Usually my posts are about reading and writing. This one is more personal.
This week is my sister Ngaire’s birthday. She would be 75 were she still alive. She died eighteen years ago, by her own hand, as they say. I’ve been thinking about her since we went to see a play last week by the Otaki Players at the Civic Theatre in Main Street, around the corner from where my sister lived all her married life.
I’ve been in Otaki many times since I came to live in Paekakariki, a half hour’s drive away, but this time I noticed things differently. The library on the corner, the building diagonally opposite that back then had a psychiatrist’s office off to the side, where I sat in the waiting room once while she had an appointment. I have the painting she did of that room, chairs lined up under the window. She said the chairs were waiting. The half-pulled blind is depressing—lowered to preserve the privacy of those waiting inside if someone walked past, my sister said—the tree outside I could hope is soothing.
Otaki’s main street, called Main St, was dingy then. Now it’s been spruced up, there’s been a lot of paint applied and the footpath is tastefully laid. I recognised the inside of the theatre, the particular patterned wood on the side walls and think I remember going to films there.
I’ve read many books about sudden death, loss and grief over the years. One I admire is Karen Green’s Bough Down, which she wrote some time after the suicide of her husband, David Foster Wallace. It’s the most raw, the least compromising, of anything I have read about loss and hence somehow consoling. It includes her art works. One sentence: “Everyone gathers, everyone drives off, what remains remain remains.”
I’m pleased to be thinking of my sister and wish she was still living and still in Otaki. She would likely have come to the play with us.