The beginning is always the hardest place to, well, begin. As I sat in my office yesterday working on “Unlikely Sisters,” I found myself starting over again and again. While today I’m smack in the middle of life with Edwina, I’m finding it difficult to trace back to the points at which our lives converged.
I know, of course, the day on which she and I first met face to face. The scene at Church of the Reconciler remains vivid. I can see Edwina rising slowly from her chair, leaning on her aluminum cane, eyeing this strange white woman Miss Rachael said wanted to talk to her. I remember the coldness of her hand and the way she looked at the table more than me when we talked about her life and how she’d come to live on the street, where she was and how she felt when she learned she had cancer.
The fuzzy parts of our stories began much further back–they are the experiences that brought us to that room and to the friendship we now share. They include Edwina’s life growing up with two alcoholic parents and not enough food to eat or electricity to stay warm. They include my own struggles with a brother who’s spent much of his 51 years addicted to drugs and alcohol and too many failed attempts on my part to change his course. They include moments in both Edwina’s life and my own when we chose the wrong guy to lean on and paid a hefty price for our mistakes. (Not to worry. Those guys didn’t get away unscathed, either.)
When I first started writing about Edwina, I didn’t think the fuzzy parts mattered. Now, I realize they are the foundation for everything that’s happened since I first walked into that room and met a survivor–one quite like me, really.