Thursday, January 26, 2012

Missing Ginny

On a cold January 26th  back in 1951, my sister, Virginia Elizabeth, was born.    I was two years old so I have no memory of my life without her in it.    She died nine years ago next Feb. 6th, at age 52.     Hardly a week goes by that I don't think of her and the life we lived as kids and then as grownups.   

In our childhood, Ginny and I shared a bedroom with twin beds that served as spring boards, perfect for jumping and hiding places for our toys and other stuff when we got orders to "clean our room" from a very perturbed father.   At night, after we were supposed to have lights out, we would whisper back and forth telling secrets or just engaging in some forbidden after dark chit chat.   We had a large shelf that contained all of our dolls which were many since we inherited all of the dolls that belonged to our older sister, Charlotte.  Our closet contained not only our clothes but also a vast assortment of school papers, toys that wouldn't fit under our beds and anything else we could cram in that small space.  

Marcia and Ginny with dolls 1956, Jackson, MS

Ginny and I had some spectacular fights as kids, although we were also willing to defend to the death each other's honor if SOME ELSE dared to taunt, tease or otherwise insult either of us.    I was a runt, short of stature and skinny as a rail.   Ginny inherited the "sturdy" genes so eventually she became taller and heavier than me, even though I was the oldest.     I had a gift for words and often teased and nagged at Ginny until she rose up, got me in a some sort of hold that rendered me helpless and then sat on my back, whacking and wailing away, with a hearty, almost guttural "UH" with each blow.    I would bawl out for mother to help but usually no help was forthcoming since I think Mama probably thought I richly deserved whatever I was getting and come to think of it, she was probably right.   After a reasonable amount of revenge, Ginny would dismount and leave me whimpering and sniffling.   Usually in less than five minutes we would resume whatever game we were playing, all insults forgiven and forgotten.   

Ginny and Marcia Easter 1961, Jackson, MS
As we grew into young adults, Ginny suffered a long period of her life with chronic depression.   I had married by then and had a young son and Ginny absolutely worshipped Brian.     Looking back, I know that he was the biggest bright spot in her life and probably saved her from even worse depressive episodes.    She and I often talked of her depression and I, being the "ever happy camper", was hell bent on helping her to see the more cheerful side of life instead of the worst it has to offer.    I worried constantly about her and felt like it was my duty to try to save her from herself.   

Not to say that we didn't have some wonderful times together and more laughter than you could ever imagine.   In addition to the sturdy genes, Ginny also inherited a wonderful sense of humor and was quite intelligent, very much the way our father was both highly intelligent and very funny, too.     At an early age, she showed a real flair for art and took lessons during elementary school.    She was what some people call "crafty".    While going through her things since her death, her daughter found no less than FIVE glue guns in Ginny's stash of craft supplies.     She loved her glue guns and found new uses that even the inventor of the glue gun never thought of.    

One year for Christmas we decided to make ornaments out of felt, pom pom balls and glitter.   We festooned my home with all kinds of door knockers, signs of the season and a giant stocking that we stuffed with some of Brian's toys and put out on my front porch.    When we had left over felt, glue, glitter and pom poms, Ginny decided we needed to use up these materials and so we cut short strips of felt and glued the pom poms on the felt, alternating the color of pom pom we used.   As we sat there looking at our "creations", I casually asked her what we had made.    She said (in all seriousness), "Why don't we call them our Christmas worms?"    So we placed them on the branches of the Christmas tree and I still have them today and still call them my Christmas worms.    It works for me now, just like it worked for her back in 1976 when we made them.   

Christmas Worms on my tree

And so we grew older and our lives moved on and more or less apart.  We were still close in heart and loved each other dearly but no longer lived in the same town.     Eventually Ginny married and had a daughter, bringing a joy to her life that is almost beyond comprehension.    She and her husband had been through fertility treatments that were deemed to be unsuccessful, when out of the blue she was found to be pregnant and expecting a baby in March of the next year.     In spite of the benefits of modern medicine, their precious bundle of joy chose to arrive in January and arrived healthy and safely even though she was quite premature.    
Ginny with Catherine Spring 1992

After that Ginny's health was a huge issue in her life and for most of the next eleven years she battled diabetes and various complications of that disease, including major heart issues.    But even with all of that and the responsibility of a new baby girl, Ginny kept her sense of humor and could make me  laugh standing around her hospital bed, even when I really wanted to cry my eyes out.    I was so afraid of what was happening to her and yet, living in a kind of vague denial of the obvious.    We never talked about her health that much and more or less lived as if it was not a factor at all.    As the old saying goes, "Denial is not just a river in Egypt."   

So her health continued to get worse, she had cardiac by-pass surgery and her diabetes still raged on doing damage to her heart and body.    Intellectually, I knew she was not doing well, but my emotional side just didn't want to deal with the inevitable and didn't.     In January 2003, shortly before her birthday, she was hospitalized and was very ill.     I came to see her and visited her in ICU and had before me the truth of the matter.    She was clearly in a dire situation.     But the mind can convince you of things that aren't true.   So it was with this situation.   I still could not accept that she was not going to be a part of  my life much longer.   I don't think she admitted that either.    We were blindly and doggedly going to play the game until we couldn't any more.  

