I loved my sister Mary but didn't quite understand her. I'm not sure why, but I suspect, for one, because there was thirteen years between us. And, she left home in the early sixties, at a very young age, so for nearly a decade I didn't see her much. But every now and then my mother would get a call, a letter or maybe a brief visit from her. And she was always doing fine. But I never got to know her very well.
In the 1970's she showed up on our doorsteps with a traveling companion she introduced only as "Blue". Blue was a big, surly, massive man with a huge Afro. He was a scary individual that Mary easily kept in line through her meaningful intimidation. There were few threats in her vernacular - only promises. So when "Blue" angrily glared at me one day, he was quickly backed down by my big sister Mary. I often wondered how someone so diminutive and soft-spoken could be as tough as Mary. She played the role well. And while she always led with a stoic, martinet exterior, inside, she was fiercely loyal to the family, a lesson that "Blue" learned well.
And one day, just as abruptly as she had arrived, she was gone again. But this time Mary stayed in contact. She visited often and got to spend some meaningful years with the family. And I grew to know her as well as she would allow. Even though she toned it down a little in her later years, she never let anyone fully in. There was always a distance. The last time I had a conversation with her, before she got sick, she was never really there. While she sat with me and we talked, her eyes belied her true heart - she was somewhere else. I don't know where, but she wasn't in that room with me. I guess she might have been on one last adventure.