I talk and write about my sister, Adrienne, a lot. She was very important to me. When she died from colon cancer in 2009 I thought my life was going to end too. It was horrible. But I somehow got through it even though I still get very depressed and think a lot about her when her birthday rolls around on March 21. March is also Colon Cancer Awareness month.
Not many people know this about Ade but she was a gifted flutist, or flautist if you prefer. She started playing the flute when she was in 7th grade and by the time she was in college her talent was incredible. She majored in music as an undergraduate and when she went on for her graduate degree. I was so proud.
Everyday she’d practice for hours filling our apartment building courtyard with classical music. Mr. Brovender, who lived on the second floor opposite our apartment, would sit and listen to Ade’s practice sessions. Once his wife asked him a question and he turned to her and said, “Hush, Adrienne is playing her flute.” Mrs. Brovender, who wasn’t angry at her husband, told my mother that story.
Ade could have had a great career but in her 20’s arthritis got to her fingers and shortly thereafter the disease went to her hips and by the time she was in her 30’s she could barely walk. But she always kept playing her flute. Her fingers hurt all the time as she played but she couldn’t give up her love of that instrument.
Then the cancer manifested itself a few years later. Her health problems were too much for her and she had to stop playing but she listened to her classical music all the time.
Eventually Adrienne passed. The last three years of life had no music in it. She couldn’t play and she didn’t want to listen to music any longer.
Adrienne told me where she kept her two flutes and her piccolo and after her death every so often I would put the cheaper flute together and blow a note. She taught me how to get a note out of her instruments. Playing a flute and piccolo is a little tricky. You don’t just put your lips on it a get a note to come out. You have to kind of put it below your bottom lip, twist the instrument up, bring your lips down, breathe a little air into it, and with any luck you get a note. You do that all while holding both arms up at mouth height pressing on a ton of buttons. Well, it was tricky for me.
About two years ago I was laying in bed reading. The light was on, it was the middle of the day, and I was wide awake when suddenly I heard two notes from a flute. I looked up and around the room, my heart thumping. The room was quiet. I thought maybe I heard a pipe making noise or someone doing something or other in another apartment. Noise travels strangely in apartment buildings.
After a few minutes of listening I decided that I didn’t hear anything and went back to my book. Things were quiet and I was happily reading for another seven minutes or so when I heard the two flute notes again. I was afraid now. The notes came from Adrienne’s bed where she spent so much time lying through her cancer ordeal. I looked at the bed, stopped reading, and listened some more. All was quiet the rest of the day and that night.
The next day I was reading in the bedroom during the afternoon and I heard the flute again. I put the book down and laid there listening, not doing anything else. Ten minutes later the flute notes chimed out for the fourth time in two days. This was too much for me. I sat up in bed and said out loud, “Ady, I know you’re playing your flute to let me know that you’re still with me and love me. I know you don’t want me to feel alone and to understand that you’ll always be with me and I do need to know that. But you playing your flute frightens me. I don’t know why but it scares me. I know you would never hurt me but please don’t play your flute to me. It really frightens me to hear it.”
That was the last time I heard her playing. I feel bad asking her not to play because I knew she was doing it for me. I know that Ade is still walking around this apartment. I feel her, I sense her. Sometimes her presence is so strong that I say hello to her and tell her I love her and am happy that she’s still with me.
You can believe this or not, I’m not writing this to convince anyone that my sister is somehow still around.
Is there life after death? I don’t know but I tend to believe there is or I hope that there is because I need to talk with my sister again.
As for Adrienne’s flutes and piccolo, I’ll keep them and when I pass they will be sent to my good friend and “sista” in New Jersey who loves flute music as much as Adrienne and myself.
To see more of my childhood memories go to S.A.K. Remembers on my blog.