I woke up much later than I normally would have on Christmas morning that year. We'd just buried my sister a week earlier and Christmas seemed pointless at best. The one thing I wanted...I couldn't have: My sister sitting on the couch, curled up in a blanket with Christmas light twinkling in her eyes. Still, I trudged through that morning pretending that I gave a #$@%. Mom sat near the tree while I passed out the presents. I lifted the tag of a gift that wasn't there a few days before to see Angie's bubbly script underneath. I was shocked.
"How did this happen?" I asked my mother.
"Angie had all her shopping done early. Wrapped and everything." Mom said with a smile.
The final months of 1993 were not healthy ones for Angie, but Mom told me that Angie managed to find the time to finish her Christmas shopping and wrap her gifts in between hospital stays. Again, I must remind you—as I do with every "Angie Story"—that this was before the internet and the convenience of shopping at your fingertips. If her shopping was going to get done, then Angie had to expend the energy she didn't have to do it. A daunting task for a young lady struggling to breathe.
Angie didn't want my mom to come so it could be a surprise for her too, so she spent the day with one of her dedicated and newly-licensed friends traveling the harrowing roads surrounding the mall near our home and bearing the chaos of shopping madness. She walked every step, climbed every stair and made every decision in person. I can't imagine how exhausting that must have been for her, but she didn't care. When Angie set her mind to something there was no stopping her. Did she know her time with us was growing short? I'm not sure, but my guess is that Angie realized how precious her time was far before the '93 shopping season...
There was a blue envelope attached to the package. Inside the envelope was a card. On the front of the card was a penguin wearing a sweater sitting in a chair near a fireplace. It said:
"There is only one thing better than having a brother like you...."
On the inside it said:
"A RICH BROTHER! Merry Christmas!"
There was another penguin dancing around all this money exploding out a of a Christmas stocking while the "sweater penguin" looked on with a smile. Tucked into this card was a crisp, clean hundred dollar bill.
"I bought the card and put her money in it. Angie had been saving that for something special. I think she meant you." Mom said with a wink and smile, both of us knowing it was probably for something girly and lame instead of her stinky brother.
My eyes welled up with tears as I tore open the wrapped present to find "Garfield's Fifth Treasury" in my hands. It was collection of the lasagna-eating, Odie-beating cat's Sunday comic strips from the previous year. I was never a big reader, but I loved the comics. I loved the drawings and I loved to laugh. The Garfield comic strip had my sense of humor and I'd laugh out loud reading those comics for hours on end. Angie remembered that.
As much as we were fighting during that "teenage sibling" part of our lives, she still took the time to show me she loved me. Maybe she knew that I would need more laughter and humor to survive. How right she was. I read that book every night for months before I went to sleep just to have a piece of Angie to hold on to. While this is a somewhat sad memory, it's also proof that Angie will always be here for me when I need her the most. And that is a WONDERFUL Christmas memory.
You are missed, sister. Say hi to Dad, our Grandmas and Grandpas and the rest. Oh...and if you could...help hold me up right now. This year has been harder than others.
Peaceful Things and Happy Holidays,