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[personal profile] eggwards
Today is Valentine’s Day, and while many may be happy to express their love, or shun the day, for most of my years Valentine’s Day meant one thing, my sister’s birthday.

Laura would have been turning 37 today and it breaks my heart today that she isn’t here to celebrate. There hasn’t been a day since she passed in July that I haven’t thought about her, wishing I could just tell her something or get an architecture question answered. While the strong emotions are fading a little, I know today will be a difficult day for me.

Laura was a beautiful, smart accomplished woman. We had gone from sibling rivals to good friends. She had a career that was successful, and growing. I think she left a good mark on hospitals around the country and I’m sad that there will not be more buildings that she’s designed.

I had the opportunity to speak at Laura’s memorial service. I tried to say a few words about our relationship as brother and sister and bring a little bit of life into the service as the pastor didn’t really know anything more than what was written about her. It was interesting to try to bring some levity to the service as well. It’s tough to try to sum up someone’s impact on you like that. Just a precious few moments, or a few sentences.

If you don’t mind I’d like to tell a few of those stories about my wonderful sister whom I miss very much.

Laura was born in 1974. I had been an only child for a few years, and getting used to another child in the house was a bit difficult. We were separated by six and a half years. Suddenly I didn’t get all the attention and biggest of all, not all the toys I wanted!

When she was very young, as she learned to stand and walk she learned that she liked to pull the tail of our Dachshund, Hans. Hans eventually had enough of it, and nipped her but good right below her right eye. She had a scar for years that only seemed to fade these last few years.

As we had to work to clear up some affairs after she passed, we needed to access one of her accounts online. We had to do the lost password thing and the question “What is the name of your first pet?” came up. I automatically typed in “Hans” but it wasn’t right. I typed in the name of our family’s second Dachshund, Fritz. I found it funny, and wondered if it was more of a grudge or if she saw Hans as more of my dog as she was so young then. Hmm.

Laura did all the girl stuff growing up. There was gymnastics and dance recitals, but there was also soccer and t-ball. I remember her Barbie Dream House and he tons of stuffed animals. I remember tormenting her, always with the stuff about being on the right side of the car’s back seat or the whole “I’m not touching you” game.

I remember being in Dallas one time where we were riding in our brown Buick Century Station Wagon with our cousins, Shannon and Tracye (all my cousins are female). I remember the 8 track player had an ABBA album in it and we were all in the back with the seats folded down. No one worried about seatbelts back then. I guessed that we had recently seen the Miss Universe pageant and I was playing the part of Burt Parks. I had also just seen the movie “Murder by Death” where the Hercule Poiroit type character declares that he is “not a Belgie!” I can’t remember what the other two countries were, but I remember labeling Laura as “Miss Belgium” and that she gained the nickname, Belgium idiot. A nickname that would come up again and again as I tried to stoke the fire of sibling rivalry.

Laura was as much a child of our neighbors, the Burgesses, as she was a member of our family. I being older than the Burgess boys babysat them a couple of times before we all figured out that I was a terrible babysitter, but Laura was truly a member of the family. She was often across the street hanging out there. Of course the Burgess’ helped us both learn about computers, and Doctor Who. Laura had the advantages of two homes to grow up in.

Laura did well in school, certainly better in math than I was. She joined the marching band and was in the neighborhood swim team, eventually becoming an assistant coach while on the high school diving team. She already was heading on a path toward architecture by taking a drafting course the high school offered.

Laura grew up in the 80’s, so there were video games, Smurfs, MTV, and plenty of posters of her favorite band, Duran Duran. Laura always had a good ear for music and often found bands that I would really love. I already miss grabbing the next cool band’s CD from her.

Laura also spent some time in Germany with another family. Monica was an exchange student who came to Conroe High to study, and her family took Laura in for a month taking her through Bavaria, where she learned to appreciate beer! Laura would later become as self professed beer snob, hating Budweiser, Miller and Coors, favoring Guinness and other dark beers.

I was happy that she chose to come to the University of Houston as I was still in college at the time, taking my sweet time working through it. Laura worked through college as well working at first at a toy store and later a chocolate shop in the outlet mall close to home in Conroe. We both commuted in to school, but rarely together.

What did happen is that we started to go to concerts together. I took her to see The Monkees way back in 1986, and the B-52’s about the same time, but once she got to college, most of the shows are the ones she wanted to see. She took me to see Better than Ezra and the Old 97’s and of course Duran Duran.

We traveled in different circles in college. I had the band and the fraternity and she would be working hard on a difficult architecture degree. She became president of the school’s American Institute of Architecture Students chapter where she had to represent the school at a national forum, and ran a contest for high school students to get them interested in studying Architecture. The contest used the ultimate architectural tool, LEGO. She easily graduated in five years even while working part time.

She had no trouble getting a job, but to my family’s surprise it was in Dallas. HKS in Dallas directed her to working on interior build outs for hospitals. It was a good thing as the construction of hospitals has been recession-proof. Laura went through a few times where the firm that she worked for laid off people in other areas, but Laura was always safe, not only because of the market for hospitals, but also because she was good.

While in Dallas, Laura was there to help with both of my grandmothers passed away. She also provided a good way for me to drop by Dallas, saving a few bucks by staying on her futon. Laura met Ed in Dallas and stayed with him for several years, dragging him to Baltimore as she took her career to the Charm City. I again used her futon to make trips to see cities on the east coast and visit her office in Baltimore, the one that was next to right field of Camden Yards, the home of the Baltimore Orioles. Being a ballpark aficionado, I loved seeing a game from the window next to her drafting desk.

Laura’s career continued to grow, where she began having to travel to sites and supervise the building of some of her designs. She moved to a firm in Washington, DC, Ellerbee Beckett, and traveled in by train each morning. After using the train to go into DC from Laura’s place in Baltimore, I was happy to choose to suggest taking the train to New York in 2008 where we had a great trip together seeing the city and discussing the architecture there.

Shea Stadium 2008

Laura and Ed broke up soon after, and met Josh at about the time she moved to Alexandria Virginia. Josh and his family were great to our family and Laura as Laura took ill. I can’t think of a worse thing of falling in love with someone and having this happen. The cancer wasn’t caught, it had spread rapidly and by the time we knew what was going on, it was already too late.

Once we were old enough to both be adults, Laura was a great confidant. She was the first person in my family that I told I was gay, an experience that actually took more than an hour for me to get the word out as she patiently waited for me to say what she already knew. She even kept my secret from my parents for a few years until I finally told them.

She was great when it came to Chris and I. She provided the futon for me to stay on for the first few times I made the haul to Dallas to see Chris, then eventually joining us for dinners, thanksgiving and other events as I eventually moved to Dallas, even babysitting the dog when we were out of town.

I wish that once she moved to Maryland that we talked on the phone more. Still, I’d end up there about once a year, and she’d come back down to Dallas to see us around the holidays. I really missed not having her here this past Christmas.

Sadly time moves on. My family still needs to decide what to do with the ashes, and I really want to go all over the place, DC, Baltimore, Dallas, Orlando, New York, Germany, New Orleans, U of H and places we’ve lived, and spread just a little in all of these places that she lived. All of the places that remind me of her. It’s something I need to get on, but there’s something about the finality of doing that.

Sometimes, since she lived far away from me for the last few years it just feels like we haven’t been in touch for the last few months, but right now, when I’d love to call her to wish her a happy birthday, to tell her that she’ll love 37 as much as I did.

It’s been a lonelier world with out her, and make for a very blue valentine for me today. I love you my talented and smart sister, my Belgium Idiot, Laura.
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February 2013


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