I am sitting in shorts and a tank top as Nicole and her buddy have an after school play date in the pool. I try to put today’s date in my mind, but it doesn’t compute. January twenty-fourth? Eighty -five degrees? And purple flowers with peach colored berries are blooming in the yard? As I look at this striking combination of colors, I am reminded of a piece I wrote just about two years ago. I am in awe at the constantly shifting scenery that our lives present to us. Some by choice, most by chance. So much of our lives does not compute. And so we search for beauty in the surfing itself.
Peach on Purple
I was perched on the highest rung.
Paint can, drippy brush, iced mocha, and cell phone
carefully placed in easily accessible positions
on the ladder and in my pockets.
Our tall house needed a lift that summer.
We were scraping and covering the worn out paint
with a fresh coat of peachy orange.
The trim would be periwinkle blue.
I had Connie on my mind as
I brushed new life onto the tired old house.
With each peachy brush stroke,
I imagined the same new life we could paint over her disease.
Fresh pretty colors would replace the horrific drab hues of
that dingy, peeling, proliferous malignancy.
The cell phone broke into a jazzy tune,
jarring me out of my daydreaming plot
to end cancer with paint, brush, and color.
Balancing my tools delicately on the loops of my paint covered overalls,
I carefully picked up the phone.
“I just got the new numbers, El, its bad.
They have sky rocketed. What are we gonna do?”
The chilling indicators of the spread of her cancer.
It has come back in full force,
taking claim in a body where it has no right to be,
a body that still has so much to do and to love.
“I’ll be right over.”
She was in the passenger seat,
ready to take The Westy somewhere,
anywhere but where she was right then.
The dream van she purchased weeks ago.
A 1984 yellow Volkswagon camper, loaded with stove, refrigerator, miniature ice cube trays;
It even had an awning.
We had plans to paint turtles all over it.
(If I’m going out, it sure as hell won’t be in a white subaru, she said).
I climbed into the passenger seat next to her.
As we hugged, our knees collided;
wet peachy house paint marring her pretty clean purple pants.
When we were younger, she hated how I took her clothes and seemed to wear them out faster than she would have–leaving crumbs in the pockets, paint on the sleeves, or rips in the knees.
She was so much more careful with her clothes than I ever was.
This day, she just smiled at the peachy paint spot.
A smile that momentarily softened the fear in her eyes.
Peach on purple.
A clash of colors,
a visual story of two bright lives made brighter by being together.
Basic color theory.
There wasn’t much more to say,
we knew even the Westy couldn’t help us to escape the obvious.
A year later,
I sit here wearing Connie’s purple pants,
staring at the knee embellished with the perfect peachy stain.
I fumble through this elegy,
this lament to my beloved sister,
and the colorful splotches of joy
she spread throughout my life.
Oh, Ellen. This is just so incredibly beautiful. I can see you, your house and Connie vividly. She comes to mind so often. When see amazing things I think that Connie would love this too.
thank you ellen…it is beautiful and it is a tribute to your sisterly love, and honors both of you.
my brother now has stage IV cancer, i leave next saturday to see him in arizona. ❤
I’ll be thinking of you both. Sending strength and love.
I can relate to your pain. It would have been my mother’s 85th birthday this past saturday. You write beautiflly. Give my love to all.
so beautiful … thinking of you always.
Ellen, this is so beautiful and touching. I’m missing Connie more than usual this time of year and Im sure you are too.. Love, M/G/M