She is my sister, five years older than I.
When I was born, she waited in the dark of a vanette in the African night,
Waiting for a brother,
Waiting for me.
When I came on the scene, she left.
Went to boarding school almost as soon as I appeared.
Seven years later, I followed.
Hillside hostel -- so close, so far from Landon House, Evelyn School.
She came by bus on weekends to visit,
Renew friendship, sibling bond in a strange city,
Alone among the Rhodesians.
Soon she went on ahead of all of us.
Fifteen years old, left behind, gone on ahead.
We went to Bulawayo; she went to Woodbury.
We had the African sun; she had the seasons of Bedford County.
We returned, and found that she had gone further ahead,
A young woman of twenty, with varied experiences.
No longer just my sister, now so much more.
I went to college, and she was already there.
I took mathematics to avoid her, a dreary failure.
Embraced English and found her there,
My teacher as well as my sister for the next two years.
"Put that down, you'll drop it!
Why are you always fidgeting?"
I found her office a refuge,
Which made it less of a refuge for her.
Then graduation for me;
My sister was married,
Her son, my nephew, followed the month I left school and headed
Back to Africa.
My sister put down roots; I travelled to Africa and back.
There and back again several times, as her roots grew deeper.
Growing and changing in marriage, and children --
New career in journalism, administration, government
While roots went deep into the Pennsylvania soil.
In my travels I found my wife, my sons, my family.
My sisters both, and I, also lost family.
Dearest mother, took her own journey home.
The Christmas after a box arrived.
Shortbread that had always come from mother
Now came from sister.
I'm putting down my own roots now in far away Manitoba,
But she has gone on ahead,
And I never can quite catch up.
Even if I take the last journey before her,
In some sense I never will catch up.
Happy birthday to my sister,
Dearly loved and never forgotten.