Remembering my irrepressible and vivacious little sister.
| LAURIE STORIES Since Laurie's death, I have been hearing that she was a character; unforgettable, a straight shooter who pulled no punches. She would be the first to say what others were thinking ,but unable to share for whatever reason. If she didn't like something she made sure we knew it. She laughed freely: at other people and their predicaments, ( family included), comedies, ( Green Acres, the Vacation movies), jokes, and most of all, she laughed at herself. She never failed to see the humour in her everyday life. She began life as the third child, with me as her eldest sister. Between us was a brother and a span of four years, and, at times, it was as if we were from two different worlds. I had big sibling responsibilities and she lived to torment. Until the baby, Sherry came along, Laurie and I shared a bedroom. I'll admit I was the neat everything-in-its-assigned place one. ( My youngest refers to this as O.C.,obsessive compulsive.) Laurie was the messy my-stuff-is-probably-somewhere-in-this-room-on-the-floor sister. Her mess often invaded my space. She dared to re-arrange my belongings. Making her bed was never a priority. She wanted to sleep at night, while I wanted to stay up and read. I remember an incident in which we had company and like most kids with fresh attention-givers in the house, we were thrilled and busy, too busy to notice where Laurie had disappeared to. Our house was of the two-storey type, and we searched and called for her without any luck. Frantically, the neighbourhood was scoured and still we couldn't find Laurie. Eventually, with a more thorough search of the house, a sleeping Laurie was found on her bed, with her butt in the air, and under her rumpled pile of blankets. She was oblivious to the panic she had caused. For a time as a young girl, Laurie developed a fear of bees. If she so much as saw or heard any flying insect, she would scream, "Bee!" No matter what the offending bug was, she wouldn't be happy until it was whacked. Houseflies didn't stand a chance in our home. She was an instigator our Laurie. Somehow, she could initiate disagreements and squabbling. She had this power, this ability to push our buttons. She could shout, "Stop it!", for no reason other than to get us into trouble, and immediately my brother and I would be ordered to leave her alone or get in the house. She saved her special torture solely for Mark. She liked to literally sink her teeth in him; yes, she was a biter, a very selective one. She was sneaky about it too, biting him where he could not reach her. Mark would be squirming and flailing while Laurie remained firmly attached to some tender part of his back. Mom felt she had to teach Laurie with a tit for tat type of logic, so she bit her. Apparently, Laurie was unrepentant. Laurie had distinct tastes in food and when she didn't like something we knew it. We were taught to clean our plates and eat what was given to us, and if this meant sitting at the table alone until the food was eaten, then so be it. She really disliked peas. She would squish them, play with them, and roll them around. She surprised us one evening, when she announced they were all gone, shortly after she'd been left to deal with them. She too was long gone when her plate was lifted from the table, freeing the trapped green peas underneath. She applied this same out of sight, out of mind philosophy to her turn to wash the dishes. She discovered that she could hide the dirty pots and pans in the oven. Eventually, Laurie, the city girl from southern Ontario, found herself married and living in rural Sundridge. Kevin ,her country-boy hubby, built their first home at the end of a very long, winding dirt road. With her unique perspective, Laurie referred to her new location as Parkesville. This made perfect sense. She was living next to her in-laws in the middle of a wilderness. In this location, Laurie had to deal with all manner of insects. She hated earwigs, flies, and ants. She hoped to keep them out of her home, but she fought a losing battle. Complaining to her husband wasn't satisfactory. We both laughed at Kevin's assertion: ants are clean bugs! She also had to adapt to being married to a hunter who liked to display his trophies in the basement. All of the stuffed heads became The Mutual Of Omaha Wild Kingdom collection. Despite living in a small town, Laurie liked to look good. She would never dream of being seen without her make-up. During one of my visits, Mom and Laurie drove into town to buy milk at the IGA. It was supposed to be a quick errand. Neither one of them would enter the store because they weren't wearing lipstick. Laurie had her standards! This extended to her teeth. She grew up with a distinct space between her two upper front teeth that our family