Humming Whitney while I ramble about my sister.

At some point over the past 2 or 3 years, people started reading my blog for news and views on current events, but some of y’all have been reading my ramblings on the Internet for over a decade, all the way back to FreeOpenDiary.  I’ve always kept a diary or journal of some kind on the Internet, but slowly I moved away from that and more toward ranting about politics and current events.  This is a post for journaling purposes and people who know me, so the rest of y’all can skip it.  I just want to throw some things out there about my sister so I’ll have them to read over in the future.

I didn’t write a blog about it because I was in too much shock, but my older sister (and only sibling) passed away a little over a week ago.

I don’t remember how old I was when I realized Leslie and I had different moms.  Her mom died when she was 2 or 3 and I didn’t come along for another decade and some change, so it was just her and my dad for a long time.  After I was born though, she took me everywhere, including trips to see her mom’s family about an hour away.  I grew up calling her mom’s mom Grandma Dukes.  I had my mom’s mom, my dad’s mom, and then an extra grandma and I didn’t really think anything of it.  I finally put it together at some point and asked her about it on the way home from visiting them.  She said Grandma Dukes was her mom’s mom.  I said since we didn’t have the same mom should I still call her grandma Grandma Dukes.  She said yes.

I hadn’t seen anyone from Leslie’s mom’s side of the family since my sister’s wedding about twenty years ago.  At the viewing, a group of people came in and I looked at one of the women and thought “that looks like Deaky.”  I couldn’t immediately remember who Deaky was or what made me think that was her name, but it was.  Deaky is one of my sister’s first cousins and she looked exactly the same as the last time I’d seen her.  Blood doesn’t make you family and it felt great to see them all again.

These are some of the songs she taught me on piano or that we used to sing together cleaning the house or riding in the car.

Whitney Houston “All The Man”

Whitney Houston “Look Into Your Heart”

Debbie Gibson “Electric Youth”

Wilson Phillips “Hold On”

The Entertainer

They Might Be Giants “Birdhouse In Your Soul”

Mariah Carey “Emotions”

Moonlight Sonata

Ini Kamoze “Here Comes The Hotstepper”

Madonna “Cherish”

Dona Nobis Pacem

Guns N Roses “November Rain”

Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle “A Whole New World”

Extreme “More Than Words”

Janet Jackson “Again”

Faith Hill “Piece Of My Heart”

I only got mad enough at my sister to completely stop speaking to her once.  I don’t even remember what the fight was about because I was too little, but whether I was being an obnoxious little brother or she was picking at me is irrelevant.  All that matters is, she was chasing me around the house and then I finally made it to my room and locked the door.  She banged on it for awhile like she was trynna beat the damn thing off the hinges, but then she stopped and went away.  So of course, I was patting myself on the back for winning whatever it was we were fighting about.  A few minutes later, she was back at the door but she wasn’t banging.  She had gotten a wire coathanger and stuck it in the hole in the doorknob.  She popped the lock and barged into my room and I started screaming bloody murder.  How dare she break into my room when I locked the door!  I was safe!  Y’all I don’t think I spoke to her for the rest of the summer.  I was hot about that for years.

This is more about my brother-in-law, but it bears mentioning here.  After I came out to Leslie I told her not to tell anyone, not even her husband Andre.  My 14-year-old brain wasn’t really hip to the fact that most husbands & wives share everything, so I thought it was a reasonable request.  I called her and asked for money for something – I have no idea what it was – but she said OK.  After we were done talking, she gave the phone to my brother-in-law so we could chat for a bit and I remember this conversation like it was yesterday.

BIL: Your sister says you need some money.

Me:  Yeah…

BIL: For what?  You need bail money?

Me:  Hahah no…

BIL: You got some lil girl in trouble and you need to take her to the clinic?


BIL: Well she coulda had short hair and you coulda been confused in the moment!

I realized she had told him I was gay and I didn’t get upset at all.  That was the first time any male had reacted to me being gay with humor and nonchalance and I knew she really had picked a good one.

