Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Hyper Life

Elizabeth Jane Moreno Gueci Eichner Roberge Michaels, née Harper, was born 22 July 1951 in Stuttgart, West Germany, the second daughter to George Wesley and Alice Jane Harper. He was a career soldier and she was a homemaker and nurse's aid. 

Elizabeth, who went by Liza in her later years, graduated Cardinal Newman High School in Columbia, South Carolina, Class if '71. She briefly attended the University of South Carolina. The first of five husbands, Ricardo Moreno, son of political science professor Nestor Moreno married her in 1971. Her only daughter, Amanda Cristina, was born in 1972. 

Her other husbands were Joseph Gueci of New Jersey, Edward Eichner of Lincoln Nebraska, Robert Roberge of Denver, and Shane Michaels of Anchorage, Alaska. The third, fourth and fifth survive her. She explained to me that when she falls in love, she feels like she's inside a beautiful, protective bubble, but that, soon after she marries a man, she finds that the bubble has somehow burst. It is entirely outside her control.

When our mother had a stroke during pregnancy at the age of 40, I was brought home alone by our father. Since career soldiers made very low salaries at the time, he could not afford a nurse. Elizabeth, aged 7, became my surrogate mother until, after months of physical therapy in which she had to learn how to speak, walk, and write all over again, our mother returned from the hospital. Having known her prior to the devastating stroke as a loving and gentle woman, my sister was introduced to a woman who was emotionally unbalanced. The slightest stress would send her into hysterics. Elizabeth never recovered from the shock, and thereafter her relationship with our mother was close but strained. Upon our mother's death in 1998, Elizabeth moved to Anchorage, Alaska, where she spent the remaining eighteen years of her life. She loved Alaska, the snow and the cold. I invited her to come and live with me in the Philippines, but for several reasons, one of which was her intense dislike of hot weather, she wouldn't come. 

Elizabeth's profession from the early 1990s was medical transcriptionist, at which she was perfectly proficient. But in 2006, technological advances and outsourcing slowly eliminated it as a reliable source of income. In Alaska she took up designing and creating hand-crafted crystal jewelery, offering her work for sale at various bazaars in and around Anchorage until she became physically unable to set up her tent and the tables inside. A home she mortgaged through Wells Fargo became another victim of foreclosure in late 2007 during the collapse of the American real estate market. She lived in apartments from then until her death on 27 October at the age of 65. She is survived by her two brothers, her daughter, two grandchildren and three surviving ex-husbands. The exact cause of her death has yet to be divulged to me. A medical checkup a month prior to her death lists among her complaints a longstanding depression and suicidal thoughts. On three occasions since I left the States I had to call the Anchorage Police Department to check in on her. Lately I have even enlisted the help of some Facebook friends who are considerably closer to her than I am. Their help was above and beyond. 

On the two occasions when my life hit a wall, in 1995 and in 2005, my sister took me in without question or criticism. Even if I set about paying back all the money I owed her in monthly increments, I would never have paid it all back even if she'd lived to be 100. What I owe her emotionally and psychologically is inestimable. 

She was a force of nature - a ball of nervous energy that she expressed in utterly unapologetic impulsive behavior. I could never keep up with her. I would accompany her somewhere, like WalMart, and upon leaving the car the race was on. By the time sje was in the middle of the store and turned to say something to me, I was usually a hundred yards behind her. 

Her health was failing last Spring and she spent a month in the hospital. Aside from the physical trauma, I don't think she quite recovered from the shock of her body betraying her. The wrong combination of a variety of new medications may have contributed to her death. I just don't know for sure and may never know.

When you lose someone who has known you all your life, it is as if a wonderful road into the past down which you were once able to travel freely has become suddenly impassable.  Losing my big sister leaves a giant hole in my life that can never be filled.

Elizabeth Jane Harper - who was and will always be known as Bibbit to my brother and I - July 22, 1951 - October 27, 2016

In the words of Johnny Mercer, 

I should be over it now I know
It doesn't matter much
How old I grow
I hate to see October go.

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