Los Angeles, California, USA
October 22
Charming young lady, with sharp tongue and vocabulary of a seasoned longshoreman, who carries in her handbag worn and tattered membership cards to the Mayflower Society and Daughters of the American Revolution, for which her dues are in arrears.


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APRIL 24, 2009 1:38PM

Why Facebook Gives Me Grief

Rate: 53 Flag
It’s been almost 2 years now since Parrish passed away and those who knew and loved her experience their grief in unique ways. While I frequently go to pick up the phone and call her to get her take on the latest installment in our family saga only to realize she’s now got the divine 3rd person perspective; it is really when I log into Facebook and see the box entitled “People You May Know” that I truly miss her the most. Because, the problem is, that while I may know these people, I don’t have a clue who they are, and my one resource for this information, Parrish, forgot to leave me CliffsNotes.

It’s not that I don’t remember anyone or anything from high school. The problem is that I remember my fabulous 80’s wardrobe better than I remember the names and faces of my classmates. I remember old boyfriends (mostly because of the heartbreak associated with them); I remember a few best friends (just not why we stopped being best friends); and I remember a couple of characters who left emotional graffiti on my walls. Part of the reason that I choose not to attend my high school reunions is that I am pretty sure I wouldn’t know anyone there.

It is not that I choose to have selective memories either. Yes, there are some snatches that creep around on the periphery of memory that I quash because they are too horrifyingly embarrassing to allow to surface. But for the most part the problem is that my mind, I am sure, resembles a wad of gauze bandage more than something substantial and organic. Because I was nothing if not fashionable in the 80’s, I had a cocaine habit to match my platinum hair and pointed toe white leather ankle boots. And while I was busy looking glamorous with a spoon up my nose and a cigarette hanging out of my mouth, the cocaine was busy randomly chewing up pieces of my history, leaving gaps in my long-term memory where names and faces of friends used to reside.

For years Parrish was always the directory assistance of my high school memories. She was good at prodding me with a stick and eventually she could tease out a vague recollection of an event that I could tie to a person and resurrect them just a little. When I couldn’t recall, she would bear witness to my memories for me. Although, sometimes, I wished she’d forgotten some of the gorier details.

Even at the end of her life when the tumor had taken away most of her English vocabulary, she was still my go-to person for help remembering who was who. With her oldest girlfriends gathered around we reminisced about a trip we’d taken to Palm Springs in ’83 . I remembered going with a big group of teens (and my mother) and I remembered my white lipstick and nail polish, but it was Parrish who remembered the cast of characters we had in tow.

Palm Springs '84
Palm Springs '83

With all this, one can well imagine what a nightmare her memorial service was for me. Not just because 250 people were gathered there to mourn and remember my sister, but because she was not there to identify the myriad of people who came up to me to pay their condolences. On that day I relied on Jim, my Jr. High sweetheart, and a few of Parrish’s high school girlfriends with whom I was reacquainted at the end of her life, tugging at their sleeves and whispering “Who was that?” in their ears.

I am frequently jealous when I log-in to Facebook and see that people are friends with new people. Sometimes I vaguely recall a name and I want to be their friend too – only I don’t know if I actually ever knew them or if they were just a legendary figure in high school. 25 years later and I’m still not sure if I was in the clique with the popular kids!

Sometimes I will get an email saying that someone wants to be my friend, and that throws me into a panic. “Do I know you? Why do I know you?” I want to ask, but that would just be rude as they clearly remember me. I have occasionally tugged on Jim’s sleeve again by email and he’s tried to explain people in context, but while we have had many shared experiences over the decades, he has never bothered to keep track of who I liked/loved/hated/slept with.

Who knew that a simple website would cause me so much grief and give me yet another reason to miss my sister.

Parrish & I
Parrish and Me circa '81
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You words do justice to your sister's memory. Remembering, not forgetting, is the key to getting on with things. I suggest you tag this PTSD. I wish you peace.
Oh sweetie. Losing a sister. How awful. And what a beautiful tribute.
The photos at the very end were the most touching all all in this heartfelt post. So very sorry for this terrible, tragic loss.
I'm so sorry for your loss. Losing Parrish is literally like losing part of yourself since she held onto so many of your memories. Much love to you in your remembrance of her.
Post a note on your wall with a link to this and maybe someone else will help you remember who the other people are. What a lovely tribute and tragic loss. My heart goes out to you.
This was so good. What a tribute to her. You made me feel your loss - well done.
Thank you all for your warm thoughts and comments. It's funny how much you wind up relying on someone whose presence you took for granted for 38 years.
New Blog - If you're referring to the photo, I am on the left and Parrish is on the right. Oddly enough, as an adult, I've always been the one who is giving the finger in every photo :)
My sister helps me know who I am. I feel your loss keenly in this beautiful piece..thanks for letting us know how important she is to you, still. And those last pictures - what a wonderful portrait of your bond.
A sister is a person like no other. Thank you for sharing your memories of Parrish. I wish you peace.
I'm so sorry about your sister. I have a friend who lost a sister to brain cancer recently, and it's still hard for her.

