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Cherla Carlton standing on a cliff

I Think It’s Me {format} {format} 3:54 Bronwyn Carlton

Someone always loves a little more, a sister's story.

Broadcast: Nov 20 2006 on NPR Day to Day Subjects: Family, Commentary

A Seat at the Table Impossible to Fill

November 20, 2006 from Day to Day

ALEX CHADWICK, host: From NPR News, itís DAY TO DAY. Almost everyone we know is making plans for dinner on Thursday - Thanksgiving. Itís a time for family reunions and recollections. Hereís writer Bronwyn Carlton.

Ms. BRONWYN CARLTON (Writer, WFMU Radio Station): My little sister and I understood certain things about each other. Things no one else could ever understand. After our parents died, she was my only family. I would say we were very close, even though she lived far up in the mountains of Colorado and even though for a long time I hardly ever heard from her except when she needed money.

She went through a period of needing new snow tires. A lot of new snow tires. It made sense the first time she asked, because it was winter in Colorado. And maybe it was OK the second time, although I donít remember what the story was. But, by the third time, I wasnít really buying it. And the fourth time I refused to send her anymore snow tire money.

I didnít hear from her again until there was this really great investment opportunity and she was going to triple her money, although she couldnít quite explain how. I sent the cash and never heard anymore about it.

Sometime, later she announced she wanted to come visit me, but couldnít afford plane fare. I was so excited. Sheíd only come to New York once, shortly after Iíd moved here, and I really wanted to show her everything Iíd learned about the city and what my life here was like. So, I cashed in my frequent flyer miles and got her a ticket and I splurged on a couple of tickets to the Metropolitan Opera, because I thought sheíd really like that.

And then the airline called me, something about how they didnít allow people to trade-in a frequent flyer miles ticket for cash and I said I didnít want to. And then somehow the trip never happened. I didnít hear from her for a while and I had to rustle up some nice guy who really didnít care about opera to go with me, because those tickets were non-refundable.

When my husband, Sluggo(ph), and I got married she declined to come out for our wedding, because March was the end of skiing season and she didnít want to miss it. While I was home during the first time I had face cancer, a letter came in the mail for her sent to my address. It was from a lawyer so I opened it to see what was going on.

It was something about how heíd got the court date put off on account of her having to be out of town visiting her cancer-ridden sister. That would be me. I never quite got the straight story about that, but apparently sheíd used my illness as an excuse to leave town and go to Mexico, although sheíd told everyone she was coming here. I donít think it ever occurred to her to actually come see me while I was sick.

Once, she called and told me sheíd been getting ready to have some kind of semi-medical procedure to get rid of her wrinkles and the doctor had done a test before giving her anesthesia and had found a heart problem. The story of the heart problem went on for a while and finally she said she was scheduled to go into the hospital for more extensive tests and she asked if I could send her some money because she didnít have any health insurance.

I cleaned out my savings account and sent it all to her. And then just a couple of days before she was scheduled to go into for the tests, her heart stopped beating and she died. The money, of course, was gone, but so was she. That was five years ago. I donít think I even realized how I thought of her almost every moment of every day of my life until she wasnít here anymore.

I canít say I think of her every single day now, but I canít say that I donít. I donít really know. Thinking about her was so natural to me that Iím not really aware of whether Iím doing it or not. I think about her a lot around this time of year, of course. And lately Iíve been thinking about how she treated me, and Iíve realized that it didnít really matter.

In my mind I hear that old Go-Goís song. Someone always loves a little more and I think it's me.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: Essayist Bronwyn Carlton lives in New York and writes for radio station WFMUís Beware of the Blog. And she comes to us courtesy of the radio collective, Hearing Voices.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY returns in a moment.