For My Sister....

It’s been a very long time folks… too long. I’d apologize, but I highly doubt I’m all that engaging or important to any of you that you actually MISSED my blog entries. However, I’m suppose to have some kind of confidence in my writing to the point where part of me has to give the appearance of believing that folks actually like my writing both in the novel and on this webpage to continue trying to have some form of a writing career, so…


Here we are.


A lot has happened since I last wrote. Some has been insanely good, and some insanely terrible. I turned 40 last month, so… Yay over the hill and old jokes. I went on a cruise to celebrate in mid-September and had a great time. I flew to Puerto Rico, spent a couple of days exploring that beautiful island, and then got on a boat and sailed off for islands such as St. Thomas, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts, and Antigua. I relaxed, I became a karaoke legend all over again on a whole other cruise line, I drank.. (*cough* a lot * cough*) I tanned, I splashed, I smiled…. I had an awesome time. It was such a great time that I never wanted to leave. I was floating act ideas by Shauna, trying to convince her that we should become entertainers on cruise ships and just… sail all the time. I didn’t want to get off the boat.


I really, really wish I hadn’t. It was when I got off the boat that the universe smiled it’s malicious smile it reserves for times when I’m particularly happy and says… “I hope you had fun, because shit is about to get real ignorant…” (once again.. pronounced “ig-nant”)


I didn’t even get OUT of Puerto Rico before things went to hell. I was at the airport! Then I got home, trying to put that behind me and home was weird!


(All these are vague references to personal things that I wouldn’t share with strangers…(no offense guys)… Just know that two very, very bad things happened: One at the airport, and one when I got home… but I didn’t die… so, it’s just to put you in my mindset for what I’m really going to talk about…)


The day after I returned, my mom called… After over a year of searching, they finally confirmed that my older sister had cancer…(That overshadowed the events of the prior 24 hours by a mile!) And if that wasn’t enough… On October 6th, 2019, three days before I turned 40 years old, I woke up to my mother and big brother telling me that my big sister laid down and died in her sleep that morning.


(Yeah, didn’t see that coming did you? Neither did I… Strap in kiddies…)


I’ve been wrestling with how to write this. I had so many ways I could have gone about it, and I had been struggling, but I think I found it.. some thing that my big sister would have absolutely loved…


If you’ve read my book, you may have read the author’s note. If you have it and haven’t read it, you should.. it’s pretty heartfelt and real, if I have to say so myself… Anyway, at the end, I apologized to those people who read my writings in my 20s and was left wondering what happened. That was a not-so veiled shout out to my big sister, Renee.


Renee was probably one of my biggest writing fans. From my corny ass poetry I started writing in Jr. High, to the songs I wrote for and sang with my gospel group, to every single attempt I made at writing a book… my big sister was there. She always bragged about me to her friends and family. She would talk about my failed writing attempts and ask me when I was gonna give her the rest of her “stories.” When I finally finished Shadow Resistance, it was a personal triumph for many people as well as myself. So, in my authors note, I put a cloaked shout out to my big sister Renee, because I finally finished a story she could complete.


Around the time I was publishing Shadow Resistance, my sister had been stricken with a rare auto-immune disease that put her in a lot of pain and had her in and out of the hospital. It also affected her eyes, and hands, and her speech and ability to read. Shortly after release, during one of her many trips to the emergency room, I arrived with a copy of the novel for her. She mainly lived in the Austin area, and since I’m in the DFW area, I figured I’d leave it for her to read as she could.


As we stood there in her ER room, my mom read the author’s note out loud to her. When she got to the special shout out, Renee looked at me with a big ol’ smile and said, “That was for me, wasn’t it, sissy? Cause you know I’ve been waiting!” The rest of my time with her in the ER was spent with her lovingly admiring the cover of the novel and telling every medical professional that came into the room that her sister was an author and had just published her book and they should get it because it was great! (Mind you she hadn’t read it yet.)


But as her battle with the disease progressed, she couldn’t read it herself. At one point she was in a rehab center near me, and I would visit her and read it out loud to her. When she was staying with our mother, she would read the book to her as she could. Renee was so frustrated she couldn’t read it herself. She wanted to so badly, but she couldn’t see well enough or the pain was to great for her to be able to sit up to read.


So the one person who was waiting the longest for my first novel, my amazing big sister Renee, lived long enough to see me publish, but she never got a chance to read the novel.


Since her death, I of course have been going through all the various stages of grief, (and perhaps some I’m creating.) But that led me back to thinking about how I wrote a book, and my sister never got a chance to read it.


Then I thought about the book and characters in itself… My sister is all over that story, and I didn’t even realize it. As I said in my author’s note, I wrote about my life, my family, my friends and my outlook. My sister is present in so many characters. So, I want to tell you about my sister.


Like Vasquez, she was so outgoing and loved to laugh and eat! There would be no way anyone with a soul could be within earshot of Renee’s laugh and a smile not find its way onto their face. Her laugh and smile were contagious! She also would tell you exactly how she felt when she felt it, whether you wanted to hear it or not.


Like Dom, she loved to cook and feed people. Cooking for people was a love language for my sister. In the novel, Dom got that trait from her deceased mother. As a person, I, BJ Cyprian, got that trait from my big sister and my grandmother.


Like Rose, she wanted to help as many people as she could and be a positive influence in the lives of many youth. The friends of her kids called her mama, and knew better than to talk back to her. Sometimes, they showed her more respect than their own mothers. She tried to help them as much as she could, and no matter what their personal path became, good or bad, they always loved and respected her as a positive role model in their lives.


Like Layla and Ryan, my sister was NOT scared of a fight, and if you were at the end of her ire, especially if it was related to her family, have mercy on your soul. LOL My mom actually gave the 3 of us, “spirit animals” one day. She said that my sister was like a Rottweiler. They can seem scary, their barks are terrifying… but I mean, they’re still dogs and by nature are not “attack dogs” or “fighting dogs” or whatever people think about them. However… if they perceive a threat to their loved ones… Well a Rottie’s bite IS worse than its bark, if you know what I mean.


And like Robert, sometimes my sister made mistakes… and no one was harder on herself that she was. That one was something I learned towards the end of her life. But like Robert, my sister Renee was resolute til the end.. she would be better. She would do better and always be a good person.


And like SARA, love was an easy concept for my sister to understand. She truly didn’t understand not loving people or energy of hating people. She loved people and people loved her…


I loved her.


I’m not sure what my new normal will be. My parents have both lost siblings and both told me, it’s a different kind of pain, and now that I’m experiencing it, I see. It's not something people prepare you for. It's not something you can explain. It just...hurts. But I hope to keep putting my sister in my writings. I know she was proud of me, and I will continue to try to make her proud.


RIP Renee. I’m gonna keep finishing your stories, okay?


Serina Renee James-Calvert March 26, 1968 - October 6, 2019 Beloved daughter, mother, grandmother, and sister.


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