Today is my sister Utzi’s feast day and my sister-in-love Pat’s birthday.
Utzi died in a car accident caused by my father’s inability to control our sky blue VW bug on an icy road. They were returning from a funeral. I was supposed to accompany Vati (dad) on that fateful trip. So… in some mysterious way she died for me?
The night before she died, my parents, who were in the process of finalizing their divorce, were fighting so violently that it woke us up next door. Utzi was crying and insisted that she was going to stop the divorce. I remember trying to console her by suggesting that anything was better than these incessant, violent fights. But she persisted in her decision to stop them.
Her death did just that.
Mutti (mom) felt that somehow the accident was her fault because my father was distracted by all the fighting. He promised to change his ways and she sank into deep grief that lasted for the rest of her life.
Utzi was around 15, and had a lighthearted cheery disposition. She was more like our mother while I am more like my father, critical and more reserved.
In fact, the day of Utzi’s funeral Oma, our mother’s mother, shocked me by out loud wishing I had died instead of Utzi.
On my part, without her home never felt like home again.
When years later I met Patricia, my husband’s sister, it seemed special that her birthday was Utzi’s feast day. Utzi was an avid Elvis fan and her insistence on playing his music was most annoying to me. To this day I believe she was instrumental in helping Dick bring the Rock & Roll Hall to Cleveland, just to continue our friendly music rivalry. Lorin Maazel was more my speed. A few years after I moved to Cleveland my former “Vienna Jeunesse Musical” choir director became the artistic director of the Cleveland Orchestra.
Mary Jo, who died in 2020, was born in 1942 the same year as Utzi and over the years we considered each other soul sisters. Like with most siblings there is often conflict as well as closeness. When she died, her daughter gave me some of her ashes and I put them under a palm in my bedroom.
Finally, I owe much of my spiritual growth to sisters like Roberta and Francis Therese Shanon and Mary Collingwood, and the sisterhood keeps growing even after death.