When I was two my sister took her own life.
She was much older than me and I was told after that she had a lot of issues – issues that medication or therapy couldn’t work through. My parents didn’t ever try to hide it from me, nor did they attempt to shield me from the idea of her death – they didn’t sugar coat it – they’re not like that. Both my parents work – or I should say worked at the Arizona State University; my dad as a Physics professor and my mother as the Mathematics department head. They are fairly old to have had me so young but they always explained it by saying they had always wanted to try again for a boy but their careers kept getting in the way until they finally decided to have me – even if it was a little later than originally planned.
They told me her name was Rosemary and I was too young to remember – well not just to young – to out of it; Does that make sense? It’s like a dream that you try really hard to remember and the more you try the more it slips away. Occasionally I do catch myself dreaming of my sister – although I’m still surprised I remember what she looks like – her straw-like hair, black and brown – her dark expressive eyes.
It wasn’t until a few days ago after my father passed away that I started really thinking about her again. For the past few months preceding his death I had been having dreams but nothing as intense as the dreams since his passing. Dad passed from a heart attack at work and mom was torn to pieces – although she quickly put herself back together. For some reason I was having this dream where Rosemary was still alive and she’d come into my room at night and get into bed next to me and tell me that everything was going to be alright, as if I was upset? Because my mother never shied away from talking about her I casually began to ask more and more questions about Rosemary – where she was born, what she was like, what were her interests – all the time the dreams getting more and more frequent and all the more intense.
Eventually we breached the subject on how she died – why she took her own life – and all my mother gave was that she was sick. No more, no less. I started thinking of things that I never thought of before – like how odd it was that Mom and Dad had me so much later than her and why I had always felt a strong connection with her – I started to think that my Mother wasn’t actually my mother – and that maybe Rosemary was my real mother. It wouldn’t be the first time that a young girl got pregnant and the parents decided to raise the child for fear of what others would think.
I took it upon myself to find my birth records – I can’t imagine ever not honouring my parents – they will always be my mother and my father and no matter what came to light – I have and always will call them my mother and father. They were the ones who raised me and they were the ones I call my parents. After a bit of research my heart sank – not because Rosemary was in fact my Mother but because they never thought to tell me. Confronting my mother wasn’t easy – and I tried to do it in the most pacifistic way possible – I wasn’t here to attack her, I just wanted to know. She did cry, I think she had felt the shame for far too long. It was revealed to me that I was in fact Rosemary’s child and they had decided to raise me as their own – However she mentioned a few things that I didn’t expect.
See, Rosemary actually wasn’t their daughter.
Years ago a young girl showed up at their door – with a baby in her arms – she was nearly dead from exhaustion so my parents gave her a room for the night. The baby in her arms, me, was nearly starved to death so my parents brought me to their bedroom for the night to feed and watch over me – ensuring I lived through the night. She was thankful and told them where she had come from and what she did; she was a recovering heroin addict and prostitute who got pregnant. She also showed clear signs that she was mentally unstable – murmuring to herself and rocking back and forth – the poor girl had been through hell. My parents eventually didn’t feel that this girl was healthy enough to support me, mentally or physically. So my parents did the only thing that they thought they could and they told her that I had died during the night.
Rosemary was utterly-mournful, my mother could literally see something in her break, and she left the house without saying a word. Both my mother and father heard later that day that a young woman from out of town had killed herself.
Although tough to hear and tougher to realize I hugged my mother and thanked her for finally telling me the truth – I wasn’t angry, I couldn’t be, they did what they thought was best.
That night I met Rosemary in my dreams again.
She climbed into bed with me and laid her head on my chest. I felt her straw-like hair on my chin and felt her warm breath on my chest. I put my hand on her back and whispered,
It was at this point that I realized I was no longer dreaming – and I don’t know how many nights I had been awake but for the past month Rosemary had been in my bed with me while I slept.
Rosemary turned her face up towards me – placing her chin on my chest so that she looked directly at me. The moonlight bathed her face in eerie blue light and I could see the lines on her face – her dry cracked skin and jet black eyes – her face was filled with sadness.
Rosemary whispered, “I’m sorry about your father. He was a good man.”
“He was.” I said without missing a beat.