I remember the feel of your candy cane jammies and the lights of joy exploding from your face; the long brown hair was the color of dirt where anything can grow, particularly my heart. It cascaded in confused curls around your shoulders, and like all kids you paid attention to none of it. You were a goddess and knew everything there was to know. And the happiest I could ever be to be your defender, and teacher, but they called me brother. I would hold you in my arms and protect you from harm. Your trust in me was my license to tease you. You would endure every discomfort because it was I who was the torturer and you felt you were safe from everything. I was not strong enough though, for chocolate icing on birthday cakes, which easily conquered you by surrounding your smiling lips like a clown. These were the days of automatic innocence and happiness. You would forget these days like too many others that elevated our childhoods. I do not know why you forgot me. There was only a remote chance I would understand your growth. I would not, like all big brothers that grow obsolete, remain able to be “big” forever. I withered into your oblivion as a tired reference as you grew older. That was a condition that I would have been able to accept. I would be the person who represented the past tense, and an old barometer of history. You kept the old pictures of our youth, but you did not keep me.  I felt your anger. I knew that I was the enemy. I do not know what treaty I broke, and what my offenses were to feed your hatred. You would rail against me because you would tell me and our family that I was a traitor to our parents. You seemed to believe it, and to this day I do not know what you meant, even after our parents have gone. Now, I stand here watching the scrolling pictures that you kept instead of me at the funeral home. Who was this other family, these clusters of strangers smiling through their packaged grief?  They nervously extolled virtues that might have been fact or fiction, but the certainty was that they and their stories of you were unknown to me. I was the bereaved stranger, unfamiliar with the history of my family and the stories they tell in the funeral home parking lot. I did not know who you were and how you became that person. I was the brother who was put outside the arms of your embrace.

I have wonderful memories over 50 years old of the kid you were, if only for a very short time. I loved you so much that I could not bear to stop trying to get you back through the discord of years. These recollections of tenderness are stronger than the seeds of hate you planted in your home of isolated fields as you grew older. The conundrum is that your dead crop continues to foster while your body decays into dust. Your dead hate has a strong life and I am the anima.  I am alive with my pain to remember the love we had that was pure and unsullied by the terrible distractions of your growth. You became a mystery while you lived, choosing denial of me rather than acceptance, or even apathy. You chose not to share yourself in life, almost the same as now, still and lifeless. You are no longer able to ignore me, and you would think that would give me comfort. I could dwell on the loss of you as a sister, and that would be true. Our past love is not a bigger truth than your hatred that is remembered through me. It is a nobler truth, or at least a truth I can now live with.  Never rest in peace. Try to live in peace, my memory of my little sister Joycie, even if it is a lesson learned too late.

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