Friday, April 9, 2010

Eulogy for Teresa

I am two and a half years older than my sister Teresa. My middle name is Lee. And of course when I got in trouble, I was called by my full name -- Sharon Lee Davis!!! Well, My sister's middle name was Jeanette, but for some reason she would be called Teresa Jeanette Lee Davis!!! Then she grew up to marry a man who's last name is Lee. So, her name became Teresa Jeanette Davis Lee. I've always thought that was ironic and a little funny. Here are a few memories I have of my sister. It's actually pretty long, but I hope you will indulge me.

The very first memory I have of my sister and I together is of us as very tiny children, crossing the street we lived on near White Rock Lake to go into the "forest" to pick black berries. The "forest" was only a few trees according to momma, but I'm sure it was quite an adventure at our tender ages and for all I know, momma may very well have been with us, but that is not how I remember it. That would not have been as adventurous.

My next memory of Teresa is holding her little three year old hand! I tell you, I loved that sweet little hand. It is one of my all time most precious childhood memories. One of my favorite memories period.

I can't remember exactly how old we were when daddy decided that we needed to have a ranch full of animals. Now this would not have been so unusual if we lived in the country, but we lived flat dab in the middle of Dallas, TX and I can tell you that there were not many people who had livestock of any kind in Dallas in the mid 1960's. Our next door neighbor's, the Neal's had chickens, but they were literally the only people I knew who had any kind of livestock. That is until daddy started bringing home chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and a goat. None of these lasted all that long. Most of them died by smothering in their food or getting eaten by the dogs or something like that. The remaining turkey was getting pretty big though and looked like he'd live to be ripe old age. Right up until he made his fatal mistake. He scratched Teresa one day and it was a pretty big, bad scratch too. She was crying and making a fuss and daddy asked her if she wanted him to kill that mean old turkey. She didn't even hesitate before she said yes. Well, to be honest, I didn't blame her one bit. We both stood at the back screen door as daddy strung that turkey up and chopped his head off. I didn't even have time to think it was gross before I realized that Teresa was laughing her little head off in this really evil, wicked little laugh. I think she scared me a little that day, but I forgot about that as soon as I got to eating on that turkey. It happened fairly close to Thanksgiving too so we thought it was really great that we got to have turkey twice so close together.

We grew up in a time when kids felt safe to wonder around their neighborhoods. We'd walk up to the shopping center together. We played in our yards in the summer with the neighborhood kids until after dark, playing hide and go seek, tag and catching fireflies. I remember we used to lay on the grass and pick out shapes in the clouds and sometimes get lucky enough to find a horny toad. We played pretend games a lot. In our games I got to marry David Cassidy and she had to marry Bobby Sherman. I was the oldest, so I got to pick. We would play Monopoly and card games and we had a lot of fun doing those kinds of things. We played our 45's on the record player and danced and sang to them. We had some good times.

Teresa and I also used to fight like cats and dogs. We never really did this when momma was home, I don't think, but momma had to work so eventually we always did fight at some point. Teresa always had these beautiful, long, graceful fingers and these amazing finger nails that were really strong. I mean she was 8 years old with these hands and nails, it was just weird!  The worse thing about it though is that she knew how to use them in our fights and use them she did! She would claw plugs out of my arms. At which point, I'd really get mad and try to choke her or start banging her head into the floor, all the while telling her she better not call momma when I let her up either. And that little stinker always did. Fortunately, she was the only one to ever draw blood. I never really hurt her. She really should have been a hand model when she grew up, her hands were that pretty.

There came a time when we didn't get along as well as we had before. She became this neat freak and we drifted even more apart. Surprisingly, not because she was so neat and I was a slob, but because we were just so different from each other and we didn't see our similarities. I got married at 18 and she was still in school. I had my son when I was 20 and she had just graduated high school. We weren't communicating well at all. Years went by with us never really hitting the mark in that area, but we kept trying. We wanted to be close. We wanted to be friends, but it never failed that one of us would say something that the other misinterpreted and we wouldn't speak for months. It was extremely difficult on both of us, our mother, our husbands and our children.

During this time, Teresa had married and started her family. B came along first, thankfully at a time when we were actually getting alone pretty well. I got to baby sit B for a while and Jay and Teresa would take our son on outings. Teresa loved being a mother and aunt. It wasn't long before she and her little family moved out of state and our closeness became strained again by distance and the constraints of time.

I don't know which came next, that she became pregnant with R or that she found out that she had scoliosis. I do know that she put off the surgery to repair her back because she wanted to have a child and that child was R and that she put off the surgery again to have another child -- S. This was her choice because she wanted these boys so very much. She was in extreme back pain, but it was worth it to her because she was lucky enough to be a mom to three beautiful children. Her children were her greatest joy. Of this, I am absolutely sure.

By the time she finally had the surgery, her ribcage was very twisted, almost totally toward the back of her body. She had lost height. She was in severe pain and getting the point of real danger of her ribs possibly damaging her organs. It was a pain that I truly still can not imagine. My sister was so very strong and courageous. She was an amazing woman to be able to handle the medical problems she had. The surgery was so very involved and difficult by then that she ended up in a medical journal. All of this was done during the time that our father was terminally ill. I was able to come help her for a few days after the surgery, but I had to get back to help our dad. During his illness, I was his main caregiver. I just couldn't be there for Teresa like I wanted to. I was torn by it all and bitter that I was being torn.

Our relationship was probably the worst when we needed each other the most -- when our father was dying and Teresa was recovering from her surgery. Neither of us had had an easy relationship with daddy either, so that complicated things. I couldn't seem to tell her that I just needed to talk to her. To hear her voice. To be able to vent. I could never say that I wasn't asking her for anything more than that. I would contact her with that being the full intention of what I was going to say and somewhere, somehow, it always went wrong. It was just a horrible time. Daddy died on December 1st of 1995.

Teresa and her family came up to the house after daddy passed. It was good to see them, but I don't remember how we felt about each other then. I know the rough patches were not over yet -- not emotionally between us or physically for her. Right around New Year's, Teresa had to have emergency surgery to have the rod removed from her back that was put in during the scoliosis surgery. She'd developed a life threatening staff infection. Her spine had not fused at all. It would twist again and cause all the pain that she'd had before and the worse news was that the surgeon said he would not redo the surgery.

I can't remember when Teresa and I became close again. It wasn't instantaneous, but we found it in our hearts to forgive each other for all the hurtful things that were said and imagined between us. We became as close as we had each hoped and wanted to be all of our lives. We finally had our sister friendship and we really enjoyed each other. I will be forever grateful for that.

Teresa also got to have her scoliosis surgery when she moved to Colorado a few years ago. It was very successful. Even more successful than the doctor had thought it would be. She lived the rest of her life relatively pain free and happy. My neat freak sister became one of those talented women who could drive down an alley and find someone's castoffs and see the treasure that it really was. Sometimes she'd fix them up and sell them. Other times she'd keep them. She had a knack. She was beautiful. She was strong. She was someone I wanted to be like in so very many ways. I'm going to miss her more than I can say.


dlautenslager said...

What sweet and touching memories of your sister. I am so sorry your family has had to go thru so much in the last few weeks.

Luckybear said...

A lovely tribute to your sister and your relationship together. I too am so sorry that you are having to deal with so much right now.