Thirteen years ago, my sister died. She was forty-three and left behind a fifteen-month-old son. Such an odd expression: 'left behind'. Sounds like she may have simply left her bag at home or forgotten to pick up a scarf she may have taken off over lunch and draped across the back of a chair in a café.
I can barely write about this. I shan't talk about how she died. Forgive me. Forgive her. I used to write about her and her son and about my mother, our mother, more easily once. Not easily, it has never been easy, but only months after it happened, when my sister died, and the world changed forever, I could write about it a bit. I dare not look back at that writing because I was as they say, and I am not sure it is always true, writing from the wound, not the scar.
But I want to write about it today. If at times the writing of the events of my life have been overly crafted, curated, sculptured as artefact then so be it; such is the contract the memoirist enters into with her audience: What I am telling you is true. It is what I know to be true. Trust me. And if I have misremembered things at times or if my story’s omissions and collapses of scene or character come across as dishonesties, then so be it.
My nephew, now fourteen years old, has been reared by his grandmother since his own mother died. My mother is now nearly ninety-two. She has been extraordinary in her care for her dead daughter’s child. Extraordinary. Their relationship, its sacred intimacy and interdependence, is unusual, moving.
But it is time. It is time surely, for me to take it on, to take over the rearing of my sister’s child, because it is the right and the good, the only thing to do. Dare I say the dutiful thing to do.