Last month was my sister's birthday--Kristin, the sister who died. I think of her every September 23, even if I don't say a word. Frankly, I think of her most days, to be honest. Usually not at length; usually it's just a bittersweet little flash--I notice her thimble collection, which she left to me and which hangs on the wall of our upstairs hallway. Or I think of something I'd like to tell her, or I fasten one of her necklaces around my neck, or I am somehow reminded of one of the trips we took to Santa Fe or Austin or Savannah.
When last I left you, I was mounting the steps of Tower Hall, about to give a talk for which I was abundantly unprepared. On the fourth floor, I met my professor friends in the hallway, and one of them let me follow him to his office so I could use his post-it notes to mark the pages I might read from. As we walked down the hall, I started formulating in my head what I might want to say, and about fifteen minutes later, I started saying it, in front of a well-filled room.
Most of the people in the room were journalism students, but a half-dozen or so faces stood out as somewhat past the student phase of life. A former state representative who I had interviewed way back in the day was sitting in a middle row. My high school English teacher was right in front of her--remember the blog posting I wrote about her? ("Everything I know about writing I learned from Mrs. Eilola.")
One person, in particular, intrigued me--I knew her, but I couldn't place her. She had white hair, a lean, lined face, and watchful eyes. As I spoke, I glanced at her several times; was she on that first trip to Petrozavodsk? No, that's not it. One of the professors here? No, I don't think so.
It wasn't until the talk was over and she was walking toward me that I realized who it was. Kristin's mother in law! And next to her, Kristin's sister-in-law. Oh my goodness. After we hugged hello, Barb said, "Every time you smiled, we teared up. You reminded us so much of Kristin."
I don't look much like Kristin, and that top picture sort of proves that I am starting to look uncomfortably like my father--not a great development for me. But like a thimble collection or an old piece of jewelry, I was a reminder to them of someone they loved and lost, and I am delighted that they came.