My life is governed by words, the way they taste in my mouth, how they feel the moment they stop being the speaker's breath and are absorbed into my skin, my brain, my heart. Words are how I navigate the world, they are how I form my opinions and my bonds, my dislikes and sometimes I think they are the motor that runs my heart.
Over 15 years my sister in law has been a lot of things to me. We've said a lot of words to one another, many of them unkind. She could really get me going. In the past the second word that I associated with Laurie was "enemy." I'd never felt like that about anyone before. I always felt like she was after me and I hated it. I feel like we spent our early years warily circling one another and I was never quite sure why.
For my part, I was judgemental about her parenting and her choice in partners, I love her daughter completely and any "playing nice" I did with Laurie was to gain access to Samantha or out of respect for my mother in law.
The first word that I think of when I think of Laurie, regardless of whether I've always wanted it that way is "family." She's my family good, bad or ugly. Too much of it was been ugly. Some family you get to pick, some you don't. Would Laurie and I have been friends on our own? No. But over the years we have been friends, we have been enemies, we have been unlikely allies. She's been family since before I married her brother, she didn't stop being family when we got divorced. Curiously, we've been better friends since the divorce. Now when I think of her, I think "cautious friend." I think Laurie doesn't like change, even when it might mean getting to ditch someone she often found snotty and annoying. That's the thing about family, there's nothing quite like the crazy you know.
A few months ago I found myself laughing with her on the phone, she was rabidly coming to my defense about my divorce from her brother, "Laurie," I said laughing, "you don't even like me."
"I don't have to like you, you're my family." We both knew what she meant. When her mom died, I loved Patti so, so much, Laurie went out of her way to make sure I was included. I always thought part of our problem was jealousy over my relationship with Patti. In death we were united in our love for her. And Patti loved Laurie completely, flaws and all, there was nothing to be jealous of.
For as long as I've known Laurie part of her was broken. I don't know what it was, the early death of her dad, something else. Alcohol had been slowly killing her for years and I think her mom's death last April was more than she could take. I know she had the best of intentions, I know she loved her daughter and her brother and her mom. She loved them desperately, even if she didn't know how to do it right all the time. She loved fiercely.
When I started writing this, Laurie was still alive, still fighting; she's gone now. I hope wherever she is that she is at peace, that she is free and that her mom's and dad's arms are back around her because I know she wanted that more than anything. God speed, Laurie, I will miss you being a pain in my ass and I will never forget you, I hope you are lighter now and that you soar, fly.