called the parking spot for a Chiclet. She hated this and, eventually, she had a set of false teeth made. Yes, Laurie prided herself on her appearance, but she wasn't above shocking random people by suddenly dropping those false teeth and grinning disarmingly at them! This was her version of flashing. Imagine being the unsuspecting waiter staring at Laurie's gap. Her sense of fun extended to her pets as well. One of their first dogs had a very distinct name, ( actually two names, a first name and a surname). He was known as Walter Stevenson and this name never failed to make Laurie laugh. She claimed there was a man in town with this same name. Another dog had a very masculine name, that her daughter, Kristen, mispronounced, to our great amusement. I can still hear Laurie laugh as Kristen opened the door to yell at a barking Butch, "Shut up, Bitch!" Her son, Jim, also provided Laurie with some funny memories. At one of her birthday parties at Cassellholme, a nursing home, Laurie remembered Jim and his imaginary friend. As she said, "Yes, he had everything, Jim's friend." His Uncle Rick was getting married and so was this 'friend'. If someone had a new snowmobile or a chainsaw, this friend's was bigger and better. Jim and his make-believe friend also had a chainsaw that Laurie fashioned from tape and toilet paper rolls. Visiting Laurie always meant tea-drinking. She preferred Tetley tea so much that she joked she wanted to be buried with a box tucked at her feet and a tea-bag over each eye. When she began experiencing the symptoms of what would eventually be diagnosed as M.S., (Multiple Sclerosis), Laurie in typical fashion referred to her new problem as "pissitis". This name said it all. She thought she might be drinking too much tea. Her tripping and clumsiness were passed off as a family lack of physical grace. Laurie's natural stubbornness and sense of humour kept her going as her M.S advanced. She tried to maintain her usual habits. She continued to smoke. She had experimented with different methods of quitting. She never liked to be cold. Often in the heat of summer, she'd be the one in a sweater, so she forced herself to smoke outside, no matter the weather. This was before the indoor smoking ban in public places and she'd do this at her own home. Next she tried acupuncture. She thought that her fear of needles would force her to give up smoking. In the end, she realized that she liked smoking. I think it was the socializing aspect. Let's go grab a smoke. While we're smoking, let's shoot the breeze. We certainly had our moments when I attempted to strike her child-proof lighter and keep it burning long enough to ignite her cigarette. She was supposed to be the one with limited dexterity. Laurie never lost her ability to laugh. She loved to laugh and she could find the humour in anything. On one Christmas shopping foray to the North Bay Mall in 2011, Sherry, (our youngest sister), Laurie, and I couldn't help but notice all the mothers trying to do what we had once done: shop with kids. We were all too familiar with whining, begging, and grumpiness. Sherry wanted to witness a child's temper tantrum or meltdown and then walk up to the exasperated mother and chirp brightly, " Merry Christmas!" I suggested saying, " Children are such a blessing, aren't they?" We cracked up over this. Laurie laughed until she cried. For one of her birthday parties at Cassellholme, Laurie had asked me for an ice cream cake. I obliged and Mom took charge of slicing and serving it. This too became a source of much amusement with tears in Laurie's eyes from her giggling. At almost any given time, she only had to say or hear the word "mother" spoken with the right emphasis, and she'd be guaranteed to laugh. On this day, as Mom struggled with the quickly melting 'cake', Terry, a son-in-law, had to plead, "For God's sake, someone help your Mother !" Laurie still found it amusing to remember Mother licking her thumb or one of her fingers so that she could wipe a smudge from our faces. Last June at her birthday party in the nursing home, Laurie surprised us with an admission. With her typical mischieviousness, she told us that she had got into trouble for using the "f" word. She paused with practised comedic timing before delivering her punchline."And it wasn't 'fancy'!" There's no doubt about it, Laurie left her mark. Whether by biting, telling a joke, dropping her teeth, or just grinning and giggling, she gave us great memories. While there are many phrases to describe death such as 'passing', 'kicking the bucket', or 'moving on', I prefer 'checked out'. It sounds like Laurie has gone ahead on a trip. No more worries, no luggage, no more struggling or suffering. She'll be waiting for us with a cup of tea and an egg-salad sandwich, ( funeral sandwiches as she called them). (1699 words)