Diary of a Reformed Harlot: Part Three
When I was six, my mom married my stepfather and we all moved to BFE (upstate) New York. Before then, I was a little pampered princess born to a seventeen year old, unwed pampered princess living happily in my grandparents’ house in Malibu Beach. My grandfather was a prominent talent scout, and my grandmother was a speech therapist by profession and a voice coach by trade. Weeks into her freshmen year at UCLA where she hoped to study anthropology, my mom discovered her was pregnant. Months later I blessed humanity with my presence – or so one would conclude given my grandparents celebrated my birth as if I were the Christ child cometh.
From a tender age, our ‘uniqueness’ amongst ordinary folks wasn’t entirely lost on me. One of my earliest memories is of pushing through a queue of Hollywood bigwigs who were obstructing the entrance to my grandfather’s office. I didn’t know who these people were until I was older and saw every blockbuster I snuck into accredited to them.
My grandparents indulged me. My mom, on the other hand, was a kind, shadowy figure. She popped in and out of my life as her studies allowed. One day she popped in with my future stepfather, Gary, in tow. Gary’s ten years older than my mom and by all accounts a great guy…educated, well-spoken, and most importantly he treated me as if I were his own. I loved him from hello, and I still do.
Life was perfect until my parents announced they planned to include me in their move to upstate New York. My grandparents went ballistic!
Despite the initial shock and awe, my parents wed and off we went. I hated/hate BFE! Instead of waking up to the sounds of the Pacific Ocean just outside my window and smell of my Papa’s coffee; I now wake up to croaking frogs and repulsive aroma of freshly shat cow dung. Lest I suffer this wonderment of nature alone, my parents supplied me with a younger sister, Miko, who I instantly went gaga over. She looked like me…I took care of her… she was my baby, and we had to get the hell out of BFE! Rex, our beloved family cat, and I hatched a plan to kidnap Miko and find our way back to Malibu. However, my parents unpredictable work schedule posed a logistical nightmare and our plan ultimately failed.
To my surprise, our parents’ continuous globetrotting proved to be the cause and cure of our ills. A year later, our grandparents moved to NYC and Miko, Rex, and I bid farewell to BFE. Days after arriving in NYC, Rex pulled a disappearing act which coincidently led to me meeting the boy who’d be my first love and heartbreak, PC. He was a middle child and generally ignored by his parents. Having absentee parents myself, I could relate. Soon we were inseparable. He even taught me how to fish, and by ‘fish’ I mean we took buckets down to the small creek which ran behind our house where we’d collect minnows with our bare hands; much to my grandmother’s horror.
Heartbreak was years away. In the meantime, Miko and I settled into our new life jammed packed with ballet and piano lessons; the standard accomplishments of a child. We both excelled in academics and athletics (I joined the swim team, Miko ran track), we spent our summers on Block Island and Christmas in Tahoe. We were cute and popular and never had a want that wasn’t seen to immediately. We were as close as sisters could be; it also helped that she worshiped the ground I walked on. So, aside from our brief stint in BFE, our childhood was ideal.
This idyllic life came to an abrupt end when Miko, then sixteen, was diagnosed as bipolar. After years of unexplained bouts of depression and what she described as a sense of ‘falling’, the diagnoses came as a relief to our family. Her condition now had a name and it was treatable. We exhaled, but the diagnoses psychologically killed Miko overnight. The light in my sister’s beautiful eyes flickered out. Her decline was swift and thus far irreversible. She retreated within herself. She locked us out—she locked me out. The doctors said she snapped. How can that be? She’s my sister.
This couldn’t have come at a worse time; be now our grandfather was ill and I was away at university. Our parents, who were by then more active in our lives, returned home and ensured Miko received the best care available. It took the specialists awhile to find the most effective cocktail of medication and therapy. Their ‘effective medication’ has left my sister a shell of the person she used to be. She was outgoing and bubbly and drop dead gorgeous. Her future burned brightly in front of her. Now the combination of medicine and her sedentary existence has left her morbidly obese. She spends her days in a lethargic fog—staring into space—unable to complete even the simplest task without exhausting what little energy the medication hasn’t sapped. Some days quiet tears stream down her cheeks…some days no tear. Those are the good days.
What hurts is my once articulate sister, fluent in three languages, captain of the debate team, can’t string together enough words to hold a rational conversation. I miss her voice; I can still hear it clearly. I’ve lost my sister. I’ve failed her.
There are times I glimpse the old, impish Miko. But she’s vanishes as quickly as she comes. Bishop, having met her when she came to visit, swears she’ll be fine. She’s still in there, he says, give her time. It’s been fourteen years, but seeing he has the Almighty on speed dial, I’m inclined to trust his judgment and hope against hope that one day the fog will lift and she’ll speak to me.
Speaking of family, we’ve been planning to visit his in Oregon for over a year but his pastoral responsibilities and my hectic routine thwarts our plans. Not anymore. We’re leaving Sunday evening and we’ll be gone for a week. Bishop describes his parents as traditionalists and his older sister, whom he nicknamed Penny, as a miserly busybody whose epitaph will read: My brother is a Bishop. Her one claim to fame.
His extended family, he says, forms a colorful patchwork of learned opinions, esoteric principles, and conservative values. I saw this in his younger cousin, Thad, who followed him into the church and who is now a priest in Phillie. We met for dinner one night when he drove through town on his way home from Boston. Our conversation was lively and he didn’t question my presence, which made me think: A) Bishop gave him the 411 or B) He worked it out for him and chose to ignore Bishop’s hand on my knee.
Passing Thad’s sniff test was easy. The tricky bit comes Sunday. How will he present me to his family? I’m not his girlfriend—bishops don’t date. I’m not a nun or a colleague. And what about our sleeping arrangements? We should have long chat before we taxi down the tarmac.
Captain’s Log: Haven’t spoken to TI in fourteen days. I’m beginning to worry.