You might be wondering how I lost my sister, and sadly she was lost to most of my family before she was 25.
My second sister,Bonita was born eleven years before me, and just eleven months after our sister Ouida. My sisters were very close growing up, almost the same age, size, just one year apart in school. From December 4-January 9 they were the same age and loved giggling as they told adults their ages and no they weren’t twins. The pictures of the two of them are amazing and precious, my mother made most of their dresses, Ouida a redhead, Bonita a brunette, and both of them with a Toni Perm!
My sisters were also very different, Bonita somehow feeling less perfect than our very A type overachieving sister. Ouida and I have talked about it many times, how none of this had to be an issue. Bonita was bright, capable. It’s another mystery. Bonita began to act out and rebel against very basic rules my parents had, and then tragically my sister began to have seizures. Bonita was 13 or 14 when diagnosed with Epilepsy. While then archaically termed Grand Mal seizures she was very dramatically impacted by her seizures. Finding just the right meds was an up and down process. This was about 1964, and I must say my parents did not manage their reactions and behavior to this new reality. My sister was dealing with neurologists and also psychiatrists, and my folks sometimes acted ashamed and embarrassed by all this. It was as if Epilepsy was like a communicable disease and should be hidden and lied about. Bonita’s attention getting mode of operation was to skip her meds, having a seizure and while garnering attention, setting back her progress and clear understanding of how balance would be such an important piece of the puzzle.
My sister went through much physical and mental anguish when she was a teen and young adult. The meds she was on were so damaging to other parts of her body. Thankfully better medications have been developed for those diagnosed with Epilepsy today. My sister left home about age 20, and then she ran off to California and was gone for nearly a year. Leaving my parents to worry and be completely in the dark. Over the years my sister had many crises. Bonita had two failed marriages, raised a daughter who also had behavioral problems, who also had two children with no father in their lives.
I was 9 years old when my sister first left. From the age of 18-unitil now I saw my sister a total of 4 times. I am 52 years old. Her health was awful, damage from nearly 50 years of medications, complications from being a smoker, and who knows what damage from illicit drug use. When she developed COPD a few years ago, no one was surprised. Last year at the age of 62 my sister Bonita lost her battle with life. She had been hospitalized and as much as we know her lungs just could not help her any more. December 4 is her birthday, somehow even when we lose people it’s always their birthday…and even with the disjointed and elusive relationship I had with my sister I still think of her, and I miss her.
I miss that she was a brilliant pianist and could play most anything. I miss that she introduced me to Elvis and The Beatles and that when I was 15 and she was 26 and living with a hippy in California I thought she was so cool! I miss that as adults we were never friends, and that we had little in common. I’m sad that my parents lost a child, and I’m sad that Bonita was misunderstood and likely never treated appropriately for the mental health issues she had. I’m blessed to have another sister and brother that help care for and balance decisions for my aging parents. Admittedly my sister Bonita was not good at this, and fell apart with each downward aging step my dad too. She was very close to daddy. I’m sad she won’t see her grandchildren grow up.
So today, for my sister Bonita, I want to say I love you Bony….my nickname for her, and that it’s foolish to wish one’s life away, but oh how I wish it could have been different.