Remembering My Sister, The Little Blonde Girl That I Used To Laugh And Cry With


All names have been changed to protect their identities.

It was an April morning, and I was getting ready for class when I got the text – was it a text or a call? I can’t remember anymore – from my mom telling me that my sister had tried to commit suicide and had overdosed on Tylenol. Of course, she didn’t say Maggie* had tried to kill herself or that she had overdosed. I think she just told me that Maggie had taken a lot of Tylenol, she had come to my mom’s room in the middle of the night, afraid, talking nonsense. And that my mom had been up with her all night, Maggie had thrown up pretty much everything in her stomach, but that she was ok now and she was sleeping. It took me a year to realize that Maggie had actually tried to kill herself. My mom never took her to the hospital, or got her in to see a therapist, but I’m pretty sure my mom was in denial too.

I remember my mom telling me that she had asked Maggie where she had found the Tylenol, and Maggie had said “in the fifth chapter of the Hobbit.” I remember thinking that was really funny and laughing about it, but of course the circumstances make that not funny at all.

I remember that summer when I told my mom that when Maggie said she was going to her friend Cara’s house, she was really staying over at her boyfriend Frank’s. I was fed up with lying for her and I was tired of letting my mom live in this state of suspended disbelief. I remember Maggie yelling and crying, and I remember when I went to bed she was still downstairs on the computer. I remember my heart racing, I remember not being able to sleep. I remember afterwards, thinking I had ESP or some other psychic connection to Maggie. And I remember going downstairs to get a drink of water, and not seeing Maggie anywhere. I remember finding the note saying she had run away, and I remember panicking and blaming myself and waking up my mom to tell her. I remember calling Maggie non-stop until she answered, just to tell me that she was fine and she would come home in a few days.

I remember in August, I got a text from my best friend, Rachel, telling me her dad had overdosed and was in the hospital and that he wasn’t doing great. I remember another text a few hours later “he’s gone.” I distinctly remember not crying and not feeling sad and realizing that that was wrong and being ashamed of myself and nervous and feeling guilty for not being more upset. I remember offering to come up to New Hampshire to be with her.

I remember not wanting to go because I didn’t want to drive, and I remember feeling very guilty about that. I remember how my friends Tom and Erin talked me into going, and I remember bringing my dog, Hannah, in her bed in the passenger seat and driving up to New Hampshire. I remember having to turn around and go to Rachel’s grandparents’ house, because the boys had forgotten their meds and could I bring them up for them? I remember listening to the new Adele CD on repeat and crying over my ex-boyfriend. I remember trying to talk to him, and I remember how he ignored me. I don’t remember arriving, or what I did that day. I remember staying with Rachel in her dad’s trailer, and watching a movie with her. I don’t remember what movie. I remember trying to sleep, and Rachel crying, and I remember rubbing her back because I didn’t know what else to do. How do you make your best friend feel better after her dad kills himself? I remember the funeral, and I remember crying uncontrollably when Rachel talked about her dad, and I remember thinking it was silly because why was I crying so much? I didn’t even know Larry that well.

I remember how weird the weather was – it was sunny, but over the lake it was pouring rain. I remember watching the rain come towards us, and I remember the priest making some comment about how this was Larry speaking to us. I remember the man on the bagpipes playing Amazing Grace, and I remember how it reminded me of Allison Humphrey’s brother’s funeral from my freshman year of high school. I remember how I didn’t have anything black to wear, so instead I wore my dark purple dress with flowers. I remember not being able to wear that dress for months. I remember how mad I was that Maggie refused to come – she would stay with Frank instead. I remember having to leave right afterwards, because I needed to move into school the next day, and I remember feeling guilty because Rachel seemed upset that I was leaving, but feeling relieved that I could go. I remember the strange feeling I had in my chest those two days, that someone was squeezing my heart and I couldn’t catch my breath.

I remember that October, during the freak October snow storm, when I was watching a movie with Erin in her bed, and I got a frantic call from my mom saying that Maggie had had a seizure and she was in the hospital. I remember learning that she had taken acid, and that the seizure was from a weird reaction her body had had with the drug. I don’t remember much more about that night, but I remember calling my Dad the next day to let him know, and I remember him getting upset and yelling at me and telling me that the stress and hardships of his relationships with my mom and with his children weren’t worth it, and that he wished he had never married my mom. I remember realizing this meant he wished I had never been born, that no matter what good memories we had or the positive things I had brought to his life, they weren’t worth it. I remember hanging up on him and telling my brother and sister what he had said. I remember how angry Dan and Maggie were, and how loved I felt.

I remember Erin driving me home. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go home – did I need to? – and I didn’t want to drive 6 hours (I hate driving). I remember she offered, and I felt bad, and I felt like it was silly we were making such a big deal over this. But we drove home, and I remember driving down the streets near my house and being in awe over the number of fallen trees from the freak snow storm. I remember being in the hospital with Maggie, how out of it she was and how I thought it was because she was just tired. I remember sitting on the hospital floor with Erin and Rachel and Dan and helping Dan write his Villanova application essay – What Sets Your Heart On Fire? (he wrote about the environment). I remember that the power went out in my house, and Erin and Dan and I had to wear three layers of clothes and sleep in the living room by the fireplace since there was no heat. I remember my dog Hannah pooped on Erin’s blanket and I remember my dog Liv sleeping on my face. I didn’t mind because it kept me warm. I remember how bad we smelled because we hadn’t showered in days. I remember peeing in a toilet that didn’t flush. I remember Erin driving us back to school, and I remember listening to some song that went “push the pedal to the metal screaming fuck the police” and thinking how funny it was since we were tired and unshowered and two white girls driving in a minivan. I now realize what a great friend Erin was to me then (she still is). I never fully appreciated it, but I do now and it makes me want to cry.

