When I called 123_box_348x490_originalmy parents earlier this month, there was a sense of jubilation and relief when they answered: “You’re the only one who calls us regularly without having to be reminded.” (Which wasn’t exactly true, since I called in response to an email my mother had sent, asking us, the children, what we wanted to do for my father’s 80th birthday. Shall we meet in Houston or Denver?  I wanted to vote, emphatically, for Denver; Houston, in July, was a non-starter.) “We haven’t heard back from your brother, but he might be working in Malaysia.” my mother said. “And, as for your sister, well, we never know where she is.”

My sister splits her time between Saigon and San Francisco, with the majority of the split in Saigon. She goes incommunicado for long periods of time, and the family’s only knowledge of her whereabouts are what we glean from Facebook posts. Of the siblings, she’s moved the farthest away, both physically and psychically.

It wasn’t always this way. My brother moved away first, after college, to work in Midland, Texas, never to return; I left next, fleeing to the East Coast for college, though I moved back to Colorado periodically, in between jobs. But my sister followed the path that had been set out for her: living at home, teaching for Denver Public Schools, being the obedient daughter. Maybe, in that way, she was like Little Edie. The one who stayed behind. The one who put her life on hold. The one who deferred her dreams until they had congealed into an amalgam of love, guilt and resentment.

At times, I can sometimes understand that resentment. My mother gets stuck on an endless loop of worry—When will the University offer you a full time job? Do you have health insurance? When was the last time you went to the dentist? Despite her best intentions, she can be smothering, oppressive, a presence that demands attention.

Little Edie only left Grey Gardens once her mother had died. She went to New York, had a cabaret act, and, at 60, became the star she had always wanted to be. She burst forth onto the stage of Reno Sweeney for eight shows, enrobed in a crimson gown with a swath of red-painted plastic leaves on draping her shoulder like fire.

My sister, too, escaped. First into her own apartment, then into her soon-to-be husband’s condo. She decided: she’d get her MBA and leave the teaching profession all together. But on the way, she found a second husband, all the way on the East Coast, and, finally, Vietnam, and a possible third husband in San Francisco. And I see her, living the life she thinks she was denied all those years ago: the endless parties, the clothes that exude glamour and youth, the carefully constructed of her make-up and hair. And I see her still: parading in circles for the camera, picking the best costume to wear for the day, trying to keep the line between the past and the present.

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