Marcia and Ginny Christmas 1991, shortly before Catherine's birth

Ginny was discharged from the hospital a few days later and seemed to be doing well.    At least that is the story she told me on the phone.    She and her husband and daughter were going shopping for a school project later in the afternoon she wrote one day in an email.   She went to a follow up doctor's appointment.     They went on that ill fated shopping trip, but in the middle of the shopping, she felt ill and had to go sit down.   While she was resting and waiting on her daughter and husband to finish collecting the things they needed, she suddenly suffered a cardiac arrest and was gone within minutes.    Paramedics were called and she was taken to an emergency room, but it was too late and she was pronounced dead.   

The call from her husband to tell us what had happened came later that afternoon.    When I heard what had happened, I literally fell to my knees and staggered to the kitchen counter for support.   I don't ever recall having that kind of response to bad news in my life except for that time.    Even when my father died many years earlier,  I don't think I felt this way.   Hearing that Ginny was dead,  I literally felt like something had blown a hole in my heart and left a huge gaping wound.    I was weak and thought I would faint.    All the way to Jackson for the wake and funeral, I had a strange emptiness in me that is very hard to describe.       But that is the best word I can use to explain how I felt.    A big, black void and a feeling of complete numbness took over my body.   

Maybe it was because I had also lost my older sister, Charlotte, two years before that and I was feeling the sinking, lonely feeling of being the only child of three that was still live.    Maybe it was because of all those years we shared a room and later such closeness due to the fact that we lived next door to each other.    I am not sure why I felt that big, black hole inside.     All I know is that is what I felt at the time.  

Today, nine years later, I can say that the hole is much smaller now and has shrunk to a much more manageable size.     I have not carried the burden of her death around with me like a cape about my shoulders.     I like to think that I have grown and learned from the experience and with time and patience the incredible lonely feelings and sadness have receded to their proper proportion.      I know for sure that we said the things that needed to be said when we were both above the ground to hear them.  Standing at the grave uttering "I love you" is not a good substitute for saying those words out loud, with conviction while you are both alive to hear and acknowledge the sentiment.   I don't have to wonder if she knew that I loved her because she did.   

So on this day of her birth, so many Januaries ago, I can't help but think of Ginny and the life we shared for so many years.   I still laugh at some of the funny things she said--- when we were kids---as young adults and yes, even on her sick bed, just days before her death.     I have some of her art work that we found in envelopes and boxes after she died.    Her amazing daughter is a young woman of twenty now and has some of Ginny's best qualities to remind us of her.     And yet, I do still miss her and sometimes my heart aches to spend just one more day with her.   Right now is one of those times.    

I will cry today and re-grieve the untimely and premature death of my dear little sister, Ginny.    But I will also celebrate the times we spent together and be thankful and grateful for all of those good times that will, no doubt, carry me through the difficult times of remembering what might have been.       

Thoughtful and happy trails to you~~~



  1. Well, Marcia, you know I think you're a wonderful writer. This entry also shows that you're willing to explore the hard places in life with your beautiful gift of writing. Thank you for sharing and for reminding us all of the fragility of life and those we hold dear.

  2. Really a Beautiful Post.I still miss her as well,,Larry

  3. Marcia, it was earlier this year when I looked you all up on facebook that I first realized something had happened to her. And I cried. I didn't know. the last I knew, Charlotte and dad had passed away at about the same time, in 2000. And i talked to Virginia in I think 2000 or 2001 on the web tv and she NEVER told me she was sick. And then the web tv blew up during a lightening storm and thats when I lost touch and I never knew. What I did know was when she came to NC that one time she was sick. But I had NO idea she was ever that sick. But when I ran across those pictures earlier this year, I knew. It crushed me, and the reason I waited to contact anyone was because I didn't want to bring this up because you all were closer than anyone I ever knew. And I couldn't even imagine bringing up that much pain. I loved your sister. So did David, he loved her. Thats all I can say, she and your family were there for me in one of the most difficult periods of my life. And I had NO IDEA, I am so sorry. That story is beautiful, Im going to tell David to read it, too. Virginia was such a Treadway, she had that sense of humor, I guess that was one of the reasons I didn't know. Like you said in the story, she covered it, and that was because she was thinking of others. Thats all I can say. I honestly don't know even what to say. I am so so sorry. For many reasons. Cindy Treadway

  4. Marcia.... What a beautiful tribute to your sister, your friend and sisterhood in general. As you have kindly pointed out to me, our style of writing takes the reader on a journey of sorts, with descriptive and colorful words we invite them to learn a little more about us and perhaps a little more about them.

    I'm reflecting on the joy you had to know and love your sister throughout her life... Even though it was shortened. I don't have that experience with my sister and rejoice for those that do.
    I'll always enjoy reading your wonderings and wanderings. Thank you for sharing!


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