Every gambler knows
that the secret to survivin'
is knowin' what to throw away
and knowin' what to keep
'Cause every hand's a winner
and every hand's a loser
and the best that you can hope for
is to die in your sleep
- Kenny Rogers, 'The Gambler'
I’ve been in survival mode a little bit lately.
Between trying to finish the school year strong and preparing for a cross-country move, the rest of life has felt extra busy but also extra significant. I’m exhausted, but I don’t want to miss out on anything because very soon I won’t live here anymore and then I won’t be able to do the things even if I’m feeling totally energized. I keep telling myself: “You can sleep when you’re dead.”
So when I found out I would miss my sister Amy’s birthday party while we were in the mountains last weekend, I was bummed. We haven’t been together to celebrate either of our birthdays for years, and I think we both thought this would be one of the first. She wasn’t mad, but it was one of the only things that I’ve actually had to miss because I can’t literally be in two places at once. Sometimes, if I could I would. Mental health be damned.
I decided I’d stay up late the night before we left and make a special birthday pie that I could drop off for the party on our way out of town. I figured it would be a sufficient contribution in my absence. I didn’t figure I’d have to track down non-hydrogenated shortening and dairy-free chocolate chips, but I’m doing all kinds of new things these days, so why not?
Amy was recently told by her pediatrician that she should cut eggs, dairy, soy, and nuts out of her diet in order to figure out whether or not her girl Vera has a food allergy. So I was in search of a pie that didn’t call for butter or eggs or milk or nuts or anything made with soy. But I wanted something that still tasted like life and celebration and a little bit of indulgence.
So I turned to the homie over at Oh, Ladycakes and found just what I was looking for. I used dairy-free chocolate chips, soy-free pretzel sticks, and straight coconut milk in the mousse, but otherwise I followed her recipe exactly. The finished pie looked pretty good, but I didn’t taste it before dropping it off for the party. I just crossed my fingers and hoped it would make my sister feel special.
If I had to choose one thing to do with the rest of my time in Denver, it would be to spend every day with my sister and her little girl. I would go to their house and just be there, helping if I could, holding the baby as much as possible, trying to make sure she doesn't forget about me. When Amy moved back to Denver last summer (after living in Philly for 3 years), I wasn't working and we had all sorts of plans for what our days together would look like once the baby came. I think there's a part of me that's still grieving the loss of that time we thought we'd have together. When I think about being so far away from the two of them, it makes me even more sad.
After arriving in the mountains last weekend, I received a text message from an unnamed source that said: "Your pie is the tits! Happy birthday to Amy!" along with the photo of her blowing out the candles. I felt a pang of sadness seeing people I loved all together celebrating one of my all-time favorite humans, but I was relieved and glad to know that the pie was a winner. Later that night, 'The Gambler' came on the Pandora station we were listening to, and I immediately thought of Amy and smiled. She LOVED that song when we were kids. I'm pretty sure she used to listen to it on repeat on my dad's record player.
If there's one thing I'm learning these days, it's that the pain of leaving the places and people I love the most is a good indication that maybe I've been doing something right. And as much as I love 'The Gambler', I think Kenny Rogers may have gotten one thing wrong. I don't think the best you can hope for is to die in your sleep (though that is how I've always said I wanted to go out). I've had the honor and privilege of being Amy's sister for the last 31 years, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Happy birthday seester!