Benita Dolan

Requiem For My Sister
Benita Dolin

She was bright and beautiful, a loved and loving daughter, wife, mother and grandmother—my sister and my best friend.

As children and teenagers we navigated from city to country, our time divided between our home in Brooklyn and our grandparents’ hotel in Fleischmanns. We attended school in both locations, worked as waitresses at “The Roseland,” swam at Lake Switzerland, embraced our Hungarian heritage listening to Gypsy music at the Arlington and danced the night away at the St. Regis, where, in 1951 Bunny was crowned “Miss Fleischmanns.” The village, a tourist mecca, was reveling in its heyday, as were we.

We both graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and Design. Subsequently Bunny worked in the garment industry for several years designing women’s apparel. During that time our lives represented a continuum—of shared history and experiences, dreams and fears, likes and dislikes, successes and disappointments. We argued, fought, made compromises, made up—traded clothing and boyfriends.

After we both married we inhabited separate spheres —distanced geographically and by the mounting obligations of hectic, whirlwind lives crammed with all the predictable and unforeseen accouterments that accompany life’s ineluctable passages and rites.

As a reflection, writ small, of the dramatic upheavals and “power” surges occurring throughout society, and the reconfiguration of cultural norms and expectations related to race and gender, Bunny and I joined the ranks of those who no longer found the role and label “housewife” sufficiently fulfilling or adequate to meet the emerging construct and idealized vision of “liberated woman.”We became “born again” schoolgirls, completing Baccalaureate degrees at Empire State College. Inspired by disparate factors, our pathways diverged, individually marching to drummers that propelled us to different academic institutions and projected professions. Bunny earned her Master’s and Doctorate at Fordham, becoming a clinical psychologist with a successful and respected practice in Westchester. Grounded in the quandaries presented in her decision-making processes and choices, she applied her learned and acquired skills to counseling and guiding her clients toward achieving positive personal and career goals.

The ever increasing pressures and constraints of existential daily life and its voracious demands on time and energy coupled with our physical separation did not undermine our close relationship. The legacy of family values and traditions bequeathed to us in our formative years and thereafter by our amazing parents served to keep us enmeshed and connected. Neither time nor distance could unravel the Gordian Knot of kinship and love that bound us. Ultimately only death could sever our entwined lives.

I mourn for what she, my sister, will never see, experience or partake in—upcoming celebratory occasions —graduations, weddings, holidays, the joyous anticipation of great-grandchildren—for the conversations that she and I will no longer have—for all that is lost and irretrievable.

I grieve for my sister—for an exceptional mind held hostage by disease, for the destruction of memory, identity and self —for being denied the bounty and benefits of the mythical rarely attained “golden years”—for an exemplary life extinguished.

I weep for my sister Bunny, for her family and for myself. Life without one’s soul mates becomes an unbearable journey that leads to a lonely existence.

As the solo remaining “significant other—daughter, wife, sister, friend, one becomes the designated repository for the life narratives of those we have lost—charged with the responsibility of salvaging, storing, retrieving, disseminating and making indelible the memories which by definition are as ephemeral as the corporeal reality of the individuals who created them. Thus it is my mandate to insure the durability of remembrances—that they may abide in mind and heart, to evoke cherished moments of joy, of sadness and of enduring love.

- Sindy Becker, Ph.D