I remember that summer when Maggie refused to come to Cape Cod with us. I remember being so angry with her because she was purposely trying to not be a part of our family when everyone else was still trying to hold on.

I remember having to drive Maggie to her therapist appointment, and how I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop but the doors were thin and the hall was silent and I could hear everything they said. I remember how Maggie told her therapist about all the guys she was having sex with, guys 5 years older than her, and I remember being so mad because her therapist was laughing and doing nothing about it. I remember how worried I was about Maggie, how I thought she needed to go to a program that would help her, and I remember emailing her therapist about it because my mom wouldn’t. I remember her therapist telling her what I had said, and I remember Maggie laughing about it to me in the car. I remember being furious, because her therapist never emailed me back.

I remember that fall, when Maggie got suspended from school for smoking weed on campus. I remember being hopeful, because in order to go back to school she would need to see a psychiatrist and a psychiatrist would know what was wrong with her and would be able to help her. I remember how my mom didn’t make her go to see the psychiatrist, and how instead Maggie dropped out of school. I remember telling my mom that Maggie needed to go to a program, and getting my mom to talk to an educational consultant who suggested a therapeutic school.

I remember that winter, when my mom was working hard to get her into a program, and how Maggie was accepted, and she wanted to go, but we didn’t have the money. I remember my mom asked my dad to use Maggie’s college fund to pay for it, but he said no. I remember Maggie asked my dad to use her college fund to pay for it, and he considered it, but then said no. I remember me asking my dad to use Maggie’s college fund to pay for it, because what’s the use of a college fund if she won’t go to college anyway, but he said no.

I remember December 23, when I was at the Top of the Hub with Tom to celebrate our 6th month anniversary. I remember receiving the usual text from my mom – have you heard from Maggie? I remember the slight panic I always get when I read that text, the “no, I don’t really talk to her on a daily basis” response that I always give her, and then feeling silly for being worried. This happened weekly, after all, and Maggie always answered my mom a few hours later. But I remember my mom’s response, how Maggie had been really upset over something Frank (who was now her ex-boyfriend) had said to her, and how Maggie had left the house a while ago to her friend’s house, but how no car had come down the driveway but Maggie was still gone.

I remember realizing that Maggie had texted Frank once from my phone, so I had his number, and I remember texting him asking if he knew where Maggie was. I remember his response – that he was worried about Maggie but he didn’t know her location. I remember him telling me he had called her, and that she had taken 30 Benadryl and gone into the woods where they used to smoke. She was waiting for him, because he was the only person who knew where she was, he was the only person who could save her. I remember telling my mom, and I remember her texting me that she had found Maggie and she was still conscious – just loopy. She said she was taking Maggie to the hospital. I don’t remember leaving the restaurant. I don’t remember what I ate. I remember Tom driving me home, and I remember picking up my step dad to bring him to the hospital with us.

I remember waiting for what seemed like forever at the check in desk for the emergency room, and I remember being nervous that Tom wouldn’t be able to come back since he wasn’t “family.” I remember walking back to her room, where my mom was sitting with her. I remember how high she was, she kept trying to take the pulse rate monitor off her finger. I remember how it took her a long time to realize who Tom was, and how my mom said it was because she was tired, but Tom told me later it was because she was high. I remember Tom’s parents telling him he should leave, that it was intrusive for him to be there with my family, and I remember telling Tom that he absolutely could not leave me. I remember sitting on the floor in my dress, freezing and thirsty. I remember wanting to go home, and I remember my mom made me feel bad for it, but Tom told me Maggie wouldn’t remember either way.

I remember the next morning, my mom telling me that Maggie was getting a psych evaluation. I remember her telling me they recommended that Maggie stay, because she was suicidal and it was not safe for her at home. I remember my mom telling me she had convinced them Maggie would be fine at home, how she was getting Maggie into a program and they were just waiting for the first payment to go through, and how excited she was that Maggie would get to be home on Christmas. I remember thinking it was a bad idea for her to be home, that it wasn’t safe and we weren’t capable of caring for her, that the program probably wasn’t going to work out and things were only going to get worse.

I remember Maggie coming home and going upstairs, and I remember having to stay awake all night to make sure Maggie wouldn’t do anything. I remember hiding all of the razors in our house, and all of the knives. I remember how my mom went to bed, and how tired I was. I remember Christmas, trying to be happy when Maggie was on the couch crying.

I remember last spring, talking to Dan on the phone about Maggie, about how mad we were at our parents for doing nothing, and at her for not caring about any of it. I remember being on the phone for an hour, crying, telling Dan we had to do something, we had to at least try, since no one else was, but Dan telling me there was no point.

And I remember coming to terms with the fact that the Maggie I knew and loved, the Maggie I had grown up with, laughed with, cried with, the little blonde Maggie who loved weird things like sitting in the dog cage and cutting open fish, that Maggie was gone. All that remained was a body, and the soul of some new, cruel, selfish person who went by Maggie’s name but wasn’t her. I remember mourning Maggie. And I remember crying, because my sister had died.