I sat down to dinner last night with my wife and before I had even begun to cut into my pollo, a ghost visited me and I began to feel tears wash over me.
I sent the ghost away and suppressed my tears but my wife noticed something was wrong.
"Nothing, I said," really not knowing at that point why I all of a sudden had felt so horribly sad.
The ghost came again, just a moment ago.
I was doing the Sunday Times crossword--a small reward I give myself for the week I have gotten through, and listening to Dvorak, my favorite, on the radio.
I felt punched in the kishkas and a monsoon of tears filled the back of my eyes.
And then it hit me.
Tomorrow is Valentine's day, my younger sister Nancy's birthday.
She would have been 56 tomorrow.
But she never made it past 47.
She died in a motorcycle crash on May 13th, 2007.
Nancy and I were the closest of siblings. Though at times we had gone years without talking.
Not talking is something I do exceptionally well. When something bothers me, or when someone really and truly disappoints me or hurts me, well, I'm apt to never talk to them again. It's how I deal--or don't deal--with things that annoy me or scare me or pain me.
Nancy was the youngest. I was the middle. My brother, Fred, the oldest.
She got the short end of a very short parenting stick. A drunk of a missing father. And a raging harridan, a termagant, a virago of a mother.
Nancy dealt with her abuse by turning to drugs and things that were generally destructive to her.
But she was trying to get better and was succeeding. She had gotten a Masters from NYU and was--yes, at 47, trying to figure out what she wanted to try to get out of life and who she wanted to spend her life with.
She had just bought a Ducati motorcycle the day before and on the day she died--the next day, was up early, driving it to upstate New York where she could unwind on some twisty roads and enjoy the light greens and yellows of a blooming New York spring.
A drunk man ran across 12th Avenue.
She swerved to avoid him and crashed her bike which crushed her to death.
I identified her in the hospital. There was my beautiful sister, beaten like a piece of too tough steak. Bruised.
I could still see the indent in her left cheekbone where she got hit with a foul ball at one of my baseball games and had to be rushed to the hospital.
It's been almost nine years, and I miss her.
We talk when we can.
I cry about Nancy a lot.
I am crying now.
A lot of shit happens to us all as we make our way through the crap of life. We all have our horrors to live and breathe and cry about. None of us are alone in that.
But right now, when it's 11-degrees outside and people are thinking of their Valentine's or their romantic dinners tomorrow, or even me, when I'm so sporadically happy with my saint of a wife, my strong and intelligent and successful daughters, my walks with my dog, my classical music, my career and friends and reading and the writing I do, I am crying.
A part of me will always be crying.
Because tomorrow is Valentine's Day.
And I miss my little sis.