Your Sister’s Ghost
It is 6:30 pm, Father’s Day is tomorrow, and we have nothing ready for your dad. To be honest, I was relying on your daycare teachers — for Mother’s Day, they helped you make this adorable and extensive art project that I completely love — but it seems like they don’t feel the same about dads. Your dad is a particularly chill one and not into fake holidays, but still, we have to do something. Or rather, you have to do something — I have to cook dinner.
“Why don’t you draw a picture of MommyDaddyLewis for Daddy’s special day tomorrow?” I suggest.
You run with this idea, literally, straight to your art table where you pull out a piece of blue paper and some markers. I wait until you’re settled then return to the kitchen to boil water for pasta.
A few minutes later, I walk back in and glance at the three figures you’ve drawn in the middle of the page. I’m impressed; they’re the most detailed, complete images you’ve ever made, and I’m ready to burst forth in motherly praise. But before I say anything, you start drawing another figure in the top left corner, smaller than the rest of us and clearly separate. Without prompting or even a word from me, you say, “That’s my sister.”
“What?” I reply, taken aback.
I am stunned. We haven’t talked about Baby Wow since right after I lost her six months ago now. We actually haven’t talked about siblings at all since then. While her recent due date certainly triggered many things inside of me, I’ve been very careful to not mention this around you. In fact, I never even told you she was a girl. I first shared with you that I was pregnant when she was eleven weeks in utero but then had to tell you just one week later that she wouldn’t be born. You were sad, but only for a couple of days. By the time the genetic test results came back and we learned her gender, you were long over it.
Thinking back to those days surrounding the procedure still hurts. But I have to put my own emotions aside so that I can be present and explore this moment with you. I don’t want to put words in your mouth or sway your thoughts in any way, so I decide to begin with, “Do you have a sister?”
“Yes,” you reply in the same intonation as an older kid might say, Duh.
“Okay. Where is she?”
“Here,” you say, tapping your drawing of her.
“I see. So do you have a sister for real, or just in the picture?”
Seriously and without hesitation, you say, “For real.”
“In real life, or just pretend?”
“In real life, Mommy.” I can sense the annoyance seeping into your voice, but I decide to push on just a little more.
“Okay, where is she for real?”
“Mommy, she’s right here,” you say, pointing to the air beside you.