Surviving Sister Nurses Her Wounds

By Ruby Rose Fox –

I remember the first time I discovered an ACE bandage. I stole it from the medicine cabinet and quickly hid it in my room. I loved the soft fabric, the way it hugged my arm, and secured my muscles and joints. Like a rock climber meticulously nestling into feeble earth, I slowly curled it around my little arm. Oh, what comfort to be wrapped, to be protected.

I showed my mother my carefully prepared arm and informed her that I sprained it and took care of it myself. She seemed indifferent, and I was just relieved she didn’t tell me to take it off my 8-year-old arm.

The date was January 6th 1992, four months after the death of my 5-year-old sister, Dalia. The wild rapids of sympathy cards, phone calls, plates of lasagna, house visits, fruit pies, random gifts, and crying relatives had come to an amazing halt. Now it was all so gray. A fizzling nerve and then…silence.  I don’t know what I wanted on that day but I had wrapped an ACE bandage around a perfectly good arm and brought it to school.

I told my friend Maureen how bad it hurt to write, and Katie made me a bracelet during recess because she felt bad I couldn’t play kickball. I told my teacher and she told me to “just be careful.” At no time did I feel a pang of guilt for duping all my classmates. This was my way of saying, “Hey! It’s not over guys! She’s still dead and I’m still sad!”

My older sister Jen had multiple soccer injuries, a broken finger, a softball to the face, and a compound fracture of the radius from a cheerleading accident. She had ridden in an ambulance more times than I had stubbed my toe and it was just not fair. I wanted mine and mine was an ACE bandage!

Crisis…Injuries…Crying? The more the better! Because when Dalia died in August, I experienced the most intimate emotional unity a family can experience. The silence looming over our once bustling house was like a nasty gray scab over our beautiful holy wound.

For me, that ACE bandage was about picking at the nerve. For months and months, I watched my sister’s wounds wrapped and unwrapped, wrapped and unwrapped. I needed to feel close to her again so I let Dalia’s old bandage hold my hand. It told me to remember. I needed to keep it fresh. I would not let it scab for then, perhaps, it would heal and she would be gone forever. My mother did eventually notice when I took it off and asked me about my arm. “Much better,” I said, “but it’s still a little sore.”

I still struggle with this. Why do I feel so at ease with funerals and fire alarms?  Why can’t I stop making art about grief? Why do I find myself in luxurious bouts of depression?

How does an eight-year-old explain the ACE bandage to her mother? How does family communicate after the death of a loved one? It’s like trying to cry without lips. My family was speaking in symbols and signs; I used an ACE bandage, my dad played Sega all day, my mom started to fit into all her high school clothes, and my sister Jen discovered boys. But we all craved our rooms, late, late at night where we grieved and still believed in God.

Ruby Rose Fox was a bone marrow donor to her sister Dalia who died of Leukemia in August 1992. She is a Boston-based actor, trained solo performer, and musician. She is a recent BFA acting graduate of Emerson College and has performed in Macbeth, Undiscovered Country, A Movie Star has to Star in Black and White, The Shadow, and The Marriage of Figaro. She is working onCrying Deer with The Boston Experimental Project. Reach her at [email protected].

Neil Chethik

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Neil Chethik is an author, speaker and expert specializing in men's lives and family issues. He is the author of two acclaimed books: VoiceMale: What Husbands Really Think About Their Marriages, Their Wives, Sex, Housework and Commitment (Simon & Schuster 2006), and FatherLoss: How Sons of All Ages Come To Terms With the Deaths of Their Dads (Hyperion 2001). Previously, Neil was a staff reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat and San Jose Mercury News, and writer of VoiceMale, the first syndicated column on men's personal lives. His writings have appeared in hundreds of print and web publications. He is currently Writer-in-Residence at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington, Ky., where he lives with his wife, Kelly Flood, and son, Evan. Reach Neil at: [email protected] 121 Arcadia Park Lexington Ky. 40503 859-361-1659 Neil appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss “Men and Loss.” To hear Neil being interviewed on this show, click on the following link:

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