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My folks did lots of really good things for us kids when we were little, like impress upon us the value of doing good in the world, and in being independent and strong. But it is quite true that they also somehow failed to inspire trust between their kids, so my siblings and I unfortunately do not have strong, close relationships.

When my oldest sister, Jackie, was dying, I did an unheard of thing for our family, and I started calling her once a week to talk. At first she wasn’t sure what my angle was, why I would just for free, no strings attached, call to chat. It isn’t that we’d had some terrible issue between us, but like I said, the underlying trust one human has in another failed to get conveyed to us children from our parents. But Jackie and I got past it and she could see after a while that all I wanted was to try to connect with her before she left, and to ease her pain as much as I could from five states away. Just because I wanted to very much.

It was nice. We didn’t talk about much, but I had the goal at each call to see if I could get her to laugh. To see if we could have fun despite the fact that we’d failed in every other way to get it right between us. It was nice. We both liked the weekly phone calls. They ended eventually once her sons couldn’t get her to the phone anymore and when she didn’t make enough sense on the other end to really do it anyway. But before all that, she started to send me gifts. She seemed to forget, because of her illness, that she’d sent a Christmas gift already, so she sent another, and then another. One of them was a beautiful TUMI overnight bag.

It goes with me whenever I travel. I like to think of it as an opportunity to take with me the idea that you can change who you are and do things differently. My sister let me into her life because she was dying, and I wanted to go there because she was dying. It was a gift to us both in a way that she was so sick because it broke down walls that otherwise would still be standing. She wanted, we both wanted, for it to be different between us, but we were unaware and incapable of getting it right while we were here together, so in the eleventh hour we tried harder, and we let down our guards a little to try one more time to get it right. It worked out. And now there is the bag that I see myself itching to use at every opportunity because for me it means so much more than just a place to carry my clothes. It is a place that is a chance, a possibility, a gift in many ways, to be me, to show who I am, to share myself, to try harder, to give, to love, to want and to be, just because I want to very much.