I used to eavesdrop on her phone conversations.  The first time I heard her cuss on the phone I wanted to run and tell mom & dad…but I didn’t do that…because I was eavesdropping and woulda got my ass beat.

Before my parents got married, they kept two households about 10 minutes away from each other.  I lived with my mom in one and my sister lived with our dad in the other.  At my mom’s house, the mailbox was right at the corner of the driveway, and usually my mom or dad would drive up to it and whoever was in the passenger seat would open the box and get the mail before going into the driveway.  Leslie decided she could do that too.  

I don’t remember if she was home from college for the summer or if she had graduated, but she had been tasked with picking me up from Karate that day because my dad was out of town and my mom was working late.  She decided she too could get the mail in the way in, so she drove up next to the box, I opened it, got the mail, and as she drove off, she must’ve turned the wheel because the mailbox went SKRRRRRRPPPP down the side of the station wagon.  So she panicked and started backing up.  SKRRRRRRRRPPPP some more.  I’m sitting in the passenger seat like

Finally she pulled forward and just let the box scrape alllll the way down the passenger side of the wagon.  And then she probably went inside to write her last will & testament because our father was going to kill her.

I don’t remember what her punishment was but it was probably nothing.  My sister totaled two cars (one with me in it) so hitting the mailbox was a very minor infraction by comparison.

My parents always pushed me to play with the kids from school in the summertime while I was thankful for summer because it meant I didn’t have to see the kids from school.  Sometimes they would send me over to a neighbor’s house so I could play outside.  I used to hide a book in my pocket and spend all day reading in the woods instead until my mom called the neighbor once to check up and make sure I got there.  I got the asswhoopin of my life when they found me sitting by a tree in the backyard.  

Anyway, I hated playing with them because they always called me names.  One particular afternoon everyone was picking teams for stickball and of course I was going to be picked last because I was chubby and gay.  Tasha Cloud (and yes I did just use her whole name, I don’t even care) said “I don’t want that faggot on my team” but she was stuck with me anyway.  When it was my turn to bat, she wrestled it away from me, hit me in the side, and kicked some dirt at me when I fell on the ground.  I cried, of course, got laughed it, ran into the neighbor’s house and wrote a poem in my Trapper Keeper called “Stupid Tasha” (I was only 7, so give me a break).  I told Miss Cotton I didn’t feel well and she let me watch movies all afternoon.  

That night I was crying about it to my sister who was home from college and she told me those ragamuffins don’t matter.  I don’t remember the conversation word for word (other than “ragamuffins”) but she said she got bullied and picked on by the same kind of ignorant kids and my bullies had older siblings and cousins who picked on her too.  Now she was in college and they were on their third child by two baby daddies, so who really won in the end?  I never cried again when one of those ingrates called me a faggot.

My sister hated flying.  It might have been extreme enough to classify as a phobia.  Whenever she visited the parents in SC, she’d drive 11 hours from southwest Florida for the trip instead of flying.  I wanted to surprise my dad for his birthday earlier this year and I thought it would be fun if my sister and I showed up at the same time.  She worked it out with his wife and we bought flights to arrive in Charlotte around the same time so she could pick us up from the airport.  She went back and forth on whether to actually get on the plane or not, but in the end she did it because she wanted to spend as much time as she could with me and dad, and an 11-hour ride both ways would cut into that vacation time.  

When my dad saw us standing curbside, shocked isn’t even the word.  I don’t think I’d ever seen him so happy and when we asked him why he was so surprised he was like, “well [pointing at her] you don’t fly and [pointing to me] you don’t visit!”  It ended up being the best trip home I’ve ever had.  His wife threw a huge bash for his birthday with a big turnout.  I got to see extended family I hadn’t seen in years.  My dad and I reconnected again.  My sister was her giggly self on cloud nine the whole trip.  We had a ball and if she had to go, I’m glad those are the last memories I have with her.

And now excuse me while I go listen to some more Whitney for awhile.

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