Friday, June 15, 2012

Remembering Karen



My sister Karen was and wasn't the odd woman out in the Mellicker family. Technically she was a half sister from my mother's first marriage, but she never felt like a half sister to me. She didn't look like my father (like the rest of us do) but she was fiercely devoted to him and, I believe, worked as hard as anyone ever could to make him proud of her. I don't know if he ever legally adopted her, but she was definitely his daughter. Oh yeah.

Likewise Karen embodied my mother's high ideals about social justice. She was a social worker for many years, protecting the rights of children.

As a teenager she was deputized by my mother, becoming the junior mom to we younger siblings. I'm not clear she ever had the opportunity to indulge in adolescent hijinks. She was dutiful and generous, something no one should ever have to be as a teenager.

Things never quite clicked for her, or at least that's my impression. For instance, during the summer of love, she was living in San Francisco. She was 28 years old, married to a law student. She kept a conservative, kosher household and had two young daughters. Yes, in San Francisco, in 1968. Shouldn't she have been hanging out in the Haight, smoking weed and doing interpretive dance to the music of the Jefferson Airplane? Instead she was living in a fog belt, trying hard to be a good wife and good mother. I can't imagine what that must have been like. Good lord.

Eventually she returned to Kansas City, divorced her husband who was a depressive and can not have been very fun to live with. After that she worked her way through a string of truly horrendous boyfriends and precarious living situations.

My sister Karen was a great cook who never allowed herself to buy high quality food or cookware. My niece told me they used toilet paper instead of paper napkins at the dinner table because it was cheaper. All that talent wasted because of her pervasive sense of impoverishment. It's very sad.

She loved classical music and all the arts, as my Papa taught her. She also loved beautiful clothes, make up, perfume. The poverty consciousness kept her from buying more than one or two lovely items of clothing, though.

She loved games but did not possess the mad game skills my father or siblings had, hence she rarely won at anything. This was the story of my sister's life. She never quite fit with the times or with her situation, but she remained optimistic, she laughed a lot. She was wounded, but tried her best.

At age 46 she was diagnosed with leukemia. After treatment, she went into a remission during which she enjoyed two years of empowerment and happiness at last. She dumped her awful boyfriend who didn't even want to hear about her diagnosis (he was such a jerk!), went to France, something she had always dreamed of but never got around to. I've seen that before, how a cancer diagnosis can motivate people to get to the business of living ASAP.

When the leukemia came back, she declined quickly, died at age 48.

Karen I did not know you very well, but I loved and still love you dearly. You are an honored ancestor and I will hold you in my heart, along with Papa and Elizabeth (my mother) as I walk through the Holocaust Museum. I hope after death your spirit found a way to get in sync, I hope you are flying high. Yes? I hope so. I remember you warmly and dearly, and what is remembered, lives.

Shalom.

11 comments:

The Cranky Crone, she lives alone! said...

That was beautiful!

Ravenstar said...

Very poignant. Shalom.

Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks!

Tom said...

:)

Kerry said...

"What is remembered lives." Amen. How tenderly and well you remember your half-sister.

Reya Mellicker said...

She was definitely my whole sister.

Pam said...

Big lump in the throat here Reya.
A very moving post and a beautiful one.

ellen abbott said...

oh Reya, you are so loving and forgiving and giving. I can learn so much from you.

Angela said...

To have a sister was always my greatest wish. Brothers are totally different.
I have chosen some sisters now and that is also wonderful, but while growing up I wished so much for her!

Angela said...

To have a sister was always my greatest wish. Brothers are totally different.
I have chosen some sisters now and that is also wonderful, but while growing up I wished so much for her!

Reya Mellicker said...

Angela, Kim Yanoshik calls the chosen sisters the "Remembered Sisterhood." I love that phrase and use it often.

Awww Ellen! Thanks!!