A little boy standing in the cramped aisle of a CRJ700 Canadair Regional Jet has more freckles across his cheeks than I’ve seen since my sister was in elementary school. Hers disappeared when she wanted to dye her hair any color other than red and found, between seventh and eighth grades, a tanning cream to give her pigmentation more consistency. No more pale skin, blanched against brown freckles: she became carrot orange. Then puberty dulled the freckles even after she gave up on creams.
I’ve wanted to write about my sister for months. I love her, and once the plane carrying me and the boy who resembles her lands, I’ll drive to Lubbock, Texas for a friend’s wedding where I’ll see her for the first time in over a year. She’s arriving a day after me with our parents. We may only be in the same room for five hours. Still, I can’t eat the sandwich I packed in my bag because I’m nauseous with dread about the whole trip.
For the first time in months I feel like I’m living up to this blog’s title. I want to hug my sister and sit beside her at the reception and hold her hand—something I’ve never done but daydream about. It’s strange the places your mind goes when it craves affection from someone who shares your blood. This fantasy, sitting close, speaking quietly, is devoid of details necessary to make a scene, because the tea lights and music and color of our chairs blur behind the image of us hand-in-hand. The fantasy is simple and old. I want to hold on to my family, which is something I’ve tried to do in myriad ways since I began writing here.
The anxiety comes from that effort. I don’t know how to hold on, and I’m running out of ways to try. I gave my parents three and a half years to accept the son they didn’t expect. Instead they found a man who preaches acceptance is a sin and that even if their son never changes, they must always hope for change. Exasperated, last week I e-mailed my dad an ultimatum to leave their ex-gay ministry if he ever wants the happy family home for holidays he claims to. He never responded. I imagine he’s dreading this wedding as much as I am.
I’m losing hope for a relationship with my dad; I abandoned hope for my mother almost a year ago. My sister, though, is determined to remain in my life, and I can’t quit fantasizing about our lives together. It could be we eventually spend Christmases together, in her Texas suburb, where I’ll fly with a suitcase of wooden toys and books her children will politely thank me for. Or not, and she’ll redeem air miles to visit me for a weekend every year in New York, where we’ll watch the kind of movies Meg Ryan used to be in and talk late about recycling, God, and how we cope with grief.
She called me two weeks ago, and we cried about Father’s Day and the prospect of my absence at every holiday. A week later I received a card with Bichon Frisés on the front and a Whole Foods gift card inside, her big handwriting asking me to remember how loved I am when I enjoy a meal or two from there. What more could she do? I can’t imagine a better sister, regardless of the circumstances.