I’m opening up the hardcover journaling book that I bought a few days after I returned from Joan’s funeral. The slim keepsake — blue with gold Persian-style interwoven flowers and crests — is the bible of my rebirth through grief that began that June morning after Dan’s call. Typing paper with scribbled sentences and neatly written notes on yellow legal pad are folded and crammed between the cover and first page, remnants of burning thoughts and late night messages occurring too far from where the book happened to lie.
My desk is awash in tearful “Dear Joan” letters and I haven’t even opened the book to the first page. I thumb through the gold leaf pages, afraid to feel the raw emotion of those crossed out days and months where July became August and Saturday became Friday night. Who knew what day or time it was? Who cared? Joan was gone. No amount of crying or writing could bring her back. But still I tried.
Tucked carefully between the last two pages, leaves, brown, but still hinting at their original purple hue, is a pressed iris — Joan’s favorite flower. Touching its petals makes me feel closer to her than all of my writing combined.
After 3 weeks of trying, I finally connected with the detective at the Susanville Police Dept. that was recently assigned to Joan’s case. He admitted he hadn’t yet reviewed her file, but said he would soon.
“I know it’s been 31 years but I’m at a point in my life where I’d like to do everything I can to help you solve my sister’s case,” I said. “I think I’m finally emotionally detached enough that I’m willing to provide whatever insights I can bring to bear on the evidence that you already have and work on my own to dig up more information.”
“Considering the gravity of the case, I’m not sure how much I’ll actually be able to share with you from the file,” he replied.
“I’m willing to work with whatever you have,” I said, hoping he noted my pragmatic tone: surely the last thing he would want would be to hold someone’s hand as they relived their sibling’s murder. But that was the furthest thing from my mind.
For decades, I’d stayed as far away as possible from any details of Joan’s case. Suddenly, I had to get into that file.
Let’s go back to when Joan and I were 12 and 9, halfway to ten. A boy from school — kind of a thug who was bigger than the rest of the boys in Joan’s class because he’d been held back — had a crush on her and followed her home from school. Although Joan could hold her own around girls, exhibiting a devil-may-care attitude that made them envious, boys — especially big boys with loud voices like this one — made Joan watchful and quiet.
I watched from the living room window as Joan avoided the boy around the spherical juniper bush until he grabbed her sleeve and pulled her close to kiss her. When she screamed, I dashed out the front door and rammed head first into the boy’s side.
He turned, enraged. “Who do you think you are, you little twit?” he asked derisively. Joan wiped away a tear.
“Leave my sister alone!” I screamed, face flushed, taking s step back as I raised my fists. Joan laughed.
“You’re both crazy like your mom,” he sneered before spitting into the juniper and sauntering away.
Although Joan put her hand over her mouth as we walked toward the front porch, I could see the smile beneath it.
Now let’s move forward.
Posted in Approaching Neverland, bipolar disease, family bonds, mental health and families, Mental Health Stigma, sister's murder
Tagged Approaching Neverland, bipolar mother, families and mental illness, Peggy Kennedy, sister love, who killed my sister
I’ve been putting off writing this post because I know it’s the first step on a very rocky path. But the encouragement and insights provided by some of the amazing new friends that I’ve met over the past few months through book clubs in discussions of Approaching Neverland is spurring me on. Those of you who have read Approaching Neverland know that my sister Joan was murdered thirty one years ago this month. Her killer still hasn’t been found. So I’ve decided to blog my way into figuring out what happened. Your comments, thoughts and insights will help me see what happened to Joan in a different light, which I believe will be crucial in solving her murder. I have to admit I’m scared of where this might take me. But she would have done it for me.