She is the second born of the seven Prescott siblings and the oldest of the five girls. That’s Jana, and she is my big sister and I love her. For the last almost 30 years we have been housemates.
Jana was hit by a train on February 14, 1983, when she was 25 years old, in Longmont, Colorado. I was living in Omaha then as now, and was woken up by an angry roommate who took the call that came to our apartment at about midnight that Valentine’s Day. It was my sister Sally calling to tell me the horrible news about Jana and Susan. My job was to go wake up my dad and tell him. That’s another story for another day.
Jana and Susan both survived what should have killed them both, and now, over 30 years later I still have those two sisters, the one born thirteen months before me and the one born sixteen months after me.
Jana spent just over five months in hospitals and then moved home with my dad and stepmom. After living with our parents for a bit over a year, she and I bought our first small house together and have been roommates, as I said, ever since. We have welcomed two pairs of wonderful canine mutts into our lives, and when I got married to Steve in 2002, he joined the household as well.
But this is about my sister Jana and how these two sisters have grown and changed over these thirty years. There are many days when we are just two sisters: we laugh, we have inside jokes that Steve will never understand and we can mix it up in anger and disagreement just like when we were small. Sisters will always be sisters after all.
Over the last several years, especially when she started having seizures at the site of her head injury, I have become caregiver in addition to trustee, bookkeeper and chief transporter. The latter three are things that just went with being her sister and her roommate. She can’t drive and I have a head for numbers. But caregiver is a different category. It involves worrying about whether or not she will fall down the stairs or just on a flat surface when she can’t pick her foot up. It means paying attention to when she has seizures and asking doctors if we don’t need to adjust medications. It means always being vigilant and listening if I need to run to help. It’s a fine line between letting her have the independence every adult should have and being alert to when that has to take a back seat.
I am so lucky to have Steve as a partner in all this. I always say he is a saint. Who would choose this kind of family life, after all? But he is there at every step and I count on his strength, which seems to be inexhaustible.
But there are days when I look at Jana – and I know she has these days too, too often perhaps – when I remember the woman who did wilderness/survival training on below-zero nights at Fontenelle Forest, the woman who played guitar and flute and sang a strong alto, the woman who climbed Mt. Meeker and wrote a ballad about its beauty outside her Colorado cabin window. There are days when I look at her and miss my big sister, the one who looked out for me.
But there are days that I still see her spark and smile and wicked sense of humor. And I plan on spending more than plenty of those with her yet.