As for the memory loss. They say if you remember the 80s you weren't really there. I'm sure your problem is not uncommon, especially in L.A.
I'm so sorry for the loss of your sister. How tragic and painful! I don't know how you can ever fill a void that large but you've done well by writing about it.

Incidentally, the memory thing isn't from the cocaine. We all suffer from it on Facebook. Some people just seem to hide it better. :)
I can't imagine my life without my sisters. I'm so sorry for your loss. This is a lovely post.
What you express so well here is so much deeper and more important than Rupert Murdoch's toy---Facebook.

I lasted about 2 weeks on Facebook. Mainly because of the whole "if I wanted you in my life; I would have done something to make that happen already" dynamic. I also got tired of reading things like "Today I worked out and boy do I feel good."

Thank you for confirming my decision to run screaming from facebook. Because as long as their are writers who can express the human condition as well as you do here---writing stuff that is REALLY important--. . . .I have no use or need for facebook.
What a beautiful tribute and what a unique way of thinking about your sister Parrish. I've always been likethis with Sis and now that my husband and parents have passed away, we're, if possible, even closer. Hmm, she's not really the hugging type but I'll think I'll give her one anyway...
I'm so sorry for your loss. That shared history is one of the things that make a sibling relationship so special. I'm glad you were there to support each other and share your strengths in life. New technologies like online networking can create new ways to remember, and also new ways to feel your tragic loss.
Just beautiful. Thank you.
Good story. Sad story - don't get me wrong. But the construction, it's hearfelt and reflective without being bitter or particularly self-condemning. And that's a good thing. Good reportage.

So sorry about the loss of your sister. Glad you're still here.
That's terrible about your sister, but this is a beautiful tragedy the way you write it. I miss Parish even though I've never met her. She reads like such a beautiful soul. For what it's worth, you're a pretty damn good writer.
"ditto" Chicago & Pablo...
Thank you for sharing your sister with us!
I mirror what Mr. Mustard said. Remember the good, it can't be taken away in memory. Peace to you.
I lost my sister to cancer when she was in her 20's. I can really relate to how you feel. I've grown to accept the loss, but there are so many little things that come up in life that make me miss her.

Love your photos. Looks like you had as much fun with your sister as I did with mine.
Wow! Can't tell you what a real treat it has been for me, and for my family, to have Parrish featured on the cover of OS today. Knowing that so many people have had a chance to see her as she was when she was young, silly, and unfettered by a tumor. I also can't tell you how much your comments have meant to me, and more so to my mother for whom the loss of a child has been devastating.

Thank you all so much for sharing and for spending some time with my sister.
Facebook bewilders me. I've looked at my husband's page, and it's horribly chaotic. Who are these people, and why are they poking my husband, and why are they telling everyone they're eating Twinkies in the carpool lane?

I'm grateful for OS because of thoughtful, poignant posts like these. Thank you for sharing your sister. Those beautiful, funny pics at the end - I can't imagine the magnitude of this loss.
I would like to, and will, send this to members of my large and often incredibly callous and 'dysfunctional' family. Maybe we can all learn something.

Thank you for stopping me in my tracks this Sunday morning, and showing me the light!
Hi, this is grief, this is life. There is no magical soluton or conclusion that makes the rest of your life easier. You simply keep going on. But, it's ok. It may not feel that way, and you hate that you get these reminders that your wonderful sister is gone. But, you remember her. That's the important thing. And you have shared her with us. That's a wonderful thing. She is very lucky to have someone like you who wants to talk about her and share her. Someone who hopes to keep her flame bright, even though she cannot do it herself. You are doing very well. Keep sharing.
There is perhaps little consolation to the horrific knowledge of being alive (Nietzsche); glibly, we could propose living as its own refreshment. Sharing assuages. But what to do then! Perhaps it helps to live in a warm climate. Or a cold and rocky climate. Ideally, everywhere at the same time (W.T. Vollman)?. Thank you for the gift of your grief.
Your sister will always be with you. In memories, images, and other reminders of her. I understand how hard this is for you and how much you hurt. Keep writing and doing what helps you and your family honor her and her life.
What a wonderful tribute to your sister and friend. Thanks for sharing it with us. Your writing is lovely.
This is a beautiful tribute. I am sorry for your loss; losing a sibling is something like losing a limb, a part of you is torn away.
Back for a second reading of this wonderful tribute/commentary and thinking: great posts inspire the best comments. Like for instance:

"Who are these people, and why are they poking my husband, and why are they telling everyone they're eating Twinkies in the carpool lane?"
Too too true Chicago Guy!
Don't have a sister but my friends are de facto sibs. The loss of yours is unfathomable in its pain. Such a sweet set of photos at the bottom... remember how much fun you had that day. Best wishes.
Thank you for writing such a moving tribute. Your sister sounds like a wonderful person and I'm sorry you lost her so young. I have a similar relationship with my brother. I always thought I had a decent memory, but he is constantly coming up with events and people I have no recollection of at all. I hope that writing this helped you sort through some of your memories, grief and love.

You made me just call my sister.