She'd stand tall and brave but I could always see that she was nervous. She'd grip the handle of her cane like a child grips their friends arm while giving an indian burn. You know when you twist your hands in the opposite direction of each other? I'd start to play the intro to the song, more nervous that she wouldn't know when to come in and start singing than I was of messing up on the piano. You never knew when she'd start at the right time and get the words right or when she'd blank out and now we know why. She'd start to sing, "O Holy Night" and suddenly it was like you couldn't hear anything else. It's like the song says, "o holy night the stars are brightly shining." That is what her voice sounded like. It was bright. You know when you drive up to tahoe and you take your first breath of fresh tahoe air when you step out of the car? Or the first step out into the cold night air during winter? Its clear and sharp. Its fresh and appealing. It often times will take your breath away for a split second. That is what her voice was like. Or in the song when it says, "fall on your knees, o hear the angels voices!" I can't imagine the sound that people must have heard when Christ was born. The sound of the heavens rejoicing over his birth. But I do imagine it was somewhat like her voice. Loud and powerful but soft and gentle all at the same time. Its like almost couldn't expect it looking at her because she was just small and nervous. But when she hit the high note of the song it would move you to tears. To hear such a sound come out of a child. I try to describe it to my husband. I try to convince him that I don't just remember it to be a pretty sound because she's my sister or because I miss her voice. It really was remarkable.
I beat myself up sometimes for being so very selfish. For wasting the years that she had a voice feeling sorry for myself or even for feeling sorry for myself today over different things. When we were kids, Catie would sing and I would play the piano for her to sing along. It wasn't a big deal, we were a team. But as a kid I can remember being so frustrated that it was mostly about Catie. My blind sister with the pretty voice. I was complimented on my piano playing. Always. But it was never like Catie's voice. I'd feel like JUST the piano player. Just the person that tried so hard to help her memorize the words to her songs and tried so hard to learn the songs so I could play along for her. Like, I did well BUT. But this part should be more like this, or this part should be played like this person plays. I felt like all the people that write books about having a special needs sibling and how playing piano is good but singing when you're blind is a gift. Like i was just a shadow that was attached to the main event. I just wanted to be acknowledged. Noticed. and not taken for granted like playing piano for someone who was mentally challenged was an easy thing for a 12 year old to do. I wasn't treated bad or neglected. I just felt like I wasn't special because nothing was wrong with me. Sometimes I feel like I come off as so bitter about it. I really used to be. Now it just makes me sad. It makes me sad that I had those feelings and I let those feelings turn ugly and make me jealous of Catie when I could have just enjoyed it. I could have said who cares! and play for her and listen to her sing. I wish I could have known that her voice was going to be taken away and that those few years we had as our little team together were going to be so short. Back then I wanted it to end. I'd wish that I wouldn't have to be her pianist. But now I just hate myself for that. I'd give anything to be able to sit down with her and play while she sang her heart out.
I was playing some Christmas songs the other day and started playing O Holy Night. Thats what brought all of this to mind. I just started sobbing. I could still hear her voice so clearly in my head while I played each note. It really was angelic the way her little voice carried.. When I close my eyes and listen to it in my mind I really can picture angles rejoicing on a clear starry night. I wish so badly that I didn't have sad memories attached to it. That I didn't waste what I had no idea to be a short time that the two of us would share together. I miss it.