties, will always live nearby and will be her mom’s best friend.
She will get a job with a large utility company because she needs the healthcare benefits. She will refuse promotions because the stress of management is too much for her, but she will run every office she is ever in without receiving the pay. Her bosses will love her. She will always pay her own way, in every relationship.
She will love all holidays, especially Halloween and Valentines Day. She will love life and everything living. Animals, even cats, will do her bidding. Squirrels will dance for her. A wild goose will return to her each year. She will name the goose Gossard and it will leave the other geese and come to her when she calls its name. Older people who witness this will say the term for someone with this ability is “God’s child.”
She will marry and her only child will die shortly after birth. Her husband will get into tax trouble and money will be taken from her paychecks for backpayments. She will divorce him to keep this from happening and vow never to marry again.
Men will be attracted to her. There will always be a man. She will make no demands on them, so they will keep coming back to her. There will be a guy who once was a multi-millionaire, but when she meets him he will be a delivery courier. They will live together. He will be a loving caregiver when she gets a kidney transplant. He will die of pancreatic cancer. There will be one more man after him, the most loving, gentle and caring man imaginable. He will be there for her in her last years.
In her forties she will frequently be in and out of hospitals. Her eyesight will deteriorate. She will walk with pain. Shortly after her 49th birthday she will enter a “rehabilitation facility” and hate it. She will endure great pain and her foot will be amputated just above the toes. There will be discussion of amputating more, but she will go to a contract hospice bed in a real hospital instead.
There she will die and the nurses will spread her beautiful brown hair across her pillow.
R.I.P., Little Sis.