The almost balmy 61°F of Tuesday turned to ice on Wednesday and brought the brand of biting snow that bends one’s head forward and nips into one’s cheeks and nose and ears: the kind of cold that stays in one’s bones long after coming inside. It is 6°F this evening.
Heading out to my car tonight, I thought of all the cold winters my sister and I walked back and forth to school, bundled up and holding hands. I was leaving the hospital where she is recovering from a complicated surgery. I was wishing she was with me, holding my hand, instead of in a hospital bed and I thought of the cold December morning, just after Christmas, when we both had our tonsils taken out. We were so very young and it was so very long ago.
We spent the night before in the hospital, she in a ward, me in a double room, our parents fretting as they left us because we weren’t in the same room together. Dottie snuck into my room. She had never slept in such a big room without me before. I took her back to her bed, after a while. I’m sure we both slept that night, but I don’t remember.
I do remember being wheeled out of my room the next morning. Ma and Daddy standing against the wall, kissing me, scared as parents are in such situations. I got to go first. I was scared but stubbornly stoic; the Spartan in me. Was Dottie standing nearby or on a gurney herself? I don’t remember. I just remember Daddy saying “Dottie, see Penny? You be brave like her.”
I didn’t want to be brave. I wanted to cry. I wanted the cart to turn around. I wanted to go home where I felt safe. I didn’t want to be brave.
Before Dottie went into surgery on Wednesday, I took my turn before she was wheeled away. Between the tears I struggled to hold in, I kissed her, I told her I loved her, and I told her to be brave, just like when we had our tonsils out. Such silly things are sometimes said when we are worried or scared.
Dottie was brave, very brave. Now she is starting a healing process that will take a long time, but she will heal, for my little sister Dottie is strong, and she is brave. Very, very brave.