When the phone buzzes at work a couple of times in a row with voice messages from your baby sister, you check it.
When her concerned voice asks you to call her back immediately, you do.
And then she has to tell you words a big brother doesn’t ever expect to hear.
Our middle sister passed away the night before. Frannie went into cardiac arrest. She was 50 years old.
Neither of us could really get our minds completely around this horrible news that Dory had just gotten herself down there on Long Island, where she’d arrived home from her overnight shift as a nurse to find that her phone was full of messages from brother-in-law Jack.
The plan already was for me to drive down there with my dear wife Karen, wonderful daughter Elisabeth and fantastic significant George Three on Saturday morning to attend the Mets-Nationals game with Dory, husband Jim and my niece and nephew, Erin and James. Karen urged the get-together for the game because it had been too long since all the Bialczaks had been in one place at the same time. But Frannie had told me Tuesday that she wasn’t feeling well enough for her and Jack to make it the 10 for which I’d purchased tickets. She was supposed to visit the doctor today for a check-up on a spine thing and leg nerve pain and an operation to help ease pain for both.
Now we’ll be driving down with another mission.
I was 8 when Frannie was born.
Dory came along two years later.
I protected them fiercely like a big brother should. I recall the ultimate compliment from my friends around the neighborhood and from beyond when they dropped by the Bialczaks. No, they cab stay. Your little sisters are cool.
They were still so young when I left for college at the age of 17 and never looked back to that particular house. I was the one to move away from Long Island. They stayed and met their spouses and never left The Island. But the sibling connection was strong. We had our moments for sure.
Over the decades, life gets complicated.
The memories of the good times will help, yes. A bit down the line.
Death makes it more simple. Frannie’s suffering is over. For me, though, first I will be sad.